Niki Lauda: Thousands honor racing legend at memorial in Vienna | News | DW | 29.05.2019
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Niki Lauda: Thousands honor racing legend at memorial in Vienna

Family, fans and friends gathered in Vienna for Austrian F1 star Niki Lauda's memorial. After the service, Lauda was buried wearing his race overalls. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gerhard Berger gave eulogies.

Motorsports fans, F1 figures, politicians and celebrities are honoring racing legend Niki Lauda at a memorial service at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Lauda's hometown of Vienna.

The three-time F1 champion died on May 20 at the age of 70 in Zürich, nine months after undergoing a lung transplant.

"We all loved and admired Niki. We admired his courage, his will, his strength, his love," said Austrian-born actor and former California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, during the packed funeral Mass at St. Stephen's Cathedral.

Lauda's closed coffin topped with a race helmet was on display in the center of the cathedral until noon local time (10:00 UTC), followed by a public Mass and a private funeral. Lauda was buried wearing his race suit.

A Niki Lauda fan removes his red cap, as Lauda used to do after races to congratulate the winner

A fan removes his red cap, as Lauda used to do after races to congratulate the winner

Read more: Niki Lauda: Much more than a Formula One champion

Around 300 VIP guests, including F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton, attended Wednesday's Mass, with space for more than 3,000 attendees open to the general public.  

Schwarzenegger, who was a close friend of Lauda's, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, and former Austrian F1 driver Gerhard Berger delivered eulogies. Retired French four-time F1 champion Alain Prost, Lauda's last teammate at McLaren in the 1980s, read a bible verse.

A legend until the end 

Lauda won the F1 World Drivers' Championship in 1975, 1977 and 1984. After his second retirement from F1, in 1985, Lauda remained a prominent figure in the paddock, including his most-recent post as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes F1 team. 

Hamilton won the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday, wearing an imitation of Lauda's helmet in tribute, and said after the race that Lauda's spirit had helped carry him through. 

Lauda was instrumental in convincing Hamilton to join Mercedes ready for the 2013 season, at a time when the team was struggling and did not appear a good fit for a top driver. Since major rule changes in 2014, however, the Silver Arrows have dominated, winning every drivers' and constructors' championship. Hamilton has won the drivers' title in four of the past seasons, and said after his win in Monaco that without Lauda, he might only have the 2008 title to his name.

Lauda had suffered from permanent health problems since a near-fatal crash at Germany's Nürburgring Nordschleife in 1976. Lauda crashed his Ferrari and was trapped in flaming wreckage for 55 seconds leaving his face permanently scarred and causing massive damage to his lungs.

wmr/msh  (dpa, AFP)

Watch video 01:37

Niki Lauda, a life in the fast lane

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