Niki Lauda: a personal tribute from Gerhard Berger
“I was very sad to hear about Niki’s passing. Not only have I lost a friend, but Austria has lost its greatest and most widely known sporting star. While the word ‘legend’ is often used advisedly, for Niki it is absolutely appropriate. His achievements as a racing driver and as a businessman, combined with his extraordinary personality, have made him an international legend.
“My thoughts go out to his family, to his wife Birgit, his children Mia, Max, Lukas, Mathias and Christoph. His next of kin have lovingly taken care of him these past few months, and made many personal sacrifices.
“In the last 10 years, I developed a very close personal relationship with Niki – whether as a fellow driver, a business partner, or as a friend. He was somebody I could always rely on.
“His meticulousness and attention to detail, his sense of order and his clever mind are the things that I’ll always remember. Those characteristics, along with his ruthless candour and his straightforward attitude, made him a very special person to me. I mourn the loss of a friend whom I admired and appreciated very much.
“Ultimately, I think this was a relief for Niki, because he was somebody who lived his life with 120 per cent commitment. And, because of his severe illness, he was no longer able to do that.
“I know very few people who have had such a rich a life as Niki’s; with great achievements in sports and business alike, and having also found luck in his private life again, he found his happiness.
“At the same time, however, he endured the hardest setbacks in almost every aspect of his life. He overcame them in the pragmatic, solution-oriented way that was characteristic to him. Therefore, the world will remember him as the Austrian with the greatest ability, the most unrivalled charisma, and a fearless honesty and determination.
“Niki Lauda should by no means be remembered for just his three Formula 1 world titles and that unbelievable comeback after his severe accident in 1976. There was so much more to the man.
“He was an extremely capable pilot of large aircraft, he built up an airline against political opposition, he dealt with the Lauda Air plane crash at the time as the airline’s head with unbelievable meticulousness and honesty. And, together with Toto Wolff, he put the Mercedes Formula 1 team on the road to success.
“I bow to this unbelievable achievement in life. The idea of not seeing his trademark red cap walking through the paddock anymore changes everything for me.”
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