Jochen Rindt (18/4/1942 – 5/9/1970)Written by Αναστάσιος Ίσαρης
Translated by Giannis Binas
He whom the gods love dies young (Titus Maccius Plautus, 3rd century B.C.).
Date of 1st publication: 05/09/13
The unique case of Jochen Rindt.
He was born in Germany by a German father and an Austrian mother, and, specifically, in Mainz, on April 18, 1942, and was orphaned very soon (1943) as he lost both his parents at the bombing of Hamburg during WWII.
Thus, he was raised by his grandparents, who were living in Graz of Austria.
Even though he never received the Austrian citizenship, he was representing Austria at his F1 career because that country issued his racing license.
He started his successful career from Formula 2, with a win in 1964 at the London trophy and a 2nd place at Mallory Parc, but chose to focus in Formula 1, his 1st race being the 1964 Austrian GP with Rob Walker’s team (Brabham BRM), where he retired on the 58th lap.
He didn’t participate in the remaining three races of that season.
In 1965, he continued with Cooper Climax, having Bruce McLaren as a team-mate, and, during that season, he had a 4th place at the Nurburgring and a 6th at Watkins Glen, ending the championsip 13th overall.
To gain an extra income, he also competed in formula 2 with the Roy Winkelmann’s private team of Brabham, having enough success to be acclaimed as national hero of his country, especially after his win at Le Mans the same year, in a Ferrari 275 LM and the American Masten Gregory as co-driver.
In 1966, with Cooper Maserati and John Surtees for team-mate, he gave examples of his rich talent.
He was 2nd at the wet Spa, after an excellent performance, 4th in Reims, 5th in Brands Hatch, 3rd at the Nurburgring, 4th in Monza and 2nd at Watkins Glen, ending the championship in 3rd overall with 24 points, just under John Surtees, who was 2nd with 28 points.
1967 proved to be a disastrous year for him at the same team, participating in 9 out of 10 races with a best result of two 4th places In Belgium and Italy, while, he retired in all the rest, dropping again to 13th in the championship overall with only 6 points.
In the same year, he was devoted in F2 with Winkelmann Brabham and he triumphed, claiming 9 wins.
He also gave a shot in Indianapolis 500, having a serious accident during qualifying with an Eagle and established his reputation as a fearless driver, when the immediate medical tests revealed that his heart rate hadn’t changed to the slightest.
In 1968, he jumped to Brabham Repco, but the results were barely encouraging, finishing 2nd twice, In South Africa and Nurburgring, and retiring in all the rest races (10).
He classified 12th overall with 8 points.
Some started to wonder whether he would ever be able to claim a win.
Specifically, the topnotch journalist, Denis Jenkinson, stated in public that he would shave his legendary beard if he made it.
In 1969, he made the great leap, going to the Gold Leaf Lotus team, which possessed the might Ford DFV engine at the chassis of the Lotus 49B.
He was the first non-British driver for Lotus in the team’s history!
Graham Hill was his team-mate.
It was the year, when the tall rear wings were introduced to raise downforce.
The marvelous way he controlled the car, was something he was already denoted for, as well as his terrific reflexes.
He retired on the 44th lap o the first race, in South Africa, from fuel pump, having started 2nd.
In Spain (Montjuich), however, he had the pole and, whilst he had started comfortably first, suddenly, on the 19th lap, the rear wind detached, sending him off the track with the car turning upside down (Hill had a serious accident from the same cause too, 11 laps earlier).
Luckily, apart from a few cuts, bruises, a… broken nose and a slight concussion, he had nothing serious.
The broken nose didn’t allow him to compete in the next race, In Monaco, and he was replaced by Richard Attwood (who finished 4th).
In that race, in spite of the teams’ strong protests, the tall rear wings were immediately abolished for safety reasons, after the two shocking accidents in Spain.
In the Netherlands (Zandvoort), Jochen took the pole once again and was pulling away from the rest, but on the 17th lap he retired with a broken halfshaft.
In France (Clermont-Ferrand), he started the race 3rd, dropped to 4th, but, soon, just on the 22nd lap, he felt indisposed, perhaps dut to the very narrow corners (he was seeing everything… double, as he later stated) and retired.
In Britain (Silverstone), four 4-wheel-drive cars made their appearance, out of which, two were Lotus 63 with Graham Hill and John Miles, one was a Matra MS84 with Jean-Pierre Beltoise and, lastly, a McLaren M9A with Derek Bell.
In the race, Stewart jumped ahead, with the Austrian being right behind him and for the greatest part of the race, the spectators watched a rare attraction with them overtaking each other, until towards the end, when, his rear wing loosened dangerously and he had to enter the pits, to re-enter shortly after, because he was ran out of fuel, to eventually finish the race 4th.
He started 2nd at the Nurburgring but retired on lap 10 from ignition.
He had the pole at Monza and the spectators enjoyed continuous position swithing with slip streaming, between Rindt, Stewart and 6 other top drivers.
