Lauda ´a giant´ of Formula One, says former rival Andretti

Niki Lauda was “a giant” of Formula One who will leave a lasting legacy, according to his former world championship rival Mario Andretti.

It was confirmed on Tuesday that three-time world champion Lauda had died at the age of 70.

Andretti, who won his sole drivers’ title in 1978, one year after the second of Austrian Lauda’s triumphs, paid an emotional tribute to one of F1’s greats.

“Niki, to me, was a giant of our sport and he continued to contribute with Mercedes,” Andretti told Omnisport.

“Anytime I was at a Formula One race he is one that I would want to go and talk to. The other thing I always appreciate about Niki is that he called it as it is, he had a good feeling for things and in so many ways the man contributed – when he said something, you’d better listen.

“He was a giant and a good friend, I’ll miss him terribly and everyone will. I knew that he was ill after his lung transplant and there was a period we didn’t hear about him, but it’s still an absolute shock when I heard that he’d passed.”

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Lauda is perhaps best known for surviving a horrific crash that saw his Ferrari burst into flames during the 1976 season, returning to the track after missing only two races following an incident that left him with permanent scars.

American Andretti added: “He was strong, he was always driving for a top team and the record he has as a driver speaks for itself. 

“The way he came back after his incredible accident to me was so admirable. I don’t know anyone that could have done that as quickly as he did and he showed a lot of passion for his driving. He is a man that I can guarantee is admired by everyone.

“Some competitors like himself, you’re thinking he comes back and you have to fight another one but he was so welcomed with open arms after the courage he had demonstrated to come back after those horrible injuries.

“I admired him forever because of that. To come back and win the world championship again, he was one of a kind.

“Niki never dwelled on the negatives, he didn’t want anybody to feel sorry for him [when he returned to F1]. He was there to drive and that is the sort of character he was.

“He didn’t want any pity or understanding, he was a no-nonsense kind of guy and that’s what everybody loved about him – I certainly did.”

Andretti feels Lauda’s legacy stretches beyond his driving ability.

“Legacy is important and he was a real absolute asset in terms of the safety aspect of Formula One,” he said.

“We all came together and tried to push for improvements on that side and especially after his incident he became a hardened supporter of improving the safety of the circuits and cars. That is something that the entire racing community has benefited from over the years.

“He will never be forgotten, only appreciated for so many things and nobody can disagree with that.”

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Inspirational athlete and entrepreneur Lauda leaves lasting legacy

Niki Lauda was hailed for his “unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur” after the Formula One legend died at the age of 70.

Lauda’s family announced on Tuesday that the three-time F1 world champion had passed away nine months after undergoing a lung transplant.

Possessing endless amounts of courage is a necessity in motorsport and they did not come any braver than Lauda.

The Austrian great produced one of the most astonishing comebacks in sporting history after he was seriously injured in a fiery crash at the Nurburgring in 1976.

Lauda was rescued from his Ferrari, which was engulfed in flames  after ploughing into a wall at high speed.

Left with severe burns and scorched lungs after inhaling toxic fumes, Lauda’s life hung in the balance as a priest delivered the last rites.

“But I did not want to die. I wanted to go on living.” Lauda recalled

Just six weeks after that horrific smash, he was back in the cockpit at Monza and finished a remarkable fourth, with his unhealed wounds covered by a balaclava that was soaked in blood.

Lauda regained his title the following year and again in 1984, before going on to become a successful aviation entrepreneur – also taking a hands-on approach as a licensed commercial pilot.

He took up management roles in F1 – with Ferrari, Jaguar and most recently with Mercedes – and continued to have a big influence in the sport over four decades after suffering life-changing injuries.

Known for his forthright opinions and a relentless desire to succeed with huge passion and determination, Lauda made a big impact in F1 and beyond long after his driving career came to an end.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: “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.

“Niki, you are quite simple irreplaceable, there will never be another like you.” 

Tributes continue to pour in for Lauda, who has left a lasting legacy in his sport.

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Niki Lauda: Hill mourns ´remarkable´ three-time F1 champion

Niki Lauda was a remarkable individual who had a positive impact on all who knew him, says Damon Hill.

Three-time Formula One world champion Lauda died “peacefully” on Monday at the age of 70, his family confirmed.

Lauda survived a near-fatal crash during the 1976 German Grand Prix at Nurburgring but, despite suffering severe burns and being administered the last rites, he returned to the sport six weeks later and won the title the following year.

He also worked in various management roles within the F1, including as non-executive chairman of Mercedes since 2012, and Hill paid tribute to a sporting great.

“Everyone who was in Formula One knew Niki’s personality as one of the most potent individuals in the sport,” 1996 world champion Hill told Sky Sports.

“He was highly intellectual, stoic, someone who didn’t have any time for any of the BS in the business at all. He was eminently quotable all the time.

“It’s very sad to hear that we’ve lost Niki but so many people have been affected positively by having known him.

“There are so many stories about Niki Lauda. He was involved in the drivers’ strike in South Africa.

“He was one of the few men who could sit down with Bernie Ecclestone and Enzo Ferrari and they knew that he meant business.

“He was a remarkable individual in every way.”

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Hill said Lauda’s career was marked by the respect other drivers in the paddock had for him.

“I certainly was one person who looked at Niki and thought I’ll never would be half the man he was.

“His career was stylised and characterised by his intelligent approach. When he came up against Alain Prost he knew he couldn’t beat him on speed, so he beat him on tactics.

“He wasn’t Machiavellian at all. He was thoughtful, he was intelligent, he was pragmatic and he just got the job done.”