Formula 1 legend Niki Lauda has died aged 70 after battling health issues since mid-last year which included a lung transplant that kept him in hospital for an extended period of time. The Austrian media reported that Lauda was again hospitalized recently and was undergoing kidney dialysis in Switzerland.

The three-time F1 world champion’s family confirmed his passing via a statement Monday and revealed that it happened peacefully surrounded by family. Lauda was a constant presence on the F1 grid even after his racing career with his most recent post being with the all-conquering Mercedes team as the non-executive chairman.

"With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday," his family said in a statement issued to Austrian media. "His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are and will remain unforgettable, his tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain."

"A role model and a benchmark for all of us, he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather away from the public, and he will be missed,” the statement added.

Lauda has spent around four decades in F1 as a racing driver, team manager, team principal and finally non-executive director. The Austrian’s story in the sport is one of true greatness, especially due to the circumstances he had to overcome to make his way to the top of the sport.

Niki Lauda
Three-time Formula 1 champion and Mercedes F1 Niki Lauda during day two of F1 Winter Testing at Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo, Spain, March 7, 2018. Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The F1 legend won his first Drivers’ world championship in 1975, four years after joining Ferrari. He then barely escaped a fiery crash that left him badly burnt in 1976 with many expecting his career to be finished. Lauda made a miraculous recovery and missed just two races and lost the world championship to arch-rival James Hunt by just one point.

The Austrian then went on to claim his second title the following year with Ferrari before moving to Brabham racing team in 1978. He retired midway through qualifying for the 1979 Canadian Grand Prix to concentrate on building an air charter business in Austria.

Lauda returned to the sport with McLaren in 1983 and two seasons later, he was crowned the world champion for the third time, this time beating teammate Alain Prost to the title by just half a point. In 1985, he called time on his F1 career for a second time but has since been ever present on the grid.

The motorsports world has come together to pay tribute to one of its greatest drivers, while Mercedes are certain to dedicate the upcoming weekend at the Monaco Grand Prix to their non-executive chairman.