Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70. The Austria Press Agency quoted Lauda's family as saying he "passed away peacefully" on Monday. "His tireless drive, his straightforwardness, and his courage remain an example and standard for us all," his family said in a statement. "Away from the public gaze he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather. We will miss him very much." Born on Feb. 22, 1949 into a wealthy Vienna family, Nikolaus Andreas Lauda was expected to follow his father into the paper-manufacturing industry, but instead concentrated his business talents and determination on his dreams of becoming a racing driver, the AP reports.
Lauda won the F1 drivers' championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren. In 1976, he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix, but he made an astonishingly fast return to racing just six weeks later. "The main damage, I think to myself, was lung damage from inhaling all the flames and fumes while I was sitting in the car for about 50 seconds," he recalled nearly a decade later. "It was something like 800 degrees." Lauda remained closely involved with the F1 circuit after retiring as a driver in 1985, and in recent years served as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team. Lauda, who held a commercial pilot's license, also founded the airlines Lauda Air and Niki Air and used to captain at least one flight a week. (Read more Formula One stories.)