May 21 (UPI) -- Niki Lauda, a three-time Formula One champion driver and one of the most popular personalities in racing, died late Monday, eight months after a lung transplant. He was 70.
Lauda was seriously injured in an accident that left him severely burned in 1976. He won acclaim by returning to the track and winning championships again in 1977 and 1984.
Lauda remained involved in racing after his retirement, working as team chairman of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. Team principal Toto Wolff passed along condolences to Lauda's wife, Birgit, and his children.
"Niki will always remain one of the greatest legends of our sport," Wolff said. "He combined heroism, humanity and honesty inside and outside the cockpit. 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 candor to modern Formula One."
Lauda won 25 races over his career, winning world championships driving for Ferrari and McLaren.
Born in Austria in 1949, he joined the Formula One circuit in 1971, taking out a personal bank loan so he could make his debut. Over the next three years, he won the praises of Ferrari, which signed him on as a driver in 1974, launching his career as one of the sport's top drivers ever.
Jean Todt, president of France's Federation Internationale de l'Autoboile, the governing body of numerous auto racing events, recognized Lauda on social media.
"Niki Lauda was a hero of motorsports, who inspired me in my youth," Todt said. "He is a milestone in the history of F1. All my thoughts go out to his family, friends and MercedesAGF1 team."
Formula One driver Max Verstappen added his praise for Lauda.
"Shocked by the loss of Niki Lauda," Verstappen tweeted. "He was a true legend in our sport and someone I had great respect for. May he rest in peace."
F1 1996 world champion Damon Hill said Lauda's personality remained "one of the most potent" in all of racing.
"Not only as a driver, he was highly intellectual, he was stoic and someone who was eminently quotable all the time," Hill told Sky Sports. "It's very sad to hear we've lost Niki but so many people have been affected positively by having known him."