Andreas Nikolaus “Niki” Lauda (22 February 1949 – 20 May 2019) was an Austrian Formula One driver and aviation entrepreneur. He was a three-time F1 World Drivers’ Champion, winning in 1975, 1977 and 1984, and is the only driver in F1 history to have been champion for both Ferrari and McLaren, two of the sport’s most successful constructors. As an aviation entrepreneur, he founded and ran three airlines: Lauda Air, Niki, and Lauda. He was also a consultant for Scuderia Ferrari and team manager of the Jaguar Formula One racing team for two years. Afterwards, he worked as a pundit for German TV during Grand Prix weekends and acted as non-executive chairman of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, of which Lauda owned 10%.
Having emerged as Formula One’s star driver amid a 1975 title win and leading the 1976 championship battle, Lauda was seriously injured in a crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring during which his Ferrari 312T2 burst into flames, and he came close to death after inhaling hot toxic fumes and suffering severe burns. He survived and recovered sufficiently to race again just six weeks later at the Italian Grand Prix. Although he lost that year’s title – by just one point – to James Hunt, he won his second championship the year after, during his final season at Ferrari. After a couple of years at Brabham and two years’ hiatus, Lauda returned and raced four seasons for McLaren between 1982 and 1985 – during which he won the 1984 title by half a point over his teammate Alain Prost.
Niki had two sons with his first wife and he had two twins with the second wife. In 2018 he had successfully undergone a lung transplant operation in his native Austria. He died in his sleep in 2019 , aged 70. He will always be in the history of Formula 1.