Niki Lauda: F1 legend passes away aged 70 after undergoing kidney dialysis
Formula One legend Niki Lauda has died at the age of 70 his family have confirmed. The three-time world champion took the title for Ferrari in 1975, 1977 and for McLaren 1984. Lauda was badly burned in 1976 in a Formula One crash and later became an airline entrepreneur. He also underwent a double lung transplant in August last year.
His family confirmed he had peacefully fallen asleep with his family on Monday, they confirmed on Tuesday night. "In deep sadness we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully fallen asleep with his family. His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are and will remain unforgettable. His tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain a role model and standard for all of us. Away from the public, he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather. He will miss us very much, "says the email signed with the Lauda family.
Earlier Austria press reported he was receiving kidney dialysis at a private clinic in Switzerland. Lauda had kidney transplants in 1997 and 2005. "Due to kidney problems, he had to be transferred from the rehabilitation centre to a private clinic for dialysis," Lauda's brother Florian said. At the start of the year Lauda was back in hospital in Vienna with the flu, five months after undergoing a lung transplant.
Lauda, 69, was flown in early January from the Spanish island of Ibiza, where he had been on holiday, to a hospital in the Austrian capital. Lauda suffered horrific burns when pulled from the wreckage of his Ferrari by Arturo Merzario and Guy Edwards 32 years ago. Back in 1976, Lauda missed only two races and was back racing just six weeks later, although he lost out on the world title to James Hunt. The Mercedes non-executive chairman said: “When I had the accident in Germany, it was only a question of a month or a little bit more. "Yes, I had burns - I was burned - but I recovered quickly. This time it was really long but I am still here. “I have to be honest: no, I was never scared. I was in the hands of excellent specialists. I put my trust in them. "I knew that it would be hard, very hard. In these conditions I knew there was only one thing I could do: fight. I did that at every moment and I am still doing it now."
Lauda has two sons from his first marriage to Marlene Knaus. In 2008 he married Birgit Wetzinger, who is 30 years his junior and was a flight attendant for his airline. Three years earlier after a previous kidney transplant from his brother had failed, 26-year-old Birgit successfully donated one of her organs to the F1 legend. "We had been dating for eight months when I had a kidney problem," Lauda said in an interview. "She did the test, and she did fit. After a long time thinking about it, we went and when they pushed her away in the hospital I was praying that nothing would happen to her. "I got the kidney and it works 100 percent right, it's fantastic!"
In September 2009 Birgit gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl: Max and Mia. On his recent illness battle, the Austrian legend said: “I was in hospital until two days ago then I had permission to go home and I flew to Ibiza where I will spend Christmans with my family. "I have to do six hours of training every day, helped by two trainers who don’t leave me for a second. But I am back in my own four walls, the air is clean, the weather is not inclement like in Austria. "In a month they have told me I will be in top form and ready to go again. Doing what? My usual life – following Formula One, why not?” Three-time F1 champion Lauda still watched Hamilton lead Mercedes to last year's title from his hospital bed. “I did not miss a single Grand Prix even though I was on lots of drips,” said the Austrian. “I was part of all the races, I telephoned the pit box at the end of every week and they always told me what was happening. "It was if I was on the side of the track with all the others. I have to say I discovered once more the warmth of the people I have been working with for years. All great people, all worried about me.” Lauda developed a strong bond with Hamilton since signing him for the German outfit for the 2013 season.