THE WIDOW of Formula One great Niki Lauda placed his red racing helmet on his coffin during the funeral of the three-time world champion yesterday.
Brigid Lauda, 40, and Lauda’s sons Mathias and Lukas, were joined by F1 stars including Lewis Hamilton, David Coulthard, Lauda’s former teammate Alain Prost and 2016 champion Nico Rosberg. His close friend Arnold Schwarzenegger attended the service at St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna with his girlfriend Helen Milligan.
The Austrian driver died aged 70 last week less than a year after a lung transplant.
Before the service, Toni Faber, the cathedral’s priest, said Lauda ‘was an unpretentious, humble, shining star among the racing drivers. He had a sense of humour, was true-to-life, target-oriented and no-nonsense’.
Also paying tribute were Lauda’s fellow Austrian racing driver Gerhard Berger and two Austrian dignitaries — president Alexander Van der Bellen and recently ousted Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Lauda won the F1 title in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren.
In 1976, he suffered serious burns after a horrific crash during the German Grand Prix. He was so badly injured a priest was called to administer the last rites, but he made an astonishing return to racing six weeks later.
Lauda remained closely involved with the F1 circuit after retiring as a driver in 1985. He became a prominent figure in the aviation industry and, in recent years, served as a non-executive chairman of the Mercedes F1 team, which includes British world champion Hamilton, who dedicated his F1 win in Monaco on Sunday to his mentor.