THREE-TIME Formula One world champion Niki Lauda has died, aged 70.
The motorsport legend “passed away peacefully” on Monday, according to a statement issued by Lauda’s family to the Austria Press Agency.
“His unique successes as a sportsman and entrepreneur are and remain unforgettable,” the statement said.
“His tireless drive, his straightforwardness and his courage remain an example and standard for us all. Away from the public gaze, he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather. We will miss him very much.”
A legendary figure in the world of Formula One, Lauda narrowly escaped death in 1976 after his Ferrari caught fire following a crash at the Nurburgring in Germany.
RIP Niki 😔 pic.twitter.com/atc0iQanAN
— Jenson Button (@JensonButton) May 21, 2019
Despite suffering horrific burns as a result of the crash, the Austrian made a miraculous return to the circuit, eventually finishing second in the championship to friend and close rival James Hunt.
Lauda went on to win two World Championships before retiring from the sport in 1979 to set up his own airline, Lauda Air.
He made a sensational return in 1984, reuniting with team McLaren and going on to win his third and final F1 drivers’ championship in 1984 before retiring again in 1984.
The motorsport icon went on to found another airline, Niki, in 2003 before landing a role as non-executive chairman of Mercedes’ F1 team, where he developed a close friendship with Lewis Hamilton.
A three-time champion with McLaren, the Formula One team led the tributes to the 70-year-old.
“All at McLaren are deeply saddened to learn that our friend, colleague and 1984 Formula 1 World Champion, Niki Lauda, has passed away,” they said.
“Niki will forever be in our hearts and enshrined in our history.”
Elsewhere, Jenson Button tweeted: “A legend has left us. Rest in peace Niki.”
An iconic figure in the world of sport and beyond, Lauda’s famous rivalry with Hunt was immortalised in the Ron Howard biopic Rush, starring Daniel Bruhl as Lauda and Chris Hemsworth as Hunt.
Lauda is survived by his second wife Birgit, and children, Max, Mia, Mathias, Lukas and Christoph.