UM Formula 1 legend Niki Lauda dies at 70

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Niki Lauda, the three-time Formula 1 world champion has died at the age of 70.

The Austrian – a three-time world champion and the only man to have won the drivers’ title for both Ferrari and McLaren pass away less than a year after undergoing a lung transplant.

Lauda won his first F1 championship in 1975, and was on course to retain his title the following year until a horrific near-fatal crash at the German Grand Prix at the famous Nurburgring.

He suffered severe burns to his head and face and suffered lung damage from inhaling toxic gases when his Ferrari burst into flames during the race.

The accident occurred a week after he had urged his fellow drivers to boycott the event over safety concerns at the track.

The burns he suffered were the reason he was hardly ever seen without a cap from that point onward, as he wanted to hide the scarring.

Lauda made a successful return to F1 after his remarkable recovery – missing just two races before his comeback – and narrowly missed out on successive championships at the hands of British driver James Hunt.

The pair forged one of the fiercest rivalries in motorsport history and it inspired the award-winning 2013 film Rush, starring German actor Daniel Bruhl as Lauda and Chris Hemsworth as Hunt.

Lauda won his second championship in 1977 and his third in 1984, before retiring in 1985.

He had originally hung up his helmet six years prior to focus on his airline, Lauda Air, which he founded in 1979.

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Lauda owned the company until 2000, when it became part of Austrian Airlines, and ceased to exist in 2013, but he went on to take over Amira Air in 2016 and rename it to LaudaMotion.

Aside from his airline businesses, Lauda took on several management roles within F1 following his retirement, including becoming the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team in September 2012.

He took part in negotiations that saw Lewis Hamilton sign a three-year deal with Mercedes in 2013, and the Briton has since won four championships.

Lauda remained a consistent presence at F1 races in recent years but took time away from the sport after undergoing a successful lung transplant for a “serious lung illness” in Vienna last summer.

Lauda addresses a news conference presenting his airline LaudamotionHe was married to Birgit Wetzinger, who was a flight attendant for his airline and donated a kidney to him when one he received from his brother in 1997 failed.

Lauda had five children – two sons with his first wife, Mathias and Lukas, another son, Christoph, and Ms Wetzinger gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, in 2009.

Tributes have begun to flood in from F1 stars past and present since news of his death broke, in from British racing driver Jenson Button, who tweeted: “A legend has left us. Rest in peace Niki.”

McLaren said it was “deeply saddened” to learn of his death, adding that Lauda would “forever be in our hearts and enshrined in our history”.

Also, his family said the racer-turned-flight entrepreneur would “remain a role model and a benchmark for all of us”

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