On the final lap, only 4 drivers were left, with Rindt overtaking Stewart to lose the position right after.
At Parabolica, Jean-Pierre Beltoise was leading, but he opened his course, resulting in both drivers overtaking him and the finish saw Stewart, Rindt, Beltoise and McLaren finishing in that order with a difference between the first and the fourth in 0,19 seconds!
At that point, the championship was typically decided in favor of Stewart.
In Canada (Mosport Park), he started 3rd and immediately took the lead but was overtaken on lap 6 by Stewart and lap 8 by Ickx.
He eventually finished 3rd, behind Ickx and Brabham.
In the following race of Watkins Glen, the much desired moment of Jochen arrived.
He took the pole with a difference of 0,03 seconds from Hulme and, despite keeping it after the start,, he was overtaken by Stewart on the 12th lap, to regain the lead 9 laps later and comfortably finish first.
Unfortunately, the race was marked by the serious injuring of his team-mate, Graham Hill, who spun off the track, got out of the car and pushed-started it, but couldn’t fasten his belts alone, so, when he had another spin on the 91st lap, after a tire exploded, he was thrown from the car when it turned upside down and broke both of his legs!
It was an unavoidable consequence that Jeckinson’s beard started belonging to the past!
The season ended in Mexico, where, Jochen started 6th but, on the 21st lap, his suspension got damaged after hitting a curb and he retired.
He classified 4th overall with 22 points.
1970 was the year that Lotus 72 appeared; a revolutionary car, designed by Maurice Phillippe that was the first single-seater not looking like a “cigar”, but was introducing the shape of low-nose single-seaters, just like we know them today, having the disc-brakes inside-mounted, to reduce unsprung weight (the gain by this revolutionary technique was estimated to around 0,7 seconds per lap).
However, Jochen competed in the first race of South Africa with the 49C.
He started 4th but had a spin on the 1st lap and retired on the 72nd from engine.
Spain followed (Jarama), where, he had his first taste of the 72, starting 8th, but retired as soon as the 9th lap by ignition.
In Monaco, he re-entered the 49’s cockpit and started 8th.
Initially, taking advantage of the others’ retirements, he was 2nd on the 61st lap, out of 80, 9 seconds behind Jack Brabham and with a fierce tempo, he reachen him in the beginning of the last lap.
In the final corner, an anxious Brabham, trying to overtake the problematic single-seater of Piers Courage’s De Tomaso, made a late braking and spun on the straw bales, allowing Rindt to claim the win.
The next race was in Spa, where everyone appeared skeptical on the matter of racing safety, a few days after Bruce McLaren’s death, as well as Denny Hulme’s serious hand burns from Indianapolis.
With the 49C, he started 2nd again, but, quite soon, on lap 10, he retired from engine.
In the Netherlands (Zandvoort) with the Lotus 72C, which had permanently replaced the 49, Jochen took the pole, and, after falling behind in the beginning, he was soon in charge of the race and won the race, giving the 72, its first win.
That was completely unimportant, however, compared to the death of Piers Courage, a very good friend of Rindt, with the De Tomaso 505 of Frank Williams’ team, which, on lap 23, had a spin, got off the track, hit a protective sandbag and turned upside down, while catching fire, trapping the unlucky pilot underneath it.
It was the second death of a pilot in just 19 days.
Three weeks later, in France (Clermont-Ferrand), a circuit for which he wasn’t hiding his dislike, and he was confirmed, when, during practice, he was hit in the face by a rock, catapulted by another single-seater!
He started 6th, but, taking advantage of the retirements in front of him, claimed the win.
Brands Hatch was next, where Jochen (deeply affected by Courage’s death) announced to Colin Chapman that he was going to retire at the end of the season!
Regardless, he took the pole, but Ickx jumped ahead in the rave, until the 7th lap, when he retired.
Rindt gave a great fight side by side with Brabham throughout the race, up to losing gears in transmission, on the 69th lap.
Brabham was then considered as certain to win, but ran out of fuel on the final lap and the Austrian claimed a very lucky win, with the Australian finishing 2nd, burning gas fumes.
The next race was held at the circuit of Hockenheim that had become much safer after Clark’s death, 2 years previously.
Jochen started 2nd, behind Ickx’s Ferrari, and they both had a very interesting duel that was judged 2 laps to the end in favor of Rindt.
It was his 4th consecutive win and he had already formed a 20-point difference from the 2nd in overall classification.
Then, it was Austria’s turn (Osterreichring) and in front of his “own” crowd, at the circuit he made his first appearance in 1964, he took the pole.
A huge crowd was gathered for the race to admire the expected champion but was greatly disappointed, as Jochen immediately dealt with engine problems and retired on lap 21.
Ahead of the Italian race, in a discussion with Colin Chapman, it was found out that since Austria, the powerful 12-cylinder Ferrari 312B, outmatched them in speed by 16 km/h.
