BERLIN, The motorsport community on Tuesday mourned the death of Niki Lauda, a former three-time Formula One world champion and non-executive chairman at the Mercedes team.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff expressed his grief on behalf of the team, parent company Daimler, the dpa has reported.

Lauda's former teams McLaren and Ferrari took to Twitter just as F1 CEO Chase Carey and former world champions including Damon Hill, Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.

One of the most significant figures in motorsport across five decades, Austria's Lauda passed away peacefully in his sleep at the university hospital in Zurich on Monday. He was 70.

Lauda received a lung transplant last year, and was hospitalised with flu in January. He had in previous years received two kidney transplants He had survived life-threatening third-degree burns in a 1976 race crash. He was also a hugely successful businessman and tributes quickly poured in from F1 teams and former champions.

Italy's Ferrari said it was a sad day for the sport. "The big Ferrari family has learned with much sadness the news of the death of our friend Niki Lauda, three-time world champion, twice with the Scuderia (1975-1977). You will forever be in our and the fans' hearts," the team tweeted.

Austria hailed one of its most successful and recognisable sporting heroes with President Alexander Van der Bellen and chancellor Sebastian Kurz paying tributes, along with Olympic skiing champion Annemarie Moser-Proell and former footballer Hans Krankl.

By the end of his racing career in 1985, Lauda had competed in 171 Formula One races, won 25 of them and stood on the podium 54 times.

Before retiring, he launched Lauda Air in 1979 which he sold in the 1990s. In 2003, Lauda founded another airline, Niki, which he sold to Air Berlin in 2011. He bought it back in January 2018 to run under the Laudamotion brand, only to sell it quickly to Irish budget carrier Ryanair.

In later years, Lauda became an adviser for the Ferrari race team, before becoming non-executive chairman of the Mercedes F1 team in 2012.

He was considered influential in bringing current world champion Lewis Hamilton to the team and was a paddock regular as Mercedes started their dominance of the hybrid era from 2014.

Source: Emirates News Agency