‘Bye Niki’: Austria says farewell to F1 icon Lauda

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Birgit Wetzinger, the widow of late Austrian former Formula One driver Niki Lauda, and his sons Lukas Lauda, left, and Mathias Lauda, right, arrive to attend his funeral ceremony at the Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral) in Vienna. (AFP)
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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his girlfriend Susanne Thier during the funeral ceremony of former Formula One driver Niki Lauda in Vienna. (AFP)
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Austrian former ski champion Franz Klammer arrives to attend Niki Lauda’s funeral ceremony at St. Stephen’s cathedral in Vienna. (Reuters)
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Actor Daniel Bruehl arrives to attend Niki Lauda's funeral ceremony at St Stephen's cathedral in Vienna. (Reuters)
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Former Formula One driver Jackie Stewart arrives to attend Niki Lauda’s funeral ceremony at St. Stephen’s cathedral in Vienna. (Reuters)
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Austrian former ski champion Hermann Maier arrives to attend Niki Lauda's funeral ceremony at St Stephen's cathedral in Vienna. (Reuters)
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Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger arrives for former Formula One driver Niki Lauda’s funeral service in Vienna. (AP Photo)
Updated 29 May 2019

‘Bye Niki’: Austria says farewell to F1 icon Lauda

  • Lauda had struggled with health issues since miraculously surviving a 1976 crash that saw his car engulfed in flames at the Nuerburgring in Germany
  • Lauda won the drivers’ world championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and in 1984 with McLaren

VIENNA: Thousands thronged Vienna’s landmark cathedral Wednesday to mourn Formula One legend and Austrian national hero Niki Lauda at a ceremony attended by a host of F1 stars including world champion Lewis Hamilton.
The casket arrived at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the city’s historic center 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.
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.
Lauda’s widow Birgit along with two of his sons put 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.
A public mass will take place later Wednesday. The funeral itself is private and details for it have been kept under wraps.
Some 500 VIP guests are expected to attend the mass, including Hamilton and other Formula One heavyweights such as German driver Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes chief Toto Wolff.
There will also be hundreds more seats and 3,000 standing places open to the general public.
It is the first time a sports star has received such an honor 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.
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 traveled 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.
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.”
Former F1 drivers Gerhard Berger of Austria and France’s Alain Prost are expected to speak, as is Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and former California governor and Austrian-born actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
During the mass, songs, reportedly Lauda’s favorites, including “Amazing Grace,” “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman and John Lennon’s “Imagine” will be played.
Lauda died at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland, nine months after he underwent a lung transplant.
He had struggled with health issues since miraculously surviving the 1976 crash that saw his car engulfed in flames at the Nuerburgring in Germany.
Lauda also underwent kidney transplants.
One of the kidneys was donated by his last wife. Lauda married the former flight attendant in 2008 and they had twins, a boy and a girl, in 2009.
Lauda also has 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.
It is not clear where Lauda will be laid to rest. The family reportedly has turned down an offer by the city of Vienna to receive a “grave of honor” in the city’s vast Central Cemetery.

Saudi Arabia’s biggest celebration of motor racing returns with Formula E back at Ad Diriyah

Updated 25 June 2019

Saudi Arabia’s biggest celebration of motor racing returns with Formula E back at Ad Diriyah

  • The event will take place on Nov. 22 and 23
  • Two major races will take place in this year’s E-Prix, which made its Middle East debut in the Kingdom last year

RIYADH: This year’s Formula E season will kick off with a doubleheader in Ad Diriyah in November, backed by a huge festival of off-track action, music, culture and heritage.

The 2019 “Saudia” Ad Diriyah E-Prix promises to eclipse the inaugural 2018 edition, with two races, instead of one, being staged at the stunning UNESCO world heritage site of Ad Diriyah, and with crowds of up to 100,000 expected to attend.

Last year’s sell-out E-Prix featured music icons such as David Guetta, Enrique Iglesias, One Republic and the Black-Eyed Peas, performing as part of the racing championship’s debut in the Middle East.

2019 will see Porsche and Mercedes competing for the first time, boosting the number of cars on the track. Plus, Ad Diriyah will be ready to welcome even more international tourists, after the surrounding At-Turaif district finalizes its ambitious development program.

Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority (GSA), said: “Formula E’s arrival in the Kingdom was a watershed moment for us, one that thousands witnessed together.

“The 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix excited our nation through its exhilarating action, heroes and entertainment. Thanks to the ambitions of Vision 2030, it was the biggest festival of sport, music and culture the Kingdom has ever seen.

“This year we look forward to igniting an even bigger season of motor racing for Formula E, to welcome even more international visitors, and to create another unforgettable moment for our people.”

In a recent interview with the UAE’s The National newspaper, DJ David Guetta hailed the 2018 event, which included the country’s first unsegregated concerts.

“I’m really proud that I’ve done this. There is obviously a very big effort in Saudi to open to music and to artists. And as an artist, I play for the people and the people were obviously so happy,” he said.

“It was incredible to see men and women dancing and letting go of everything. It was a great honor for me to be part of this.”

Last year saw travelers from 80 different countries flock to the event, taking advantage of the first-ever 30-day tourism visas issued under the new online Sharek immigration system. For 2019 the process has been enhanced to make visiting the Kingdom even easier.

Second staging

The 2019 E-Prix will be the second of a 10-year partnership between Formula E, the GSA and the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF). The event will be staged again by promoter CBX, which successfully created the racetrack and venue in the heart of the heritage site.

Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al-Faisal, president of SAMF, said: “In 2018 the track proved itself a world-class venue for motorsport, hailed by racers as one of the most exiting they have faced.

“This year sees even more teams enter the championship, with Porsche and Mercedes entering the fray. Last year Ad Diriyah was the launchpad for the new ‘Gen 2’ race cars and the exciting ‘Attack Zone’ innovation. This year will be the first time drivers will have an additional 10 kilowatts (kW) of power available when using the ‘Attack Mode,’ rising from 225kW to 235kW.

“Add to that, a double header — two races instead of one — with a total of 24 cars competing. This will fire up Saudi Arabia’s passion for motorsports, and we are ready to welcome Formula E back.”