Hundreds of mourners arrive to pay their respects at Niki Lauda’s funeral

Niki Lauda’s grieving widow places his F1 helmet on his coffin in funeral in Vienna as hundreds of mourners arrive to pay their respects after his death aged 70

  • Niki Lauda died last week at the age of 70 after an illustrious career as a Formula One driver and businessman 
  • Lauda’s funeral is taking place at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in his home city of Vienna on Wednesday morning
  • Hundreds of mourners are in attendance and a host of stars from the world of Formula One are expected 

Advertisement

Niki Lauda’s grieving widow placed one of the Formula One legend’s helmets on his coffin during his funeral in Vienna on Wednesday as hundreds of mourners gathered to pay their respects.   

Birgit Lauda, 40, and his sons Mathias and Lucas were pictured laying wreaths, flowers and pictures of Lauda on his coffin as they attended his memorial at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in his home city of Vienna.

Thousands thronged Vienna’s landmark cathedral Wednesday to mourn including world champion Lewis Hamilton and a host of F1 stars.

The casket arrived at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the city’s historic centre with a police motorcade. Pallbearers, followed by Lauda’s family, carried the coffin inside as bells rang out and thousands gathered in pouring rain outside.

The three-time F1 world champion, who came back from a horrific crash and founded several airlines, died on May 20 at the age of 70.   

Current Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, who dedicated his victory in Monaco on the weekend to Lauda, arrives at the memorial

Austrian-US actor, filmmaker, politician and activist Arnold Schwarzenegger and his girlfriend Heather Milligan are pictured attending the funeral

Austrian-US actor, filmmaker, politician and activist Arnold Schwarzenegger and his girlfriend Heather Milligan are pictured attending the funeral

Austrian folk singer Andreas Gabalier (left) and former German Formula One racing driver Nico Rosberg, who beat Hamilton to the championship in 2016, pictured at the funeral

Austrian folk singer Andreas Gabalier (left) and former German Formula One racing driver Nico Rosberg, who beat Hamilton to the championship in 2016, pictured at the funeral

Former French racing driver Alain Prost (second right) is pictured in Vienna during Lauda's funeral ceremony on Wednesday

Former French racing driver Alain Prost (second right) is pictured in Vienna during Lauda’s funeral ceremony on Wednesday

Actor Daniel Bruehl, who played Lauda in the hit 2014 film 'Rush' about his rivalry with 1976 champion James Hunt, arriving at the church

Actor Daniel Bruehl, who played Lauda in the hit 2014 film ‘Rush’ about his rivalry with 1976 champion James Hunt, arriving at the church

Former British Formula One racing driver David Coulthard who raced for several years in the 1990s and early 2000s is pictured at the ceremony

Former British Formula One racing driver David Coulthard who raced for several years in the 1990s and early 2000s is pictured at the ceremony

Birgit Lauda (centre), widow of formular Formula One driver Niki Lauda and his sons Mathias Lauda (left) and Lucas Lauda (right) put Lauda's racing helmet on top of his coffin

Birgit Lauda (centre), widow of formular Formula One driver Niki Lauda and his sons Mathias Lauda (left) and Lucas Lauda (right) put Lauda’s racing helmet on top of his coffin

Mourners slowly filed past to bid a final farewell, taking photos and laying flowers, with the queue stretching well out of the cathedral into nearby streets.

Hundreds of fans queued in the rain for hours outside the famous church before they were allowed in to file past the coffin – and pictures showed queues stretching round the block despite the downpour.

Pictures showed a host of Formula One legends including Alain Prost, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and David Coulthard arriving for a private Requiem Mass at 1pm (11am GMT).   

Lauda’s former McLaren teammate Alain Prost will give a reading from the Old Testament at the private ceremony, the Vienna archdiocese said.

Five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton – who raced to victory in the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday in a helmet bearing Lauda’s colours and name – also joined the congregation.

Fellow Austrian racing driver Gerhard Berger, Austrian-born star Arnold Schwarzenegger and two Austrian dignitaries – President Alexander Van der Bellen and recently ousted Chancellor Sebastian Kurz – will give short speeches at the end of the service.

Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) President Jean Todt, Formula One Managing Director of Motorsports Ross Brawn and Formula One group CEO Chase Carey arrive

Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) President Jean Todt, Formula One Managing Director of Motorsports Ross Brawn and Formula One group CEO Chase Carey arrive

Former British Formula One racing driver Jackie Stewart (centre) and his wife Helen at the funeral on Wednesday afternoon

Former British Formula One racing driver Jackie Stewart (centre) and his wife Helen at the funeral on Wednesday afternoon

Former Austrian Formula One racing driver Helmut Marko (left) and Christian Horner, Team Principal of the Red Bull Racing Formula One team

Former Austrian Formula One racing driver Helmut Marko (left) and Christian Horner, Team Principal of the Red Bull Racing Formula One team

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his girlfriend Susanne Thier showing up for the ceremony on Wednesday afternoon

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his girlfriend Susanne Thier showing up for the ceremony on Wednesday afternoon

Lauda's widow Birgit, her children Mia and Max (centre), Niki Lauda's son Lukas and a host of other mourners entering the church

Lauda’s widow Birgit, her children Mia and Max (centre), Niki Lauda’s son Lukas and a host of other mourners entering the church

Among the thousands of mourners, some sporting Ferrari caps, was Roland, a 41-year-old technician from Vienna.

