The Posthumous F1 Champion

12 August 2022

Karl Jochen Rindt was a German-born racing driver who competed with an Austrian license during his career; despite having German and not Austrian citizenship.

Sadly, he was killed in practice before the 1970 Italian Grand Prix.

As his closest competitor Jacky Ickx could not score sufficient points in the remaining races of the season, Rindt remains the only man to win the world championship posthumously.

He was orphaned as an infant when his parents died during Allied bombing raids in 1943. Throughout his youth, Rindt exhibited a passion for speed and the thrill of a race. He twice broke limbs in schoolboy ski races, and when he moved into motorsport on mopeds and motorised bikes, he tended to crash or win.

It is generally felt that these early years provided a trend that would shape Rindt into a fearless racer.

Quoting Otto von Bismarck, ‘We Germans fear God and nothing else.’

Rindt famously said, ‘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,’ I go racing basically because I like it, and I am now making money out of it, which I am very happy about, but I would never do it just for the money.’

‘Maybe I will not live to reach the age of 40. But, until that time, I will have experienced more things in life than anybody else.’

Tragically Jochen Rindt did not reach the age of 40; at the Italian Grand Prix practice, his Lotus inexplicably ploughed into the guard rail at the dished Parabolica.

Rindt had wanted to drive a Lotus 49 as it was better suited to the Monza track; when he got there, he was frustrated to find there were three Lotus 72s with the wings removed to get maximum straight-line speed.

Colin Chapman told him to stop complaining and get on with it.

In that specification, the car was challenging to drive; Rindt’s car veered suddenly left approaching the Parabolica, one of the fastest parts of the track, and crashed into the wall.

Rindt was not wearing a crotch strap and ‘submarined’ in the cockpit and suffered fatal throat injuries caused by the seat belt buckle.