Legendary Formula One driver Niki Lauda passed away at the age of 70 on Tuesday. His death comes eight months after he underwent a lung transplant. If you’ve seen the 2013 blockbuster Rush, you probably know who Niki Lauda is but if you haven’t read on.
Lauda was born as Andreas Nikolaus on February 22, 1949, in Vienna into an upper-middle-class family, who did not share his passion for cars. In 1968, without telling his parents, Lauda won his first race with a Mini Racer he had bought with his grandmother’s help.
During his driving career, Lauda suffered horrific injuries on August 1, 1976 when his vehicle burst into flames on the Nuerburgring in Germany. He had severe burns to his face and hands and inhaled toxic fumes which severely damaged his lungs.
Despite being given the last rites in hospital he made an almost miraculous recovery to race again just six weeks later still bandaged and in intense pain.
He missed only two races that season but was unable to hold off the challenge of Britain’s James Hunt, who went on to claim his only world title. The rivalry between the two men was also portrayed in Rush.
The next season, in 1977, Lauda went on to win his second Formula One world championship with Ferrari. He also went on to win a championship in 1984 with Mercedes. Lauda continued to be associated with F1 and was a non-executive chairman at Mercedes F1 since 2012.
Apart from that, Lauda was also an airline entrepreneur. He bought and sold several airlines including Lauda Air and Niki.