Dying at 28: Jochen Rindt, the only posthumous Formula 1 champion, half a century after his tragic end

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He had a model wife and a young daughter when he was killed in Monza in September 1970. A month later, his name was among those enshrined in the category.

The dream of any Formula 1 driver is to win the title. Get on the podium, lift the trophy and open the champagne, releasing all the emotions contained for a year. There was a champion who, however, could not do any of that because half a century ago died in Monza before consecrating himself. Is about Jochen Rindt, the uncrowned king of F1.

At the age of 28, his tragic end came on September 5, 1970 and his posthumous coronation was on October 4, in a season in which he won five Grand Prix over a Lotus that generated distrust. So much so that he had started the year driving (and winning in Monaco) the previous model, compared to the modern Lotus 72.

As explained by his friend Jackie StewartWhen he realized that “letting go of the reins invariably creates speed”, Rindt made the most of his car and won consecutively in the Netherlands, France, Great Britain and Germany.

After the abandonment in Austria, Rindt wanted to go to Italy with the Lotus 49, something to which Colin Chapman -the owner of the team- refused, taking three units of the 72, which for the Austrian had a problem with the front wheels, so it did not rotate as it should.

With the illusion of being able to be crowned early in Monza, Rindt and Chapman decided remove the ailerons to reduce the drag aerodynamic (wind resistance) and to face the Ferraris, which came from a “1-2” in Austria with Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni. They succeeded because on Saturday the Lotus had reached 330 km / h.

However, in the last practice session, fatality found Rindt on the Parabolica, now the eleventh of the eleven corners of the Italian circuit. The problem was not with the ailerons or the Austrian’s speed, but with the brakes, the investigation determined.

In the middle of the straight, the car began to make a zig zag that ended up propelling it against the wall, leaving in the Parabolica, very close to where seven years before his idol, the German, had killed himself Wolfgang von Trips.

The front of the car was destroyed and the fact that the Austrian used one less seat belt anchor (four instead of five) to escape faster in case of a fire aggravated the situation because it caused his body to slide in.

“I found his body in a Volkswagen pick-up, but no one attended to him, which left me stunned. His eyes were closed, a very serious injury to his leg and foot, but he was not bleeding. I knew then that he was gone forever“recalled Stewart, who was forced by Ken Tyrrell to complete the session when it resumed, half an hour after the accident.

“It was too sad: inside the helmet, with the visor down, i started crying. So, on the first pass, I looked at where Jochen had had the accident, I concentrated and on the third lap I achieved the fastest turn I ever did at Monza, “recalled the Scotsman, who finished fourth and when he got to the pits he crashed a Coca Cola against Wall.

“Nobody said a word, it was something out of place in my character and I never did anything like that again in my life,” explained who days later was one of the 30 thousand people who fired him in the city of Graz.

The F1 show continued. With three rounds ahead, six drivers could be champions. But after Canada, only Belgian Ickx was still in the running to take the title from Rindt. For that, he had to win the two remaining tests: the United States and Mexico. It was precisely at Watkins Glen International, where the Austrian had won his first Grand Prix 11 months before his death, that he secured his posthumous championship because Ickx was fourth.

At the FIA ​​ceremony, Stewart was the one who presented the award to Nina Lincoln, his widow and the only one who knew if Rindt had actually promised to leave Formula 1 at the end of that season to build a new team with Bernie Ecclestone.

While Austria is associated in Formula 1 with Niki Lauda, ​​he knew it was Jochen who “led the way and showed that Austrians” could also excel “in a sport dominated mainly by British and Italians”, opening the door to the Formula 1.

Although he was born in Germany during World War II, the Allied bombing in which his parents died in Hamburg caused a Jochen of just 15 months was raised by his maternal grandparents in Graz, Austria, and then that he raced with an Austrian license.


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