Tributes have been paid to three-time Formula 1 world champion Niki Lauda, who has died at the age of 70.

The Austrian underwent a double lung transplant last year, and was hospitalised with pneumonia earlier this year. In a statement to Austrian media, his family said: “With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday.

“His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are and will remain unforgettable, his tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain.”

Ferrari, with which Lauda won two titles, tweeted that the Austrian would “remain forever in our hearts”.

Born in Vienna, Austria, Lauda initially started racing a Mini, to the disapproval of his wealthy family. He soon moved into the single-seater Formula Vee series, and also raced in sports cars. He took out a bank loan to secure a drive with March in Formula Two in 1971, and made his Formula 1 debut with the team in his home race that season. He drove full time for the team the following year, and after a season at BRM his career took off with a move to Ferrari for 1974.

Lauda claimed his first race win in Spain that year, adding a second in the Dutch Grand Prix. He missed out on the title, but dominated the following season in the Ferrari 312T, winning five races on his way to the world championship.

Lauda was leading the points midway through the following season when he crashed heavily in the German Grand Prix at the Nordschleife. He was saved by rival drivers who dragged him from his burning car but suffered third-degree burns to his head and face, and inhaled toxic gases that damaged his lungs. A priest delivered the last rites to him in hospital.

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