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Formula 1

Niki Lauda dies aged 70

Niki Lauda won three Formula 1 world championship titles.
Niki Lauda won three Formula 1 world championship titles. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Former Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda has died, his family revealed on Tuesday. "With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family," a statement said.

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Born Andreas Nikolaus Lauda on 22 February in Vienna in 1949, he won his first race in a Mini in 1968.

Ignoring parental disapproval, he took out a loan to buy a seat in the new March team in Formula in 1971. His talent behind the wheel sparkled and within a year he was promoted to March's Formula 1 stable.

His senior debut came in front of the partisans at the Austrian Grand Prix on 15 August.

Another loan helped him buy his way into BRM team in 1973 before he joined Ferrari a year later.

A second place finish in the Argentine Grand Prix on his Ferrari debut was the precursor to more glory.

In 1975 he became world champion for the first time, winning five of the 14 Grand Prix races.

Recovery

He was in a strong position to retain his title when he suffered burns and lung damage after his car crashed at the Nuerburgring in Germany.

He was read the last rites in hospital. But he came back from the brink and was in the cockpit within 40 days. Despite missing two races, James Hunt pipped him to the 1976 title.

Lauda reclaimed the crown in 1977 for Ferrari and won it with McLaren in 1984.

"All at McLaren are deeply saddened to learn that our friend, colleague has passed away," McLaren tweeted on their verified account. "Niki will forever be in our hearts and enshrined in our history. #RIPNiki."

Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, tweeted: "A legend has left us. Rest in peace Niki #nikilauda."

Lauda's death comes eight months after he underwent a lung transplant.

"His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are, and will remain, unforgettable. His tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain," added the family statement.

"He was a role model and a benchmark for all of us. He was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather away from the public and he will be missed."

  

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