- April 18, 1942
- September 05, 1970
- Not Active
The Austrian racing driver Jochen Rindt was the 1970 Formula 1 World champion and the only driver who won the championship title posthumously. He lost a life during practice for the Italian Grand Prix in September 1970. Earlier that season, he won five F1 Grand Prix races and secured enough points to win the championship title even after his death.
In total, he recorded 60 F1 Championship starts between 1964 and 1970, scoring six wins and thirteen podiums. Outside Formula 1, his greatest success was a victory at 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1965, together with Masten Gregory in a Ferrari 250 LM.
Rindt's life wasn't easy as he was a war orphan
Karl Jochen Rindt was born in April 1942 in Mainz, Germany. Jochen had a difficult childhood, as his parents were killed in the World War II. He grew up in Austria, Graz, with his grandparents and that’s why he drove under Austrian flag, despite having German citizenship.
He was always refusing to declare himself as German or Austrian, saying he is a European. But, when he was describing his fierce driving style, Rindt liked to quote von Bismarck’s famous line: ’We Germans fear god and nothing else’.
Rindt was a troublemaker as a teenager
He was infected with driving and racing very early. As a teenager, he had a moped and raced with his friends, constantly causing troubles and soon he was expelled from school. Jochen’s habits and driving without a licence caused him problems with police, too. When he obtained his driving licence, he already had eight misdoings.
His first car was famous Volkswagen Beetle which wasn’t suitable for racing, but that never stopped Rindt from pushing it to its limits. Rindt’s passion and love for speed and risk became even bigger after he visited the 1961 German Grand Prix at Nurburgring. That same year, Jochen’s idol Wolfgang von Trips died in the crash at Italian Grand Prix and the 19-year-old made a vow to become a racing driver. Very soon, he commenced racing.
Danger on the track
The start of Rindt’s racing career wasn’t promising. After some difficulties, he was allowed to compete in one regional race, headlessly driving an Abarth Simca 2000. Soon he was shown the black flag and was disqualified from the race, but Jochen, stubborn and a bit arrogant, continued to drive, unaware of the regulations.
Not so long after, he got a proper racing car, an Alfa Romeo GT 1300. He entered many small rally events and won almost every race what allowed him to move up through the ranks.
In 1963, he switched to Formula Junior. With a support of wealthy Austrian businessman and racing enthusiast Kurd Bardi-Barry, Rindt acquired a Cooper T67, but habits and behaviour on the track were still the same. During the race at Cesenatico, in Italy, Rindt became the winner after he had taken advantage of an accident soon after the start. While most of the cars slowed down to allow an ambulance to reach the accident site, Jochen Rindt drove through the hay bales to take the lead and eventually win the race.
Successful in Formula 2 Championship
Further progress was unstoppable and next station for the reinless German-Austrian was Formula 2. Driving Brabham car with Cosworth engine, Jochen introduced himself to a wider audience in 1964 winning London trophy race at Crystal Palace, beating the home crowd's favourite Graham Hill.
Rindt’s Formula 2 career was brilliant as he scored a total of 29 wins, competing at the same time in Formula 1 championship and in a various sportscars events.
Rindt really was an unusual person, different from all other racers of his time. He was a true anti-hero, something that today's motorsport and in particular Formula 1 missing a lot. “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,” Rindt said once.
Formula 1 Championship & 24 Hours of LeMans debuts
Rindt debuted in Formula 1 World Championship in 1964, at Austrian Grand Prix. It wasn't a grand premier for him, as he was forced to retire after mechanical problems on his Brabham. Interestingly, that was the only F1 race in which he has competed that year.
The same year, Rindt competed for the first time in the 24 Hours of Le Mans driving a Ferrari 250LM, but failed to finish the race. His teammate in that race was David Piper.
Victory at 1965 Le Mans 24 Hours
His second appearance in the World’s most prominent race in 1965 was much better. Sharing the seat of the Ferrari with Masten Gregory, he won the race, leaving the runner-ups five laps behind.
The year of 1965 was his first full-time season in Formula 1 with Cooper team, where his partner was Bruce McLaren. The Austrian scored only four points and finished 13th overall.
1966 - three F1 podiums, third place in the championship
In 1966, Rindt did much better with an improved Cooper. With a new T81 chassis and old, but still mighty Maserati V12 overweight engine. He finished in top 5 regularly what was enough for the third place at the end of the season.
The things reversed in 1967 when the team struggled with an unreliable car. Jochen finished only two races, in Belgium and Italy, and in both he was fourth.
Move to Brabham in 1968
That was Rindt’s last year with Cooper and he could choose how and where to continue his career, as he had offers from almost every team, except Honda and Lotus. He decided to sign for the reigning world champions Brabham in 1968 and made a wrong decision.
Rindt’s new team had a lot of problems as their Repco engine wasn’t competitive against new and widely used Cosworth DFV ones. Rindt managed to finish only two of 12 races, both in third place.
Jim Clark's death scared Jochen
But, the poor results weren’t the reason for Jochen’s sadness that year. It was the death of his close friend Jim Clark during Formula 2 race at Hockenheim, that struck him the most.
Maybe for the first time in his life, Rindt felt scared. His driving style still was brisk and sharp, but out of the track, he became more cautious. During the late 1960s, Rindt has competed in the famous Indianapolis 500 race but never achieved a remarkable result. Later he explained that he was hating Indianapolis and drove there only because of money. "I always feel like I am on my way to my own funeral,“ he said once about Indianapolis.
First non-British driver in Lotus
In 1969, Jochen Rindt became a first non-British driver in Lotus F1 team, replacing Jim Clark and partnering with Graham Hill who has won the championship title a year earlier. Lotus 49B with Ford V8 engine was a fast, but a very trustless car.
Anyway, Rindt scored his maiden F1 win in the United States and added two more podiums in Italy (2nd) and Canada (3rd). He recorded six DNFs and finished the season fourth in the Drivers’ championship.
1970 - five victories overshadowed by death
In 1970, probably the darkest year in the history of Formula 1, Jochen Rindt won the title. Sadly, he never had a chance to celebrate that success. In the third race of the season, Grand Prix of Monaco, the Austrian in new Lotus 72, was the winner after one of the most exciting battles in the history of Formula 1. Later in the year, Rindt scored four consecutive wins (The Netherlands, France, Great Britain and Germany).
He was one step from winning the championship and after retiring from the race in Austria, he had a chance to clinch the title at Monza. At very fast track, Rindt was considered as the main candidate for victory. During the second day of practices, the failure of the right front brake shaft caused Rindt to crash heavily while approaching Parabolica corner. Death was inevitable after he felt under the belts and suffered fatal throat injuries. It's interesting to know that Jochen lost his life at almost the exact spot where his idol Wolfgang von Trips died nine years earlier.
At that point, Jacky Ickx had a chance to become a champion if he won the last two races, but he failed to do so and the Rindt was announced as the 1970 Formula 1 World champion, the only man to do so posthumously. He was buried at the central cemetery in Graz.
Video - Rindt's last interview, F1 Italian Grand Prix, Monza 1970
Driving instructor of the Austrian nation
Nowadays, Jochen Rindt is still considered as the one who popularized racing in Austria. Two racing circuits were built in Austria during his racing career.
Rindt worked as a consultant for the building of former Osterreichring, now Red Bull Ring. He also worked as a TV presenter, hosting the show called Motorama.