Next month will mark 42 years since the passing of Austrian Formula 1 World Champion Jochen Rindt. Many remember him as the sports only posthumous champion, having wrapped up the 1970 title with three Grands Prix still left to run, with fate interfering at Monza and forcing young Jochen (he died aged 28) to watch from the sidelines of the great race track in the sky.
But the record books don’t harp on about much else. The only man who could’ve overtaken Jochen’s points haul was Belgian ace Jacky Ickx, and when wheels interviewed the reminiscing driver in January last year, I swear I could see his eyes misting up: “I gave it my all to win the championship, but I guess it was Jochen’s destiny to be crowned champion. In a way, I am glad I never won the 1970 title.”
Some who were close to him claim that Jochen’s emotional attachment to racing, his inner and spiritual need to race, meant that he wouldn’t have it any other way. A life for a win? It’s just another weekend in the Seventies’ Grand Prix circus.
His childhood was rife with risky antics and broken bones, but never bruised egos. Jochen typified the always-get-up attitude, and few on the F1 grid tried harder than him. He may have been reckless, with a past of wrecking road cars, annoying traffic police, and completely contrary to his three-time title-winning countryman Niki Lauda, either winning or crashing.
Even after numerous hospital trips due to his frequent off-track excursions in Sixties’ single-seaters, Jochen was undaunted and in fact resolute in his life’s mission: to win the F1 championship. His trademark sideways driving style, always on the ragged edge of the limit, quickly endeared him to countless of the sports traditional fans.
When asked whether he ever did exceed his limits, Jochen simply replied that he was never even within them. In 1969 Jochen finally found himself in one of Colin Chapman’s highly capable cars, and earned his first Grand Prix victory at Watkins Glen in 1969. Next year around Monaco, he steered an ageing Lotus 49 to the chequered flag fighting to the top from fifth place, and earning his greatest win.
The following weeks had fate intervening, as it does, and taking from Jochen two of hic dear friends; Bruce McLaren and Piers Courage. Jochen contemplated retiring, but he couldn’t bring himself to hang up the helmet before achieving his life’s goal.
On September 5 in 1970, Jochen’s Lotus violently veered into Monza’s unforgiving Armco at the entry to Parabolica, one of the fastest parts of the fastest circuit. Fate had its way, again, but with that world title, so did Jochen.