Austria to mourn F1 legend Lauda in public homage

Vienna (AFP) –


Austria will mourn Formula One legend Niki Lauda with his body laid out in Vienna's Roman Catholic cathedral in a public homage next Wednesday, his family said.

The three-time world championship winner's body will be laid out in the Stephansdom cathedral, offering the public the chance to pay their last respects to a national hero, a family spokeswoman revealed Thursday.

A mass will also be held. The funeral will be only for close family, she added, declining to give further details.

The city of Vienna has offered Lauda a "grave of honour", a distinction given to prominent personalities, in its well-known and vast Central Cemetery, but it is not clear whether the family will choose this as his final resting place.

Lauda died at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland on Monday surrounded by his closest family members. He was 70 years old.

His death came nine months after he underwent a lung transplant. Lauda also had kidney transplants -- all due to a horrific race crash in 1976.

Lauda's death triggered an outpouring of grief and praise for one of sports' outstanding personalities.

An emotional Lewis Hamilton, the defending five-time world champion, was excused from attending an official news conference Wednesday ahead of this weekend?s Monaco Grand Prix.

Lauda had been non-executive chairman at Mercedes F1 since 2012 and he was instrumental in bringing in Hamilton, sparking a run of success for the team.

"It's truly been an honour working alongside you over these past seven years. I wouldn't have been in this team if it wasn't for you..." said the Briton.

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

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has hailed Lauda as "one of (the country's) greatest personalities".

Away from the racetrack, Lauda -- recognised by his trademark red cap hiding scars from the 1976 accident at the Nuerburgring in Germany when his car burst into flames -- founded and then sold several airlines with his latest, Laudamotion, going to Ryanair in 2018.