It is with great sadness that we learnt of the loss of motor racing legend Niki Lauda. The three-time Formula One World Champion and successful businessman passed away peacefully yesterday evening aged 70 surrounded by close family.
Niki Lauda won the drivers’ championship in 1975, 1977 and 1984, having almost died in the most horrific crash in the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. Quite remarkably he climbed back into the cockpit of his Formula One car just 40 days later, despite suffering severe burns and inhaling toxic fumes from the burning fibreglass of the car.
Niki competed in 171 races in his Formula One career, winning 25 of them. He took 24 pole positions and achieved 54 podium finishes.
Niki Lauda was appointed Non-Executive Chairman of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd in 2012 and played a highly visible role at the Grand Prix and was not one to mince his words and spoke his mind, which was always most refreshing. During his time as Non-Executive Chairman, Niki won both the drivers’ and constructors’ Formula One World Championships with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport five times in a row between 2014 and 2018.
Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of Daimler AG and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Cars said: “The motorsports world has lost its greatest fighter. The Mercedes family has lost an amazing mentor. And I have lost a true friend. Thanks Niki!”
Ola Källenius, CEO elect of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, added: “We are mourning the loss of a very special person who showed terrific fighting spirit. Niki Lauda achieved enormous success and had a huge impact on motor racing. He was an exceptionally talented racing driver and a real inspiration as a businessman. His family are in our thoughts at this sad time.”
Team Principal of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Toto Wolff said: “Niki will always remain one of the greatest legends of our sport – he combined heroism, humanity and honesty inside and outside the cockpit. Niki, you are quite simply irreplaceable, there will never be another like you. It was our honour to call you our Chairman – and my privilege to call you my friend.”
Toto added: “His passing leaves a void in Formula One. We haven’t just lost a hero who staged the most remarkable comeback ever seen, but also a man who brought precious clarity and candour to modern Formula One. He will be greatly missed as our voice of common sense.”
“Our Mercedes team has also lost a guiding light. As a team-mate over the past six and a half years, Niki was always brutally honest – and utterly loyal. It was a privilege to count him among our team and moving to witness just how much it meant to him to be part of the team’s success. Whenever he walked the floor in Brackley and Brixworth, or delivered one of his famous motivational speeches, he brought an energy that nobody else could replicate.”
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport