May 21st, 2019 marks one of the most dark days in Formula One’s history. Niki Lauda, profoundly known for his three world champions, rivalry with James Hunt, surviving the horror crash of Nurburgring, 1976 and now recently as the non executive chairman of Mercedes F1 team ceased his ongoing battle with life and peacefully passed away.
The Austria Press Agency reported that Lauda’s family said in a statement he “passed away peacefully” on Monday. Walter Klepetko, a doctor who performed a lung transplant on Lauda last year, said Tuesday: “Niki Lauda has died. I have to confirm that.”
Niki Lauda won two of his championships with Ferrari – in 1975 and 1977. His third championship was with McLaren in 1984. In 1976, he crashed his car in Nurburgring which caused him severe burns. Contrary to everyone’s believes, he made a recovery just 6 weeks after the incident. His comeback story is still one of the most inspirational saga in Formula One’s history.
He took an early retirement in 1979 wanting to focus on his airlines – Lauda Air. He came out of retirement a few years later in 1982 when he was lured by McLaren with a good fat pay cheque before finally retiring in 1985.
Recently with the upswing of Mercedes in Formula One, he became a renowned figure in the paddock always seen with his trademark Baseball hat. He was also responsible for luring Hamilton out of McLaren in 2013 and making him join Mercedes. His contributions to the team have been immense and with him gone, we’re sure the Mercedes paddock won’t be the same again.
He went through lung transplant last year and was missing from the paddock after that. He was rumoured to resume his role with Mercedes from Australia 2019 onwards, but never showed up citing health issues. There were limited updates regarding his health, but the recent reports and rumours painted a sorry picture.
Lauda’s legacy won’t be something that will diminish so easily. Everytime we see Mercedes on the top of the podium we will know who to partly thank for it. His was a personality that couldn’t go unnoticed in the paddock. Everyone loved him. Everyone respected him.
Rest in Peace, Lauda. The world will never be the same without you. Thanks for all the memories.