Niki Lauda still had a big influence in F1 over four decades after his life hung in the balance as a priest delivered the last rites.
Niki Lauda was hailed for his “unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur” after the Formula One legend died at the age of 70.
Lauda’s family announced on Tuesday that the three-time F1 world champion had passed away nine months after undergoing a lung transplant.
Possessing endless amounts of courage is a necessity in motorsport and they did not come any braver than Lauda.
The Austrian great produced one of the most astonishing comebacks in sporting history after he was seriously injured in a fiery crash at the Nurburgring in 1976.
Lauda was rescued from his Ferrari, which was engulfed in flames after ploughing into a wall at high speed.
Left with severe burns and scorched lungs after inhaling toxic fumes, Lauda’s life hung in the balance as a priest delivered the last rites.
“But I did not want to die. I wanted to go on living.” Lauda recalled
Just six weeks after that horrific smash, he was back in the cockpit at Monza and finished a remarkable fourth, with his unhealed wounds covered by a balaclava that was soaked in blood.
Rest in peace Niki Lauda.
Forever carried in our hearts, forever immortalised in our history. The motorsport community today mourns the devastating loss of a true legend.
The thoughts of everyone at F1 are with his friends and family. pic.twitter.com/olmnjDaefo
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 21, 2019
He took up management roles in F1 – with Ferrari, Jaguar and most recently with Mercedes – and continued to have a big influence in the sport over four decades after suffering life-changing injuries.
Known for his forthright opinions and a relentless desire to succeed with huge passion and determination, Lauda made a big impact in F1 and beyond long after his driving career came to an end.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: “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, 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.”
Tributes continue to pour in for Lauda, who has left a lasting legacy in his sport.