Niki Lauda tributes after he dies, aged 70

Tributes flood in for 'true legend' F1 champion Niki Lauda after death, aged 70

Tributes pour in for "a hero of motor sport"

ANDREAS Nikolaus “Niki” Lauda, the three-times Formula One world champion and Mercedes F1 team chairman, has died at the age of 70.

In a statement, Lauda’s family said the Austrian had ” fell asleep peacefully with his closest family at the University Hospital in Zurich” on Monday evening.

The late racing driver leaves behind a legacy as one of Formula One’s most successful drivers. Over his 13 years in the sport, Lauda was crowned world champion three times (securing his last title, in 1984, by just half a point over McLaren team mate Alain Prost), and won 25 of the 171 grand prix races he entered.

Arguably the defining moment of his career, though, was his life-threatening crash at the Nürburgring during the 1976 German Grand Prix. It was a moment recreated in 2013 film Rush, which chronicled that season’s titanic battle between Lauda and James Hunt for the world title.

Despite suffering third-degree burns and serious lung damage in the accident, Lauda would be back on the grid just 42 days later at that year’s Italian Grand Prix, where he would remarkably qualify in fifth place and finish the race in fourth

Speaking to the BBC a few years ago, Lauda said of his crash: “I was not surprised to have an accident, it sounds a little funny [to say] today.

“I took the decision to come back and then it was hard work basically to fight fear to get back in Monza – I couldn’t drive on the first day, then I had to reorganise everything – how to approach the races. And then I continued to race, so I really did a good comeback under these conditions.”

Sir Jackie Stewart, former F1 driver

Niki Lauda tributes after he dies, aged 70: Sir Jackie Stewart

Speaking to the BBC’s Nick Robinson, a sombre Sir Jackie Stewart, another three times F1 world champion, described in grisly detail Lauda’s heroic comeback at the Italian Grand Prix.

“He shouldn’t have been there but he wanted to go back to racing. He died twice and was resuscitated, during the accident. But when he came back six weeks later, I’ll never forget him putting his helmet on, because he was suffering such pain.

“They’re tight helmets – they don’t give a lot of space in there – and when he came out from driving that day, I was there, and the blood was running down out of his helmet. Racing cars have no suspension, really, and the race tracks are sometimes a little bumpy, and the movement of his helmet had taken all the planting they had done in the hospital to get his skin back into detail.

“What a piece of work that was, and he went on to race the next day. I don’t think there has ever been a hero as he was in that time.”

Stewart added: “Niki had a tremendous amount to do for motorsport – he was good on safety, he was an excellent driver, one of the best drivers there has been in the world. So it is an enormous loss to Formula One and motorsports in general, and of course to his country, and most of all to his family, which I send my deepest sympathy to. But what a brave man – I’m very privileged to have called him my friend.”

Toto Wolff, Mercedes Formula One boss

Niki Lauda tributes after he dies, aged 70: Toto Wolff

In a team statement, Toto Wolff said: “Niki will always remain one of the greatest legends of our sport – he combined heroism, humanity and honesty inside and outside the cockpit.

“His passing leaves a void in Formula 1. We haven’t just lost a hero who staged the most remarkable comeback ever seen, but also a man who brought precious clarity and candour to modern Formula One. He will be greatly missed as our voice of common sense.

“Our Mercedes team has also lost a guiding light. As a team-mate over the past six and a half years, Niki was always brutally honest – and utterly loyal.

“It was a privilege to count him among our team and moving to witness just how much it meant to him to be part of the team’s success.

“Whenever he walked the floor in Brackley and Brixworth [Mercedes’ respective chassis and engine bases], or delivered one of his famous motivational speeches, he brought an energy that nobody else could replicate.

“Niki, you are quite simple irreplaceable, there will never be another like you. It was our honour to call you our chairman – and my privilege to call you my friend.”

John Watson, former F1 race winner

Niki Lauda tributes after he dies, aged 70: John Watson

John Watson, 73, (pictured with Lauda after winning the 1983 Long Beach Grand Prix) was one of the first on the scene after Lauda’s infamous accident at the Nürburgring. Speaking to the Today programme’s Gary Richardson this morning, he said:

“Part of the personality of Niki was his determination and focus and he decided that, ‘I’m not going to die, I’m going to fight and I’m going to fight, and he won that battle. And what was even more remarkable was 40 days after the accident, he returned to the grand prix paddock and competed in the Italian Grand Prix – an act of physical and mental courage that I’ve never seen before in a sportsman, and something that I will always remember.”

Ross Brawn, Formula One’s Managing Director of Motorsports

Niki Lauda tributes after he dies, aged 70: Ross Brawn

Richardson also spoke to Ross Brawn, 64, a former F1 engineer and team principal. Brawn said of Lauda’s death:

“It wasn’t unexpected because Niki had been suffering ill health for some time now, but it’s still a shock when somebody who is such a colossus as Niki leaves us. The impact he had on grand prix racing in so many ways, not just as a driver but also in his career afterwards will long be remembered.”

Asked about Lauda’s famously frank demeanour, Brawn described him as, “Blunt, which was disarming until I got used to it, but once I did get used to it, I appreciated his honesty. We actually had a good relationship in the end.”

Of Lauda’s legacy behind the wheel, Brawn said : “I think for me, he was never seen as one of the naturals; he was seen as somebody who had amazing application and intelligence. He obviously had a fair degree of ability because he couldn’t have done what he did without it, but he just had the intelligence and application to achieve three world championships.

“I think even himself had admitted that he wasn’t the ultimate echelon of skill like a Senna or guys like that, but he got the job done, and he was admired enormously for that.

“And, of course, his bravery from his accident was something which is just legendary – it’s unimaginable what he went through and how he dealt with it.”

Martin Brundle, Sky Sports F1 commentator and former F1 driver

Niki Lauda tributes after he dies, aged 70: Martin Brundle

Writing on Twitter, Martin Brundle called Lauda “A great human being, determined, relentless, talented, passionate, forthright, honest, humble, and great company”.

Further tributes on Twitter

Scuderia Ferrari , Lauda’s former team

Jean Todt, President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA)

Andy Palmer, Chief Executive of Aston Martin

Formula One’s official Twitter account

Maurice Hamilton, F1 journalist

Paul-Henri Cahier, F1 photographer

Tiff Needell, TV presenter and former F1 driver

Ted Kravitz, Sky Sports F1 pundit

Matt Bishop, WSeries Comms Director and former F1 journalist

James Allen, F1 commentator and journalist

Johnny Herbert, F1 pundit and former racer

Natalie Pinkham, F1 TV reporter

McLaren F1, Lauda’s former team

Daniel Brühl, who portrayed Lauda in the 2013 film Rush

Formula One great Sir Jackie Stewart and his son Mark, a film producer, on dyslexia, driving fast and death

Me and My Motor: Nigel Mansell, 1992 Formula One world champion

Me and My Motor: Claire Williams, Formula One boss