In news that the entire world of Formula 1 will be delighted to hear, three times F1 world champion Niki Lauda has been discharged from hospital in Vienna where he had been in intensive care whilst undergoing treatment for flu following a double lung transplant in the summer of 2018.
Niki Lauda currently holds the post of non-executive chairman of the AMG Mercedes Petronas Formula 1 team – engine supplier to Williams Racing – and prior to his most recent hospitalisation had planned to return to the racetrack as soon into the 2019 F1 season as he possibly could.
Former March, Ferrari, Brabham and McLaren driver Niki Lauda, rose to prominence during the 1970s, a decade in which he won the first of his two Formula 1 world championships.
He suffered severe burns and damaged lungs from a horrific fiery accident at the Nurburgring in 1976, when, in practice for the German Grand Prix, he lost control of his Ferrari going through the Bergwerk section of the 14 mile course, and his car was engulfed in flames.
Having lost his helmet in the crash, he was dragged to safety by fellow driver Brett Lunger. He was conscious throughout, but lapsed into a coma shortly afterwards as a result of his burns and smoke and toxic gas inhalation doing damage to his lungs and blood.
Whilst in hospital in Germany, he was given the last rites by a priest, for which and with whom Niki Lauda was indignant: “I put more effort into not dying because of this incident with the Priest.”
Incredibly, Niki Lauda missed just two Grands Prix and was back behind the wheel at that year’s Italian Grand Prix where he finished fourth, something fellow driver John Watson described as the bravest thing he’d ever seen in his life.
Niki Lauda missed out on that year’s championship by a single point to James Hunt, but it was almost irrelevant. He’d survived the year and would soon win his second title 12 months later.
Like this year’s Williams driver Robert Kubica, Niki Lauda took a prolonged hiatus from the sport (3 years compared with Robert’s 8), before returning to seal his third World Championship with McLaren.
Get well soon Niki!