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Lauda returns to hospital

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 07/01/2019 skysports.com

Niki Lauda wearing a hat and sunglasses: Getty © Provided by BSkyB Getty Niki Lauda is back in hospital in his native Austria, five months after a lung transplant.

The triple Formula 1 world champion, and Mercedes' non-executive chairman, is understood to have suffered a serious bout of the flu, and has been admitted to intensive care in Vienna.

Lauda, 69, underwent his life-saving lung operation in August before he was released for rehabilitation nearly four months later. He has been in his role at Mercedes since 2012 but his poor health meant he missed the second half of last season.

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Mercedes staff paid tribute to Lauda at their Northamptonshire factory by celebrating both the team's and Lewis Hamilton's championship honours by wearing red caps similar to the one usually worn by the Austrian.

PAUL RICARD CIRCUIT, LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - 2018/06/23: Austrian former Formula One driver and a three-time F1 World Drivers' Champion Niki Lauda, non-executive chairman of Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team,  in the paddock during the Grand Prix de France. (Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images) © 2018 Marco Canoniero PAUL RICARD CIRCUIT, LE CASTELLET, FRANCE - 2018/06/23: Austrian former Formula One driver and a three-time F1 World Drivers' Champion Niki Lauda, non-executive chairman of Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, in the paddock during the Grand Prix de France. (Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images) In a video message to the team and fans in November, he said he hoped to have recovered sufficiently from his transplant surgery to rejoin the team for the 2019 F1 opener in Australia in March.

Lauda survived a fireball inferno at the 1976 German Grand Prix, winning his three championships in 1975, 1977 and 1984.

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