Famed racing driver Niki Lauda has died. Lauda is best-known for his success in Formula One, though he raced in other series as well.

Born into a wealthy family in Austria, Lauda gained a reputation for having a blunt demeanor. He also became an inspiration to many when he overcame devastation to reach the pinnacles of success again.

Lauda had a storied career

Niki Lauda debuted in Formula One in the 1970s during a period when the sport was exceptionally dangerous. His first win came in 1974. The following year, he won the Drivers' Championship and the Grand Prix of Monaco, Formula One's most prestigious race.

As CBS documents, the 1976 season started off very strong for Lauda. He had won five races, including a consecutive Grand Prix of Monaco, leading up to the German Grand Prix. Weather conditions for the race were poor. During the event, Lauda's Ferrari suddenly snapped to the right. The car broke through the safety fencing onto land before bouncing back on the track. By that time, the car was engulfed in flames. Lauda's car would collide with those of American Brett Lunger and Austrian Harald Ertl.

Lunger, Ertl and two other drivers stopped to pull Lauda out of the car. He was rushed to a hospital where he fought for his life over the coming days. To the shock of the racing world, Lauda only missed two races, returning to competition despite agonizing pain.

His external injuries were severe. But more pressing was the damage done to his lungs. They had also been badly burned and were also damaged by the toxic fumes he had breathed in.

Lauda would go on to win two more Drivers' Championships. Shortly thereafter, he was a consultant for Scuderia Ferrari and team manager of Jaguar Racing.

Eventually, Lauda became chairman and part-owner of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport.

He was also a commentator for German television channel, for which his bluntness proved both popular and problematic. Lauda was also an enthusiast of aviation and founded multiple airlines.

In 1993, Lauda was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

His eldest son, Mathias, has also become a racing driver, most prominently in the FIA World Endurance Championship. However, he was also in a state of decline. It's not clear as to whether or not it's related to his injuries from the 1976 crash. Lauda underwent two kidney transplants and a lung transplant. Bloomberg reports that he was hospitalized in early 2019 for influenza. On May 20, he died at a hospital in Zurich, Switzerland. He had been undergoing dialysis.

Relationship and rivalry with James Hunt

Lauda's friendship and rivalry with English driver James Hunt also received much attention. The two had contrasting personalities. Lauda was focused to the point of being cold at times. Hunt was care-free to the point of being reckless.

Their on-track rivalry reached its peak during the 1976 season. Hunt edged out Lauda for the Drivers' Championship by the slimmest of margins.

Their relationship inspired the 2013 movie "Rush", directed by Ron Howard. Hunt was portrayed by Chris Hemsworth and Lauda by Daniel Bruhl. The movie was released to high acclaim and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama. Bruhl's performance as Lauda also received several nominations. They include ones for a Golden Globe, a BAFTA Award and a SAG Award.

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