Nelson Antoine / AP
Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda from Austria, who survived a serious accident in 1976 and twice won the championship, has died. He was 70 years old.
The native of Andreas Nicholas "Niki" Lauda was a prominent racing driver in the 1970s and 1980s, who won the F1 championship for Ferrari for the first time in 1975. He is known to many for his heavy fall next year at the German Grand Prix 1976 at the Nürburgring, where he suffered third-degree burns on his head and face. In the hospital Lauda fell into a coma and received the last rites.
"For three or four days it was Touch and Go," Lauda later recalled, according to ESPN.
Nevertheless, he managed to race again Only six weeks after the accident, he finished fourth at the Italian Grand Prix. As the BBC reports, "At the end of the race, his unhealed wounds had soaked his fireproof balaclava in blood, and when he tried to remove the balaclava, he discovered she was clinging to his bandages and had to resort to tearing them down Attempt." The BBC calls its quick return to racing "one of the most courageous acts in the history of the sport".
Everyone at McLaren is deeply saddened that our friend, colleague and 1984 Formula One World Champion, Niki Lauda, has passed away. Niki will forever be anchored in our hearts and in our history. #RIPNiki pic.twitter.com/Ndd9ZEfm6B
– McLaren (@ McLarenF1) May 21, 2019
Lauda won the 1977 F1 Championship again. In 1979, he retired and turned to aviation, created Lauda Air and stated that he "did not want to go around in circles anymore," reports the AP. A few years later he was lured back to the race by a large supply of McLaren. In 1984 he won the F1 championship for the third time before retiring from the sport for the next year.
"His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are and will remain unforgettable," his family said in a statement, the AP reports. "His tireless drive, his straightforwardness and his courage remain for us all role model and standard.Outside the public eye, he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather.We will miss him very much."