Waiting in line outside the cathedral, he told AFP that Lauda was ‘an example for Austria’.

‘Even though he faced very difficult circumstances, he never complained,’ he said.

Many had travelled from across the country and even further afield abroad to attend the funeral.

Johann, a 70-year-old retiree from Burgenland state who used to work as a Lauda Air technician, described Lauda as a ‘strict but fair’ employer.

Imre Varga, 63, came all the way from Hungary for the ceremony. She said she would watch Lauda on Austrian television, which people in the western part of her country had been ‘lucky’ to receive in Communist times.

‘During the Iron Curtain he was always a role model for us… He was unreachable, like a God, to us,’ she told AFP.

Mathias Lauda, himself a driver currently racing for Aston Martin in the FIA World Endurance Championship, stares at his father's coffin as one of Niki Lauda's helmets is placed on top during the memorial service

Mathias Lauda, himself a driver currently racing for Aston Martin in the FIA World Endurance Championship, stares at his father’s coffin as one of Niki Lauda’s helmets is placed on top during the memorial service

Lauda's children will later hold an intercession for their deceased father in the cathedral which is at the heart of Vienna's old town centre

Lauda’s children will later hold an intercession for their deceased father in the cathedral which is at the heart of Vienna’s old town centre

Son Lukas places Niki Lauda's Formula One helmet on his coffin at the altar of St Stephen's cathedral. Lauda had two sons with first wife Marlene Knaus - Mathias, a racing driver himself, and Lukas, who acted as Mathias's manager

Son Lukas places Niki Lauda’s Formula One helmet on his coffin at the altar of St Stephen’s cathedral. Lauda had two sons with first wife Marlene Knaus – Mathias, a racing driver himself, and Lukas, who acted as Mathias’s manager

Lauda, who died on May 20 at the age of 70, was laid out in a closed casket topped with his race helmet in the centre of the cathedral

Lauda, who died on May 20 at the age of 70, was laid out in a closed casket topped with his race helmet in the centre of the cathedral

Lauda used the characteristic red helmet design throughout his career. He wore a modified helmet in the weeks following his near-fatal Nürburgring accident in 1976 so the lining would not aggravate his burned scalp

Lauda used the characteristic red helmet design throughout his career. He wore a modified helmet in the weeks following his near-fatal Nürburgring accident in 1976 so the lining would not aggravate his burned scalp

The spectacular service on Wednesday morning was arranged to pay tribue to one of F1's greatest drivers and one of Austria's most famous sporting legends

The spectacular service on Wednesday morning was arranged to pay tribue to one of F1’s greatest drivers and one of Austria’s most famous sporting legends

Members of the public pay their respects during the Niki Lauda Memorial Service as the world's media gathered by the coffin

Members of the public pay their respects during the Niki Lauda Memorial Service as the world’s media gathered by the coffin

Later on Wednesday Austria's President Alexander Van der Bellen will hold a eulogy in the church for Lauda as the ceremony continues for most of the day

Later on Wednesday Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen will hold a eulogy in the church for Lauda as the ceremony continues for most of the day

Pictures showed his close family arriving with the coffin early on Wednesday, hours before the main event was due to take place. 

Lauda won the drivers’ world championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and in 1984 with McLaren. 

Even after retiring as a race driver, the Austrian remained a fixture on the circuit. Most recently, as non-executive chairman at Mercedes F1 since 2012, he was instrumental in bringing in Hamilton, sparking a run of success for the team. 

The three-time world champion has been mourned around the world

The three-time world champion has been mourned around the world

Lewis Hamilton, who won the Monaco Grand Prix Sunday, said after his victory: ‘That was for you, Niki. Your fighting spirit was right there with me every step of the way. I know you are looking down and taking your hat off to us. I miss you, we truly miss you and I hope we did you proud today, legend,’ Hamilton posted on Twitter after the race.

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. 

During the mass, songs including ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman, John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ and ‘Hero’ by Family Of The Year will be played.

Lauda, who had struggled with health issues since miraculously surviving a 1976 race crash that saw his car engulfed in flames, died at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland, nine months after he underwent a lung transplant.

Lauda, recognised by his trademark red cap hiding scars from the accident at the Nuerburgring in Germany, also underwent kidney transplants.

