Niki Lauda has planned to stun the Formula 1 paddock by returning from a lung transplant as early as the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Bernie Ecclestone has revealed. Lauda spent almost three months in intensive care after undergoing emergency surgery which doctors believe saved him from certain death.
Lauda fell ill while on holiday in Spain and was later taken to hospital in Vienna, where he underwent the operation.
Doctors later revealed that Lauda would have died within days if he had not undergone the transplant.
The three-time F1 champion was released from hospital last month, but Vienna General Hospital said in a statement that his rehabilitation would remain "intensive".
The Austrian has been much missed in the paddock, especially at Mercedes where he had served as non-executive chairman since 2012.
Team principal Toto Wolff said after his release from hospital: "I wouldn't be surprised if he has set himself targets to come back quickly."
And after a phonecall with the Austrian, Ecclestone has confirmed that Wolff's suspicions were correct.
Ecclestone claimed to Blick that Lauda had told him: "My secret plan is to reappear at the season finale in Abu Dhabi."
The former F1 supremo added: "It's incredible what Niki has to go through. He did not deserve it.
"He said to me, he just wanted to contact me again, he is doing well with the circumstances. [He said:] 'I feel much better already. I just have to take a lot of pills and I have to be disciplined.'"
Having been at home for just over two weeks, it is highly likely that Lauda will be advised not to travel to Abu Dhabi in two weeks' time, but we all know that Niki does his own thing..!
GPFans is a multi-platform, multi-language brand dedicated to Formula One coverage. We bring you all the ins and outs of the sport, 24/7, everything from up-to-the-minute news and features to the latest viral stories and clips.
We believe that a new generation of exciting, outspoken drivers will make F1 more popular than ever before, and we want to give our users access to as much of their heroes as possible, on and off the track. From Lewis Hamilton to Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo to Sebastian Vettel, we provide in-depth analysis of every every Grand Prix in the season, from Australia to Abu Dhabi.
With Formula One under the new ownership of Liberty Media, how the sport is being covered is evolving, and GPFans will look to be at the heart of this progression into new media, as one of the fastest-growing sites covering the king of motorsports.