Formula One Legend Niki Lauda Has Died

The three-time world champion was 70 years old.

Portrait of Niki Lauda
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Niki Lauda, the three-time Formula One World Champion who made one of the greatest-ever comebacks after a horrific accident, has died. He was 70 years old.

Lauda has been a key figure in F1 for almost 50 years. He was took out loans to finance his career early on, effectively making him a pay driver. But he wasn't the sort of pay driver that you think of today. Lauda had talent and ended up earning rides based on merit just a few years in. He joined Ferrari in 1974, winning the 1975 world championship.

But he's probably best known for his horrific crash at the Nurburgring in 1976. The resulting inferno saw Lauda severely burned and clinging to life, many thought that there was no chance he'd live, let alone drive again. Lauda had other plans. He only missed two races and was back in the car for the Italian Grand Prix, still in the championship lead over rival James Hunt, still with bandages on his badly burned face and head.

Hunt ended up champion after Lauda didn't race at Suzuka due to torrential conditions. Lauda won his third championship in 1977, briefly retired in 1980, but came back with McLaren and won the championship again in 1984.

While Lauda retired for the last time after the 1985 season, it wasn't the final time he'd be in an F1 paddock. He was a Ferrari advisor in the 1990s and briefly Jaguar's team principal. He's also been a key part of the Mercedes-AMG team since 2012.

Over the past 20 years, Lauda's health has taken a few turns, with two kidney transplants and, most recently, a double lung transplant in the summer of 2018.

His rivalry with James Hunt became so legendary that it was the focus of Ron Howard's film Rush. He owned an airline. He was rarely seen without his trademark hat. Lauda's career and life was one of the most storied in all of F1, a personality that stood out even at a time when drivers were already larger-than-life heroes.

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