'Bye Niki': World bids farewell to Formula One legend Niki Lauda

Thousands of fans braved heavy rain to pay their last respects to motor racing great Niki Lauda in his home city of Vienna on Wednesday as Formula One stars past and present gathered for his funeral

Funeral at St Stephen's Cathedral

Thousands thronged Vienna's landmark cathedral to mourn Formula One legend and Austrian national hero Niki Lauda at a ceremony to be attended by a host of F1 stars including world champion Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff and actor turned politician Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

On May 21, the iconic F1 star passed away at the age of 70. 

"With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday," a statement released to media by his family read. 

His death came eight months after he underwent a lung transplant. 


Pallbearers carry the coffin

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 the pouring rain outside. 


'Bye, Niki!'

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.

"The whole world says today, Bye, Niki!" tabloid Oesterreich said on its front page.


Niki's helmet on his casket

Lauda's widow Birgit along with two of his sons placed his helmet on top of the brown casket, which stood next to flower wreaths and a portrait of the Austrian sporting his signature cap hiding scars from the 1976 crash.

Mourners then 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.


Lauda brought Hamilton success

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

Even after retiring as a race driver, Lauda 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 Briton won the Monaco Grand Prix Sunday, which he described as the "hardest race I think I've ever had".


Austrian President, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger to speak at funeral

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and former California governor and Austrian-born actor Arnold Schwarzenegger are expected to speak along with Former F1 drivers Gerhard Berger of Austria and France's Alain Prost.


Gothic Roman Catholic honour

It is the first time a sports star has received such an honour at the Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral, a distinction previously accorded only to prominent personalities like the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Franz Koenig, and the former crown prince of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, Otto von Habsburg.


Lauda's favourite songs

During the mass, songs, reportedly Lauda's favourites, including "Amazing Grace", "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman and John Lennon's "Imagine" will be played.