One of the kidneys was donated by Birgit Wetzinger, a former flight attendant, whom the racer and businessman later married and with whom he had twins, a boy and a girl, in 2009.

Lauda also had three other sons from previous relationships.

Besides racing, Lauda’s second passion was aviation. He founded and then sold several airlines with his latest, Laudamotion, going to Ryanair in 2018.

The racing hero will be buried in Doebling near to his late mother with full state honours after the special mass. 

The family reportedly turned down an offer by the city of Vienna to receive a ‘grave of honour’ in the city’s vast Central Cemetery.

The church was decked out with flowers and candles for the ceremony

A photographer takes a picture of Lauda's coffin

According to reports, Lauda will be buried in Doebling near to his late mother with full state honours after the special mass in central Vienna

A mourner wearing one of Lauda's trademark red caps doffs his hat while filing past the Formula One legend's coffin on Wednesday morning

A mourner wearing one of Lauda’s trademark red caps doffs his hat while filing past the Formula One legend’s coffin on Wednesday morning

A member of the public wearing an anorak to protect from the torrential conditions outside removes his cap as he pays his respects next to Lauda's coffin

A member of the public wearing an anorak to protect from the torrential conditions outside removes his cap as he pays his respects next to Lauda’s coffin

Lauda, who had struggled with health issues since miraculously surviving a 1976 race crash that saw his car engulfed in flames, died at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland, nine months after he underwent a lung transplant. Pictured: Fans piling past his coffin

Lauda, who had struggled with health issues since miraculously surviving a 1976 race crash that saw his car engulfed in flames, died at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland, nine months after he underwent a lung transplant. Pictured: Fans piling past his coffin

Niki Lauda's widow Birgit attends his funeral alongside the champion's sons. The former world champion had a total of four sons and one daughter

Niki Lauda’s widow Birgit attends his funeral alongside the champion’s sons. The former world champion had a total of four sons and one daughter

Austrian media have reported Lewis Hamilton will attend, together with other Formula One heavyweights such as Bernie Ecclestone and Mercedes chief Toto Wolff, to mourn Lauda, who won the drivers' world championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and in 1984 with McLaren

Austrian media have reported Lewis Hamilton will attend, together with other Formula One heavyweights such as Bernie Ecclestone and Mercedes chief Toto Wolff, to mourn Lauda, who won the drivers’ world championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and in 1984 with McLaren

Pictures of the three-time world champion adorned the church as fans and family flocked to pay their respects to Niki Lauda

Pictures of the three-time world champion adorned the church as fans and family flocked to pay their respects to Niki Lauda

Wednesday's ceremony was the first time a sports star has been laid out in the cathedral, an honour previously accorded to prominent personalities such the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Franz Koenig, and the former crown prince of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, Otto von Habsburg

Wednesday’s ceremony was the first time a sports star has been laid out in the cathedral, an honour previously accorded to prominent personalities such the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Franz Koenig, and the former crown prince of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, Otto von Habsburg

Pallbearers carry Niki Lauda's coffin as it arrives at St Stephen's cathedral in Vienna, Austria on Wednesday morning. His funeral is expected to draw a host of stars from the world of Formula One as well as thousands of fans

Pallbearers carry Niki Lauda’s coffin as it arrives at St Stephen’s cathedral in Vienna, Austria on Wednesday morning. His funeral is expected to draw a host of stars from the world of Formula One as well as thousands of fans

Even after retiring as a race driver, the Austrian remained a fixture on the circuit. Most recently, as non-executive chairman at Mercedes F1 since 2012, he was instrumental in bringing in Hamilton, sparking a run of success for the team

Even after retiring as a race driver, the Austrian remained a fixture on the circuit. Most recently, as non-executive chairman at Mercedes F1 since 2012, he was instrumental in bringing in Hamilton, sparking a run of success for the team

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

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

Thousands of fans could be seen queuing patiently despite downpours outside the famous old church in central Vienna

Thousands of fans could be seen queuing patiently despite downpours outside the famous old church in central Vienna

A fan wearing a Ferrari t-shirt stands in the rain outside St Stephen's cathedral in Vienna as he waits to be allowed to pay his respects

A fan wearing a Ferrari t-shirt stands in the rain outside St Stephen’s cathedral in Vienna as he waits to be allowed to pay his respects

Thousands of racing fans from across the world braved the torrential conditions to pay their final respects to the Formula One legend

Thousands of racing fans from across the world braved the torrential conditions to pay their final respects to the Formula One legend

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Distinct Today is a news media company, focused on the intersection between hyper-relevant content and digital innovation. Distinct Today curates editorial news content, experiences, and events across multiple platforms including email, mobile, online and offline. Distinct Today is headquartered in Houston, Texas. The company is privately held. Distinct Today targets an affluent, college-educated audience.