Jochen Rindt

Full Name: 
Karl-Jochen Rindt
Birth Date: 
17 April, 1942
Birth Place: 
Mainz, Germany
Death Date: 
4 September, 1970
Death Place: 
Milan, Italy
Driver Status: 

Championship Titles


Jochen Rindt Biography

Jochen Rindt F1 Career Overview

Jochen Rindt remains the only person to win an F1 World Championship title posthumously after clinching the 1970 title in the wake of his untimely death during the 1970 Italian Grand Prix.

A driver that showed immense promise in Cooper machinery before getting his big break in the technologically advanced and quick - if fragile - Lotus, Rindt’s ascent was rapid yet ill-fated in the famed Gold Leaf-backed 49/72C.

Five wins from the opening eight rounds of the 1970 F1 season set Rindt on a clear course for the title until a brake failure ahead of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on 5 September 1970 led to an accident that resulted in serious throat injuries from which he would succumb.

Starting the weekend with a 20 point advantage over the chasing pack, the likes of Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme and Jacky Ickx were unable to make up that deficit in the final four races to overhaul him with Rindt crowned champion a month later at the penultimate United States Grand Prix round.

Jochen Rindt F1 Career - Team-by-Team

Brabham / Cooper: 1964-1967

Making a one-off debut with Brabham in 1964 on home soil in Austria, Rindt was handed a full season in 1965 with Cooper alongside Bruce McLaren, enduring a modest season in a tricky car, scoring a best finish with his first points in fourth at the German GP.

Better was to follow in the updated Cooper T81 of 1966 and Rindt was on the podium for the first time during Round 2 at Spa-Francorchamps, a feat he matched at the Nordschleife and then again at Watkins Glen to secure third in the standings behind Jack Brabham and John Surtees.

An unreliable evolution of the T81 hampered Rindt in 1967 despite numerous modifications and an update to the Maserati engine, with Rindt scoring just twice with a pair of fourths in Belgium and Italy en route to 13th overall.

Brabham: 1968

That prompted a switch to Brabham for 1968, champions the previous year with title winner Hulme and eponymous runner-up Brabham, after turning down offers from Lotus and Honda. 

A blend of technical issues and a Repco V8 that had slipped behind the widely-used Cosworth DFV in the development race left a frustrated Rindt playing catch up all season. He’d finish only two of the 12 races, notching up a pair of third place finishes in South Africa and Germany.

Lotus: 1969-1970

Brabham’s failure to progress in 1968 led Rindt to make his decision to join Lotus, a contentious move because Rindt felt the team - though advanced and fearsomely fast in comparison - was innovating to the extent the cars weren’t safe enough, joking ‘every time I am being overtaken by my own wheel, I know I am in a Lotus’.

With the Lotus 49B becoming more and more ostentatious with the use of wings mounted to the suspension, they also had a tendency to break altogether, notably at Montjuic when a failure lifted Rindt off the track and into the stationary sister Lotus of Graham Hill, which had stopped at the same point; Rindt suffered a broken nose and a marshal lost an eye.

Confirming Rindt’s fears, it thus began an infamously fractious relationship with Lotus boss Colin Chapman, who appeared unmoved by the extreme failures occurring to the car provided it continued to be competitive. A furious Rindt made it clear he was only competing with Lotus as ‘purely business’ and the 1969 continued to be blighted by poor reliability.

After just missing out on his maiden victory in Italy - where only 0.2s covered the top four finishers - Rindt landed a $50,000 pay day for his first win at Watkins Glen, then the highest prize pot paid out in the sport’s history.

Finishing fourth overall, despite being regarded as the closest match for title-winner Jackie Stewart in terms of pure performance, Rindt began the 1970 F1 season as a title favourite. Lotus followed suit with the revolutionary dual-radiator 72 but Rindt completed just one race before contending it was not as competitive as hoped and Lotus went back to the drawing board.

Back in the Lotus 49 for the next race in Monaco, Rindt claimed victory after benefitting from Brabham’s off on the final corner of the final lap having started only eighth in an unstable car made difficult to drive by having tyres designed for the 72C in all four corners.

The Lotus 72C reappeared for Round 5 in Zandvoort and proved considerably more potent in Rindt’s hands, the Austrian scoring the first of four straight victories that propelled him to a large lead in the overall standings. This included a win at the Hockenheimring, a late addition to the calendar after Rindt and Stewart successfully campaigned to have the erstwhile German GP venue at the Nordschliefe updated over safety concerns.

The success was not without controversy though and Rindt continued to temper his pleasure at victory with obvious concerns as to the fragility of his Lotus. During the French Grand Prix - a race he’d go on to win - Rindt suffered a steering failure on the car in practice, leading to a confrontation in which he is claimed to have told Chapman ‘if this happens again and I survive I will kill all of you!’

Jochen Rindt's Death - 1970 Italian Grand Prix

Though his run of wins came to an end in Round 9 of 13 in Austria - thus denying him the chance to be crowned champion early on home soil - Rindt remained well on course for title glory coming to Round 10, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

With Lotus shedding its wings in order to limit drag around the high-speed circuit, Rindt was on his fifth lap in free practice when he lost control of the Lotus coming into Parabolica. The following Denny Hulme described the car as going straight on before snapping left, right and left again then accelerating into the barriers head-on, the legacy of what was later revealed to be a catastrophic brake failure.

With the impact such that the Lotus’ suspension shifted under the barrier, Rindt was killed by his seat-belt slitting his throat and died on the way to hospital aged only 28.

The official cause of death listed injuries as a result of the poorly installed Armco shifting, leading to the suspension travel and with it the seatbelt that was caught on his neck. Even so, the accident led to a lengthy trial process in Italy that brought charges against Chapman, though he was cleared in 1976.

In the wake of his death, the race was then on to try and overhaul his points’ total but while Jacky Ickx got closest, his failure to finish the penultimate round at Watkins Glen meant Rindt couldn’t be surpassed and he was crowned champion with one race remaining. 

Jochen Rindt - Beyond F1

Given his youth, Rindt enjoyed substantial success away from F1 too, picking up podiums in non-championship GP events, including the International Gold Cup and the BRDC International Trophy, 

He was one of the few F1 drivers of the time to attempt competing in the Indianapolis 500, albeit with modest success. Rindt famously remarked he always felt as though he was ‘driving to his own funeral’ when competing there, adding he only accepted offers to drive for the money.

He also enjoyed success in the Le Mans 24 Hours, claiming victory alongside Masten Gregory during the 1965 race in a Ferrari 250LM, together with three failures to finish in 1964, 1966 and 1967.