• Apr 28th 2009 at 9:01AM
  • 8
From left to right: Rubens Barrichello, Sir Richard Branson, Niki Lauda

The thing about racing careers is that they end rather early. And with world champions getting younger every year, that's not about to change. So after hitting their prime, some drivers choose to stick with it a while longer, some set up their own racing teams, driving schools or become commentators, while others embark upon entirely different second careers altogether. Former world champion Niki Lauda, for example, has done it all. After retiring from Formula One racing a double world champion in 1979, he came back in 1982 and won the championship again two years later. Then he retired from racing again, ran his own airline, acted as a consultant to Scuderia Ferrari, managed the Jaguar F1 team, became a commentator for German-language station RTL, and even wrote four books. But at 60 years-old, Lauda's about to embark on yet another career: becoming an astronaut.

The accomplished pilot – both on the track and as a commercial aviator – is training to fly the Virgin Atlantic low-orbit space craft. But this is hardly the only interaction between the space tourism firm and the world of Formula One. After considering a buyout, Richard Branson's Virgin group is sponsoring the Brawn GP team, whose cars ran at this past weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix with the Virgin Galactic logo, and Sir Richard himself was on hand to present Rubens Barrichello with his paid ticket on one of the company's flights. Sure beats Jenson Button's HondaJets, and may even prove a greater high than winning three out of four of this season's races... so far.

[Source: Autosport | Image: Clive Mason/Getty]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Nope. I've heard the song by Prince about him: "The lights went out and Nikki started 2 grind."
      • 6 Years Ago
      Good luck to Lauda on the journey to become an astronaut, he's done it all.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "Virgin Atlantic low-orbit space craft" should read "Virgin Galactic suborbital spacecraft"
      • 6 Years Ago
      The first commenter to ask "Why is he wearing an ill-fitting hat?" deserves the lifetime ban!
      • 6 Years Ago
      I hope that Ross Brawn gets one hell of a lot of pounds sterling out of Branson. Branson is already acting like he owns this season's leading team already.

      I think the guy would be tough to have as a title sponsor. At some point, after poaching Jenson's GF (which should be completed by Monaco) he'll demind that Ross put the wings upside down so the damn car can fly to the moon!

      Note it now, boys, syphilis bends your mind.
        • 6 Years Ago

        Thanks for the information. I don't mean to disparage the gentleman. It just seems to me that to be leveraging the team before a deal has been formally announced is, well, bad form - as Capt. Hook would say.

        It is probably a way to dissuade other of Brawn GP's suitors but, bad form is beneath all gentlemen.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Branson's already started talking about how he wants to convince the F1 to start using "green" fuel and all sorts of other ridiculous measures. He wants to be so much more than a sponsor. He thinks that just because of his money he can walk in and tell the FIA what to do. He's going to be in for a bit of surprise when they tell him to f himself. Clearly green measures such as KERS have done so much for the sport.... Haha, no.
        • 6 Years Ago
        If you've ever worked for Branson or know anyone who has, you'll know he deserves every success in this venture. Despite his personal career success, he's as down-to-earth as anyone could be. Top bloke.