Formula One legend Niki Lauda dead at 70

Niki Lauda passed away in his sleep at his home in Austria on Tuesday

Niki-Lauada-AP-1795 File photo of Niki Lauda from 1975, a year before his horrific crash at the Nürburgring | AP

Eight months after undergoing a lung transplant operation, legendary F1 driver and three-time champion Niki Lauda passed away in his sleep at his home, according to a statement released by his family on Tuesday.

"With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday," the statement read.

Niki had recently been undergoing dialysis for his kidneys.

Niki leaves a legacy as one of the world’s greatest Formula One drivers: a three-time World Driver champion and the only driver to have won titles for both Ferrari (1975, 1977) and McLaren (1984).

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

"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."

McLaren issued a statement on Twitter:

2009 world champion Jenson Button also tweeted a tribute.

Niki was born to a wealthy family in Vienna. Like many racers at the time, he began by racing Minis but moved on to Formula Vee and then to Formula Two. His rivalry with James Hunt made for some of the sport’s most exciting seasons, and was featured in the 2013 Ron Howard Film Rush.

Lauda was famous for his 1976 Nürburgring crash, where he was enveloped in fire and nearly died from inhaling chemical fumes. However, so great was his determination that he was back to racing with six weeks, missing only two races as a result of a coma and his hospitalisation. His lung transplant in 2018 was the outcome of the long-term damage he suffered from the crash.

Hunt died in 1995 after a heart attack.

Lauda retired from F1 in 1991. In 2012, he was made non-executive chairman of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, where he helped sign Lewis Hamilton onto the team — bagging Mercedes five consecutive World Drivers and Constructor’s championships.

He is survived by five children, Mathias, Lukas, Mia, Christoph and Max.