|First race||Austrian Grand Prix||Zeltweg||August 23, 1964||Race results|
|Last race||Italian Grand Prix||Monza||September 6, 1970||Race results|
Jochen Rindt was an exhilarating driver who always drew attention because you could never tell if he was in control or not. Driving a car with flair, wrestling it to go where he wanted as fast as he wanted, even if it wasn't pointing in the direction it should have been. It was his forte until one fateful day it didn't go where he wanted and cost him his life. When that day came though, he had already amassed enough points to be crowned a fully deserving world champion that year.
Born in Germany, Rindt lost his wealthy parents to a bombing raid during the Second World War, and was raised by his grandparents in Austria. Somewhat predictably, he was a law unto himself as a child, regularly in trouble with the police for speeding. Inspired by Wolfgang von Trips, he started competing in hill climbs before moving in to touring cars and single seaters, coming to England and purchasing a Formula Two Brabham. His second race on these shores was a watershed moment, as the then-unknown Rindt beat Graham Hill, Jim Clark and Denny Hulme at Crystal Palace.
Rindt went on to dominate in Formula Two, and continued winning in the series even after making the move in to Formula One. Initially with Brabham in a one off drive in Austria, he followed up by signing a deal with Cooper for 1965 onwards. The cars were uncompetitive, but Rindt still managed to drag them to two seconds and a third in 1966 on his way to third place in the drivers' championship. After another season without the potential for race wins, he left for Brabham, who had just won the last two world championships. The car was unreliable though, and after a poor season in which he retired from every race except two third places, he moved to Lotus.
Initially his relationship with Colin Chapman was a fragile one, especially after his rear wing supports failed at high speed in his second race for the team, causing him to crash in to the prone car of his team-mate Graham Hill, who had suffered exactly the same problem. He started to change his tune though once he won his first grand prix at Watkins Glen. While he was meant to start the 1970 season with the Lotus 72, the car wasn't ready. It meant he was driving the outdated 49 in Monaco when a series of retirements promoted him from fifth to second, behind Jack Brabham. He quickly reeled Brabham in with a serious of record-breaking laps, before pressuring the Australian in to a mistake at the last corner of the last lap to take a memorable victory.
Two races later and the Lotus 72 was in his hands. Suddenly equipped with a car that matched his talent, Rindt began to lay claim to the world championship with four consecutive victories in the Netherlands, France, Britain and Germany. The deaths of his friends Bruce McLaren and Piers Courage had shaken Rindt though, and with the championship in sight he promised his wife he would retire from Formula One if he became world champion.
Then, on September 5, 1970 at Monza, Rindt was taking part in practice for the Italian Grand Prix. With the Ferrari's having boasted a much higher top speed in the previous race, some drivers chose to take the wings off their car in order to reduce drag on the long straights. Towards the end of the session, Rindt hit the brakes approaching the Parabolica, but his front right brakeshaft failed and his car speared left in to the barriers. He was killed at the same track his hero von Trips had been. Lotus withdrew from the following race, and when they returned his replacement Emerson Fittipaldi won in the United States to confirm Rindt's title, the only posthumous world champion to date.
Strengths and Weaknesses
His aggressive style was both entertaining and fast, endearing him to spectators who always felt he was about to lose control, and throughout his early career he either crashed or won. It was hardly a style to preserve his machinery though, and caused him to retire from 35 of his 60 race starts, though his talent in the fast and reliable Lotus 72 was clear to see.
Winning in Monaco in 1970, in an out-dated Lotus 49 as the 72 was not yet raceworthy.
His season with Brabham was a huge frustration, as the reigning champions had an unreliable car that only allowed Rindt to finish two races - both on the podium.
"Maybe I will not live to reach the age of forty. But until that time I will have experienced more things in life than anybody else."
"Nobody knows how long he will live. Because of this fact you have to do as much as you can as fast as you can."
He won the Le Mans 24 hours in 1965, and twice took part in the Indianapolis 500.
Rindt never became an Austrian citizen, but did spend his whole career in motorsport using an Austrian racing licence.
March 11, 2010
© Sutton Images
September 6, 1970
© Sutton Images
September 5, 1970
© Sutton Images