Hero, legend and lord. Formula 1 lost the Austrian Niki Lauda, who died on Monday at the age of 70, one of its historical figures, forever marked by the miracle of 1976 and his three world champion titles.
“Formula 1 has not only lost one of its greatest representatives, also one of its heroes,” said Chase Carey, president of the premier category of motorsport, in a statement published on Tuesday.
“His love of the race and the courage he showed were simply extraordinary and inspired many fans. His death is a great loss for the entire Formula 1 family and for the sport of motoring, “he added.
Jean Todt, President of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), left his condolences on Twitter: “Niki Lauda was a hero of motor sports, inspiring me in my youth. It is one of the references in the history of Formula 1 ».
Andreas Nikolaus Lauda, known as Niki, was born on February 22, 1949. He spent at least 47 years in the paddocks, since the first of his 171 grands prix as a driver, with the March team in his country, Austria, in 1971; until the summer of 2018, in which a lung transplant permanently removed him from Mercedes’ garage, of which he was non-executive president since 2012.
– ‘Deep sadness’ –
“Today is a sad day for Formula 1. The great Ferrari family received with deep sadness the news of the death of their friend Niki Lauda, triple world champion, twice with the Scuderia. You will remain forever in our hearts and in the hearts of the tifosi. Ciao Niki, “Ferrari wrote on his Twitter account.
Lauda raced four years for the legendary Scuderia, between 1974 and 1977, proclaiming himself champion in 1975 and 1977. He achieved a third world title in 1984 (McLaren).
“All of us at McLaren are deeply saddened to learn that our friend, colleague and 1984 world champion, Niki Lauda, has died. Niki will remain forever in our hearts and in our history, ”said the British team.
Toto Wolff, president of Mercedes, spoke of an “irreplaceable” man: “Our team has lost one of their spirit guides.”
“As a partner for six and a half years, Niki has always had uncompromising honesty and loyalty. It has been a privilege to have him on our team and very exciting to see how important he has been in the team’s success, ”added Wolff.
– ‘Simply irreplaceable’ –
“Each time he gave us one of his memorable speeches to motivate us, he gave us a unique energy. Niki, you are simply irreplaceable, there will be no other like him, ”continued the 47-year-old Austrian.
After completing his racing career, Lauda worked as a consultant for Ferrari from 1993 to 1995, as well as directing Jaguar Racing from 2001 to 2002. But his great success came since 2014 with Mercedes, five consecutive drivers ‘and constructors’ doubles.
Frenchman Alain Prost, Lauda’s old teammate at McLaren in 1984 and 1985, told AFP that “the world of F1 was losing a character, but above all a man.”
«There are champions, people with honors, but we lose a man who never complained in his life; neither of his condition, nor of his accident – he was miraculously saved after his car caught fire after an impact, although he suffered very serious burns, on August 1, 1976- “, he pointed out.
«I have stronger feelings than I could imagine, it means 40 years of my life. He was the idol of my youth, then we were partners, the greatest period I have known, and then the friendship that was created at that time, “added the Frenchman, who lost the world title in 1984 to the Austrian by half a point, the smallest difference in F1 history.
The Monaco Grand Prix, the most prestigious of the season, which begins on Wednesday, will feature new tributes to Lauda. AFP