Hundreds of mourners gathered to pay their respects to the Formula One legend Niki Lauda during his funeral today in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in his home city of Vienna.
Hundreds of fans queued in the rain for hours outside the famous church before they were allowed in to file past the coffin.
His wife Birgit and two of his sons – Mathias and Lucas – placed Lauda’s red-and-white driver’s helmet on the casket. Lauda also had three other sons from previous relationships.
Stars of Formula One past and present also attended a private Requiem Mass. Austrian-born star Arnold Schwarzenegger and two Austrian dignitaries – President Alexander Van der Bellen and recently ousted Chancellor Sebastian Kurz – were to give short speeches at the end of the service.
In all, some 300 VIP guests are expected to attend the mass Wednesday, with 800 further seats and 3,000 standing places open to the general public.
The triple world champion, best remembered for his comeback from a fiery crash in 1976 that left him badly burned and scarred him for life, died last week at the age of 70.
Besides racing, Lauda’s second passion was aviation. He founded and then sold several airlines with his latest, Laudamotion, going to Ryanair in 2018.
It is not clear where Lauda will be laid to rest. The family reportedly has turned down an offer by the city of Vienna to receive a ‘grave of honour’ in the city’s vast Central Cemetery.
Photos: EPA-EFE/MICHAEL GRUBER/