GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #22 - Jochen Rindt

22-02-2020 19:00
by Adam Newton
General
GPBlog's Top 50 drivers in 50 days - #22 - Jochen Rindt

Hello and welcome back once again to GPBlog.com and our countdown to the first race of the 2020 season in Australia. We’re profiling one driver every day to complete our list of top 50 F1 drivers. Yesterday we looked at one Lotus legend in Ronnie Peterson and today we’re looking at another, Jochen Rindt.

Rindt began his F1 career in 1964 in a Brabham at his home race in Austria and secured a full time drive for 1965 with Cooper.

Cooper were a once great team in decline when Rindt joined, and he only managed to score points twice in his first full year.

1966 was more positive as Rindt regularly finished in the points, picking up P2 in Belgium and USA and third in Germany. Jack Brabham ran away with the title that year, but Rindt was his closest rival until John Surtees overtook him in the standings at the final event.

Third in the standings was pretty impressive for Rindt in a difficult car, and Cooper’s fall in form was far more evident in 1967, as Rindt only managed to finish twice, scoring points in both.

A swathe of reliability issues prevented him from challenging the top drivers, so he moved to Brabham for 1968.

Unfortunately it was more of the same for the Austrian, as he again finished just two races, both in third place. However, he was able to show a bit more of his talent, regularly qualifying near the front and taking pole in France and Canada.

Another move followed, this time to Lotus. Driving the Lotus 49, Rindt was able to show his talent and did so by taking two of the first three pole positions in 1969, but reliability once again saw him lose touch with the eventual title winner Jackie Stewart.

Rindt ended the season strongly, scoring podiums in Italy and Canada and his maiden victory in the USA, a race he dominated.

That set him up perfectly for 1970. It didn’t start well though, as engine and ignition problems prevented him from scoring points in the opening two rounds.

Eight in qualifying in Monaco was not a good sign either, especially considering the difficulty of overtaking on the streets of the principality.

Rindt managed to find himself in second place with 20 laps to go and closed the gap to Brabham, who ran wide at the final corner of the race, allowing Rindt to go through for the victory.

That win lit up Rindt’s season, and following another engine issue in Belgium he returned to winning ways at the Dutch Grand Prix, taking pole and leading all but two laps.

He then took victories in both France and Britain, before an incredible battle with Jacky Ickx in Germany at Hockenheim, with the pair exchanging the lead multiple times before Rindt crossed the line first.

He was looking unbeatable and was 20 points clear in the championship heading to the Italian Grand Prix, but a heavy crash at the Parabolica corner sadly took his life in practice.

Rindt’s lead in the championship was beatable, but the one remaining challenger, Ickx, could only finish fourth in the USA, making Rindt F1’s only ever posthumous world champion.

Rindt was just 28 years old when he died and given Lotus’ excellent cars in the upcoming years, it’s difficult to say whether 1970 would’ve been his only title.

He was a well liked and very competitive driver and his death shocked the F1 world, at a time where fatality in F1 was unfortunately so common. His legacy lives on in Austria and at the Red Bull Ring, where the penultimate corner is named after him.

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