To swiftly deal with the matter, 2 solutions were suggested; they were either going to use, in the very fast Monza circuit, the old 49, or the 72 with the revolutionary wedge shape, but without the V shaped balance wings, because, on the one hand, it could hit greater speeds (it could reach 800 more revolutions per minute, which meant that with higher gear ratios it could reach 330 km/h), and on the other, it was considerably harder to drive.
March (Stewart) and McLaren (Hulme) had proposed equivalent solutions for that race.
During Friday’s practice, young Emerson Fittipaldi got off the track, on his first lap already, destroying his 72.
On the evening of Saturday, September 5, it was the turn of Graham Hill, John Miles and Jochen Rindt.
Let it be noted that the latter’s wish was to “lock” the championship, caused him greater anxiety, leading him to be the first to start the practice session.
Half an hour later, as Rindt was reaching Curba Parabolica and whilst braking, the axle connecting the front right disc brake to the wheel broke, the car abruptly turned left onto the guardrail as well as onto a pole that functioned as a knife, smashing the front end of the car, which rotated a few times and hit again, vertically this time, the guardrail to eventually get off the track.
He sustained fatal injuries and two things were crucial for that.
Firstly, he was wearing an open type helmet, as he had breathing issues since he had broken his nose in Spain, 1969.
Secondly, he preferred 4 point seat belts instead of the 6 point ones (the part between his legs was missing) as he had a permanent phobia of not being able to get out quickly in case of a fire!
As a result, his body slipped under the seat belts and was stuffen under the single-seater’s dashboard, where the buckle of the seat belt was waiting for him, functioning as a guillotine for his chest and neck.
He was immediately transferred to the hospital, where he was just pronounced dead at 28 years of age.
In a sign of grief, every Lotus single-seater was retired from the race and they didn’t even appear in the next race of Canada.
Apart from the overall grief that engulfed F1, a question was immediately raised.
What would happen if the second in the standings, Jackie Ickx with the Ferrari 312B, wouldn’t be able to cover the 26 point difference between him and Rindt?
It was an issue that had never troubled anybody in the history of F1.
Could a dead driver be pronounced champion or the crown had to be given to a living one?
Ickx’s retirement by clutch at the race of Monza, only prolonged the question.
Now needing 3 wins in 3 races, he won the two of them, Fittipaldi won at the USA (a lcky win after everyone in front of him had retired) securing the constructors’ championship for Lotus.
The Federation’s decision was as expected: the trophy was handed to his wife, Nina, by the hands of Jackie Stewart, with Rindt being pronounced the only posthumous F1 champion in its history.
Outtakes of his life:
On March 1967, he married the model Nina Lincoln and next year they had a daughter, Natasha.
Rumor has it that he had promised his wife he would stop racing if he won the championship and would deal with sports outfit merchandise.
Others support that he had asked of her to be patient for one more season.
His closest friends, apart from Courage, was Bernie Ecclestone (wo was also acting as his manager) and his great opponent, Jackie Stewart, with whom they were also neighbors.
Bernie Ecclestone holding Rindt's helmet after the crash...
Most agree that he had two personalities: the one was contemptuous and selfish; the other, which he was showing his friends, was warm hearted with humour and laughter.
In 1969, he competed in the International Trophy at Silverstone and in the beginning of the very fast corner of Stowe, he was the last among Piers Courage, Jackie Ickx, Pedro Rontriguez and Graham Hill, by the end of the corner however, he was first after a pleasure to the eye of a 4-car overtake.
Germans considered him Formula 1’s James Dean, in spite of his characteristic nose, which reminded the one of a boxer.
The fierce, aggressive and somewhat… vagabond, mostly originated from the non-competitive cars he was driving for 4 years.
His driving became much smoother when he went to Lotus.
He had stated in an interview, as if he had a premonition:
Maybe I will not live to reach the age of 40.
But until that time, I will have experienced more things in life than anyone 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.
When, in the end of 1969, he tested the Lotus 72 for the first time, he said that, with that car, he was either gonna get the championship or get killed.
He was right for them both...
In BBC’s evaluation of the greatest drivers in Formula 1 of all time, he claimed the 20th position.
April 18, 1942 – September 5, 1970
Active years in Formula 1: 1964 – 1970
Teams: Brabham, Cooper, Lotus
Races: 62 (60 starts)
Championships: 1 (1970)
Points: 107 (109)
Pole Positions: 10
Fastest laps: 3
- Jochen Rindt
- Bruce McLaren
- Masten Gregory
- John Surtees
- Denis Jeckinson
- Graham Hill
- John Miles
- Jean Pierre Beltoise
- Derek Bell
- Jackie Stewart
- Jackie Ickx
- Jack Brabham
- De Tomaso
- Piers Courage
- Denny Hulme
- Frank Williams
- Colin Chapman
- Emerson Fittipaldi
- Bernie Ecclestone
- Pedro Rodriguez
- James Dean