ZURICH/LONDON (Reuters) - Doctors are optimistic about Formula One triple world champion Niki Lauda’s recovery following a six-hour lung transplant.
The Austrian motor racing legend, 69, underwent the surgery in Vienna on Thursday.
His condition at the time had been “extremely critical”, the head of the department that performed Lauda’s surgery said.
“In the last seven days, Mr. Lauda was kept alive only by a pump, a sort of heart-lung machine,” head of the Department of Thoracic Surgery Walter Klepetko said in a television interview released by Austria’s Oe24 on Friday.
Without a transplant, life expectancy in such circumstances would be limited to days or weeks, he said.
“Considering the not very easy circumstances we are very, very happy with the developments,” Klepetko said, adding the hospital would release a comprehensive update about Lauda’s condition at a later time.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff on Friday wished chairman Lauda a safe and speedy recovery and hoped the Austrian would be back at the races before long.
“The world knows Niki as an F1 legend with incredible power and resilience,” Wolff, also Austrian, said in a message before the August factory shutdown.
“For all of us at Mercedes he is our chairman, our mentor and our friend,” he added. “We have missed him by our side in Hockenheim and Hungary and can’t wait to have him back with us on the grand prix tracks of this world.”
“The recovery he now faces is not a race. But knowing Niki, I’m sure he will soon be telling every nurse and doctor that he has had enough of the hospital,” Wolff said.
Four times world champion Lewis Hamilton, who is leading the championship for Mercedes, also sent Lauda - who was instrumental in signing the Briton from McLaren at the end of 2012 - a message on Instagram.
Lauda, who was badly burned in a near-fatal Formula One crash in 1976 and later became an airline entrepreneur, was taken ill recently. He won his titles with Ferrari and McLaren in 1975, 1977 and 1984.
He recently agreed to sell control of his Laudamotion airline to Ryanair.
Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Alan Baldwin; Editing by Ken Ferris and Andrew Bolton