Saturday 24 August 2019

'He was a shining star' - fans join icons of Formula One to say farewell to legend Lauda

The helmet of the former Formula One driver sits on top of his coffin. Photo: Getty Images
The helmet of the former Formula One driver sits on top of his coffin. Photo: Getty Images

Jonathan Gray

Family, friends and fans gathered at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna for a last farewell to Formula One champion Niki Lauda.

The wooden coffin of the three-time champion was decorated with his red racing helmet and surrounded by six white candles and rose wreaths with two large portraits of Lauda behind it.

Former Formula One driver Jackie Stewart arrives to attend the funeral ceremony. Photo: Reuters/Leonhard Foeger
Former Formula One driver Jackie Stewart arrives to attend the funeral ceremony. Photo: Reuters/Leonhard Foeger

The Austrian died on May 20 at the age of 70, less than a year after a lung transplant.

Lauda, who won two of his Formula One titles after a horrific crash in which he suffered serious burns, later became a prominent figure in the aviation industry and in recent years served as a non-executive chairman of the Mercedes F1 team.

Several Formula One stars attended, including current world champion Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas and their team boss Toto Wolff, four-time champion Alain Prost and fellow winners Jackie Stewart, Nelson Piquet and Nico Rosberg. 

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger also paid their respects at the funeral Mass.

Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton accompanies the coffin out of St Stephen's cathedral. Photo: Reuters/Leonhard Foeger
Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton accompanies the coffin out of St Stephen's cathedral. Photo: Reuters/Leonhard Foeger

After winning the Monaco Grand Prix last Sunday, Hamilton paid tribute to Lauda, writing on Twitter: “That was for you, Niki.”

Before the beginning of the service, hundreds of fans walked by the coffin, many of them crossing themselves and taking photos.

“He was an unpretentious, humble, shining star among the racing drivers,” said Fr Toni Faber, the priest who presided over the funeral.

Lauda won the F1 title in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren.

Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger leaves the funeral ceremony. Photo: Reuters/Antonio Bronic
Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger leaves the funeral ceremony. Photo: Reuters/Antonio Bronic

In 1976, he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix but he made an astonishingly fast return to racing only six weeks later.

Irish Independent

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