‘We all loved and admired Niki‘: Arnold Schwarzenegger delivers eulogy at Niki Lauda‘s funeral alongside racing drivers past and present – including Lewis Hamilton – as his grieving widow places his F1 helmet on his coffin


Arnold Schwarzenegger led tributes to Formula One legend Niki Lauda today as hundreds of mourners attended his funeral in Vienna and his grieving widow placed a racing helmet on his coffin.   

Birgit Lauda, 40, and the driver‘s sons Mathias and Lucas laid wreaths, a red helmet and pictures of the Austrian motor racing champion on his coffin at St. Stephen‘s Cathedral in his home city of Vienna today. 

Schwarzenegger told mourners that ‘we all loved and admired Niki‘, saying: ‘We admired his courage, his will, his strength, his love.‘ 

The hundreds of VIP guests also included British driver Lewis Hamilton and Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen, who said: ‘Goodbye, world champion! Thank you for everything.‘   

Lauda finally succumbed to injuries from his famous accident at the Nurburgring in 1976 when he inhaled toxic fumes that damaged his lungs. He underwent a lung transplant 18 months ago, but failed to make a full recovery and died on May 20 at the age of 70.

A host of Formula One legends including Alain Prost, Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and David Coulthard also attended a private Requiem Mass for the three-time world champion who went on to found several airlines.

His wooden coffin was carried out after the requiem mass by pallbearers, flanked by his fellow drivers Hamilton and Prost, and his son Mathias looked overcome with emotion as rain fell outside. 

Birgit Lauda (centre), widow of Formula One driver Niki Lauda, and his sons Mathias Lauda (left) and Lucas Lauda (right) placed one of the famous racer‘s helmets on top of his coffin ahead of his funeral today

French former Formula One pilot Alain Prost (left) and British Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton (right) walk next to the coffin of late Austrian three-time Formula One world champion Lauda

Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his girlfriend Heather Milligan leaving the funeral – Schwarzenegger was a close friend of the driver

Scottish Formula One driver David Coulthard arrives with his wife Karen Minier to attend Lauda‘ funeral on Wednesday morning

Mathias Lauda (left) reacts next to Former Formula One driver Alain Prost as Niki Lauda‘s coffin is carried out of St Stephen‘s cathedral in Vienna

British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton walks out of St Stephen‘s Cathedral in Vienna beside Lauda‘s coffin after the memorial service

Current Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, who dedicated his victory in Monaco on the weekend to Lauda, is pictured arriving at the funeral in Vienna today

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

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 Nigel Mansell (second left) and French racing great Alain Prost (second right) were among the VIP guests at St Stephen‘s Cathedral today

The casket arrived 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. 

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 – queues stretched round the block despite the downpour. 

Lauda‘s former McLaren teammate Alain Prost was due to 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 Schwarzenegger and two Austrian dignitaries – President Van der Bellen and recently ousted Chancellor Sebastian Kurz – gave short speeches at the end of the service.  

F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton (left), former F1 driver Jean Alesi (second left), Nelson Piquet (second from right) and Gerhard Berger (far right) follow the coffin of former Formula One driver Lauda after a funeral service in Vienna

Pall bearers carry the coffin during the Niki Lauda Memorial Service as hundreds of fans gathered outside St. Stephen‘s Cathedral Vienna

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

Recently ousted Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his girlfriend Susanne Thier were also guests at the ceremony on Wednesday afternoon. Austria‘s parliament has sacked Kurz and his government, blaming him in part for the crisis stemming from a video sting that brought down his far-right deputy and ended their coalition

Former French racing driver Alain Prost (second right) is pictured next to British racing great Nigel Mansell (second left) in Vienna ahead of Lauda‘s funeral ceremony today

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

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

Lukas, Birgit and Mathias Lauda during the Niki Lauda Memorial Service at St. Stephen‘s Cathedral Vienna 

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 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

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The spectacular service on Wednesday morning was arranged to pay tribute 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

Austria‘s President Alexander Van der Bellen was due to deliver a eulogy in the church for Lauda at the church in Venice

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.

Left: Finnish Formula One driver Valterie Bottas. Right: Mercedes team manager Toto Wolff, who worked alongside Lauda for the Mercedes F1 team

Former Formula One driver Jacky Ickx is pictured arriving today. Ickx formerly raced against Lauda in the 1970s and achieved eight wins and 25 podium finishes during his time in Formula One

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

Former world champion Damon Hill and former Jordan team boss Eddie Jordan arrive at the ceremony to pay their respects

Former Benetton Formula One team principal Flavio Briatore arrives. Briatore is the former team manager of the Renault F1 team in the era when Lauda was in charge of Jaguar Racing

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

Lewis Hamilton, who won the Monaco Grand Prix on 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.  

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

The driver, 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. 

According to reports, Lauda‘s final resting place will be in Doebling near to his late mother. 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.

According to reports, Lauda‘s final resting place will 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 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

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

Lewis Hamilton is among guests today along with Formula One heavyweights such as Bernie Ecclestone and Mercedes chief Toto Wolff

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

Pallbearers carry Niki Lauda‘s coffin as it arrives at St Stephen‘s cathedral in Vienna, Austria on Wednesday morning. His funeral drew 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

In all, some 300 VIP guests attended 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

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