Niki Lauda, the Austrian race-car driver who survived a near-fatal crash to win three Formula 1 world championships and went on to found his own airline, has died, German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported.
The Austrian three-time world champion died peacefully in his sleep on Monday surrounded by relatives, a family spokeswoman said in a statement.
In 1976, Lauda had a major crash at the German Grand Prix and became trapped inside his burning vehicle, leaving him with severe burns and damage to his lungs.
He was born in 1949 and pursued a career in racing against the wishes of his family.
Apart from long-term health problems, including two kidney transplants, the crash also left Lauda with his signature red sports cap. Walter Klepetko, a doctor who performed a lung transplant on Lauda previous year, said Tuesday: "Niki Lauda has died".
Walter Klepetko, a doctor who carried out a lung transplant on Lauda a year ago, said Tuesday: "Niki Lauda has died".
Lauda retired for the first time in 1979, focussing on his other interests and businesses until 1982 when he made a comeback with McLaren.
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Brazilian former F1 driver Rubens Barrichello also posted a heartfelt message alongside a photo of the pair of them, while Haas driver Romain Grosjean said "a legend has gone".
In May 1991, a Lauda Air Boeing 767 crashed in Thailand after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally deployed during a climb, killing all 213 passengers and 10 crew. Austrian Airlines later took full control.
The transactions solidified Lauda's reputation as a clever deal-maker, and Niki itself was profitable in an industry awash with money-losing companies.
In 2016, Niki Lauda took over Amira Air and turned it into business-charter airline LaudaMotion Executive, which, to this day, operates a number of business jets and is a 100% subsidiary of Lauda's NL Holdings GmbH.
Ferrari tabbed Lauda to help run its F1 team from 1993 until 2001, and he briefly ran Jaguar Formula One until 2002.
Niki Lauda's death comes eight months after he underwent a lung transplant.
In August 2018 he underwent the procedure for an illness publicly identified only as "serious". DSC mourns his passing along with the rest of the extended motorsport family and would like to pass on our condolences to his family, and in particular to son Mathias, a long-time member of the WEC "family" and to his brother and manager Lukas.