Three-time Formula One world champion and current Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda is recovering in hospital after undergoing a lung replacement.

A statement from the Vienna General Hospital said that 69-year-old had been suffering from “severe lung disease” and that a transplant was required, which they added had been “carried out successfully”.

The statement read: “Due to a severe affection of the lungs, Niki Lauda had to undergo a lung transplantation at the AKH Vienna today [Thursday].

“The transplantation was done successfully by Walter Klepetko, head of thoracic surgery, and Konrad Hotzenecker.

“We kindly ask for your understanding that the family won't give any official statements and we ask to protect the privacy of the Lauda family.”

Lauda was on holiday in Ibiza last week, but was forced to cut short his trip and return to his home in Vienna after developing a lung infection.

The ex-F1 driver, who won the drivers’ championship in 1975, 1977 and 1984, suffered a serious crash at the German Grand Prix in 1976 while competing at the Nurburgring. Having crashed into an embankment, the Austrian’s Ferrari burst into flames that left him with serious burns which included damage to his lungs after inhaling toxic gases.

Lauda has also undergone kidney transplants in 1997 and 2005, and was given the last rites after his crash in 1976 only to return to the cockpit later that season after missing just three grand prix.

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