Austrian legendary Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda died

WNM | May 21, 2019 at 9:36 AM

"In deep sadness we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully fallen asleep on Monday. 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. We will miss him very much, "says the email signed with the Lauda family.

In the summer of 2018 Lauda had to undergo a lung transplantation and soon planned to return to the Formula 1 circus. Walter Klepetko, surgeon at Lauda's lung transplantation at the beginning of August 2018, already knew about the death. "Niki Lauda died. I have to confirm that, "said the doctor.

Andreas Nikolaus Lauda was born in 1949 into a Viennese industrialist family. Without the knowledge of his parents, he gave his racing debut at a mountain race in Mühllacken at the age of 19 with a grandmother-funded Mini Cooper S. In 1971 - at the age of 21 - he was already able to fulfill his dream of entering Formula 1 and joined his first Grand Prix in a March. The car was not in good shape - Lauda gave up. The big breakthrough he finally succeeded in Ferrari: On April 28, 1974, he won his first Grand Prix - out of a total of 25. The following year, he won the first of a total of three World Cup titles.

On 1 August 1976, Niki Lauda crashed at Nuremberg ring, the car burned brightly and in view of the pictures, it was already a miracle that Lauda survived. And when the whole world expected him to say goodbye to racing, he was back in the cockpit 42 days later. A year later, he became the second time Formula 1 world champion: Niki Lauda had already done at that time, what many actually thought impossible. In 1984, world title number three, before he finally left the cockpit.

However, he remained faithful to racing. Lauda acted as a consultant for the team of Ferrari in the 1990s and was responsible for, among other things, the commitment of Michael Schumacher. In 2012, he joined Mercedes, became chairman of the Formula 1 team and acquired shares in the racing team. The pit lane was always his second home.

Incidentally, the motor sportsman turned his passion - flying - into a career. In 1979 he had already founded the first Lauda Air as a demand airline with two Fokker F-27s. 1988 followed a reestablishment with first scheduled flights into the far east, starting from 1990 Lauda Air had a world-wide scheduled flight concession.

Lauda often was acting as a pilot himself. "This is my way to get the overview over the airline and product development." So he was "just there" and "a good role model for my entire crew."

The experience that Lauda would call decades later the worst of his life was the crash of a Lauda Air plane on May 26, 1991 on the flight from Thailand to Vienna, in which all 223 passengers were killed. "The responsibility to run an airline and then crash a plane in Bangkok was certainly the most dreadful thing I had to experience, had to manage, had to correct."

In 1993, German Lufthansa acquired a minority stake of Lauda Air, and later increased to 39.7 percent. In 1997, Austrian Airlines (AUA) took over 36 percent of Lauda Air and bought Niki Lauda in 2001 after years of fierce dispute finally out. The brand existed until 2013, but has been run in recent years as a pure sales brand without its own flight operations.

Meanwhile, Niki Lauda founded another airline in 2003 under the name FlyNiki. In early 2004, the name was finally changed to Niki. In 2011, Lauda parted with another airline and Air Berlin took over 100 percent of the shares. When Air Berlin finally filed for bankruptcy in 2017, also Niki was threatened to be split up.

Lauda registered interest, but the contract was initially awarded to the British-Spanish airline group IAG. However, in mid-January 2018, bankruptcy over Niki was also opened in Austria. The bidding process was now repeated by the Austrian insolvency administrator - and Lauda was awarded the contract. He incorporated Niki into his existing carrier Laudamotion and entered into a cooperation with Ryanair.

Healthwise, however, there were some setbacks for the bustling Lauda to cope. In 1997 he had to undergo a kidney transplant because of a kidney infection, the kidney donor was his brother Florian. In 2005, this kidney had to be replaced, donor was then his wife Birgit. In August 2018 Lauda had to undergo a pulmonary transpiration, only months later he was able to leave the hospital.

From his first marriage to Marlene Knauss Lauda leaves his two sons Lukas and Matthias, from the second his 2009 born twins Max and Mia, also his son Christian from a non-marital relationship.