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Tributes pour in for F1 legend Niki Lauda

:Headline: Tributes pour in for F1 legend Niki Lauda:
The three-time Formula One world champion has died at the age of 70
PA | 1mo

John Watson has hailed three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda as the "most courageous" man in sport, following his death aged 70.

The former racing driver "passed away peacefully", his family said on Monday in a statement reported by the Austria Press Agency.

Watson, who was a team-mate of Lauda at Parmalat and McLaren in the 1970s and 1980s, was one of the first people to attend to the Austrian following a horrific crash at the Nurburgring in Germany in 1976.

Lauda narrowly escaped death when his Ferrari crashed, suffering severe burns and lung damage after inhaling toxic gases, but made a miraculous recovery, missing only two races, and finished second in the championship to James Hunt.

Watson says the manner of Lauda's speedy recovery says everything about him.

Watson told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Somebody realised the actual damage to Niki, the real danger he was in was not from the superficial injuries that we could see but from the deeper injury which was that to his lung.

"He'd suffered inhalation of toxic fumes from the burning fibreglass.

"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.

Lauda was chairman of Mercedes at the time of his death (David Davies/PA)

"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.

"It was our honour to call you our Chairman – and my privilege to call you my friend."

Former Formula One driver Martin Brundle has credited Lauda with enticing Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes, where he has won four of the last five world titles.

Lauda was instrumental in bringing Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes (David Davies/PA)

Brundle told Sky Sports News: "He was a fighter and incredible individual, great company.

"A man, he was very much responsible for convincing Lewis Hamilton to go to Mercedes-Benz in this era.

"So many things have been going through my head this morning about how Niki reacted to Formula One and the gladiatorial way he went on to win three world championships.

"I don't think he had the absolute speed of a Senna or a Schumacher, but he just got his head down, took on the best and beat them."

Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion, described Lauda as a "remarkable individual", praising his tactical skills on the race track.

"There's so many stories about Niki Lauda," Hill told Sky Sports News. "He was involved in the drivers' strike in South Africa – he's one of the few men who could sit down with Enzo Ferrari and Bernie Ecclestone and look them straight in the eye and they knew that he meant business.

"He was a remarkable individual in every way.

"I was certainly one person that looked at Niki and thought, 'I'll never be half the man he was'.

Lauda celebrates winning the British grand prix at Brands Hatch in 1974 (PA Archive)

"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."



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