John Rindt, Colin Chapman, Brands Hatch, 1970

Today in 1970: Jochen Rindt killed at Monza

F1 history

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On this day in 1970 Jochen Rindt (pictured with Lotus team boss Colin Chapman) lost his life in an accident during qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

The Austrian driver went into the race with a 20-point lead in the world championship. As none of his rivals were able to exceed his total of 45 points by the end of the season, he became the sport’s first and only posthumous champion.

The 1970 season was a bleak chapter in the history of Formula 1. June saw the death of McLaren team founder Bruce McLaren while testing a Can-Am car at Goodwood.

Later that same month Piers Courage perished when his De Tomaso, run by Frank Williams, crashed and caught fire during the Dutch Grand Prix.

After the death of Courage the drivers became especially vocal in their criticism of the safety standards at some tracks – particularly the Nurburgring Nordschleife.

Although Stewart has rightly been lauded for his tireless efforts to improve safety, Rindt was heavily involved in the effort to cancel that year’s race at the Nurburgring. The race was moved to the Hockenheimring while efforts were made to improve safety facilities at the other track.

Driving for Lotus, Rindt had already won a memorable race at Monaco early in the year, chasing down Jack Brabham and passing the Australian who went off at the final corner on the final lap.

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Rindt claimed that win in a 49C, then took a quartet of wins in Colin Chapman’s revolutionary new 72C. The first was a joyless win at Zandvoort in the aftermath of Courage’s death, then three more at Clermont-Ferrand, Silverstone and Hockenheim.

That year’s Italian Grand Prix was the penultimate F1 race held on the chicane-less version of the track. It had only five corners worthy of the name – the fast Curva Grande sending the cars up to Lesmos one and two, then a long left at Ascari leading on to Parabolica.

These were the early days of wings in Formula 1 and teams often removed them at Monza to ensure maximum straight-line speed. Rindt was running his 72 in such a configuration when he crashed at Parabolica.

Denny Hulme, who was following close behind Rindt at the time, saw the car swerve right, then left – an investigation later showed a brake shaft had failed. The Lotus 72 ploughed into a barrier which gave way, driving the car partially underneath the barrier, violently tearing its nose off. Rindt had left the crotch straps in his harness undone, as was his habit, and slid down into the cockpit on impact, suffering terrible neck injuries.

The Lotus team left the track immediately and stayed away from the next race at Mont-Tremblant in Canada too. They returned for the following Grand Prix at Watkins Glen.

There Emerson Fittipaldi, driving in only his fourth Grand Prix, won the race. In doing so he prevented Ferrari’s Jacky Ickx from being able to score enough points to overhaul Rindt in the championship – not that Ickx wanted to take the crown from a dead man.

Rindt’s championship trophy was presented to his widow, Nina.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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49 comments on “Today in 1970: Jochen Rindt killed at Monza”

  1. Reading the chapter in Sir Jackie’s autobiography on all the deaths in F1 should make anyone eternally grateful Senna has, so far, been the last death in the sport.

    1. Don’t forget Paolo Gislimberti and Graham Beveridge.

  2. Here’s the last lap from Monaco 1970.
    You can see that the safety precautions for both the drivers and the spectators/photographers then were abysmal.
    The chequered flag chap was waiting for Brabham and missed Rindt, it would appear.

    1. Amazing those columns (lampposts?) in the middle of the road around the harbour. Nice video of how different safety was back then.

  3. It’s scary some of the lax saftey that was present in those days. I’m surprised that the le mans incident wasn’t repeated at some point.

    On a brighter note, love the pictures. Hope you can find more excuses to give us great old pics

    1. Those were the same days that my brother and I ran around in the back of the family station wagon while my sister stood on the front bench seat holding the dashboard while we barreled down the highway at 65mph…..

  4. This was a brilliant, if a touch sad, article. Lovely pictures.

  5. this is one of best driver, jochen drive f1 in early 70s when f1 cars have not any traction control, kers, or electronic, or radio in ears , he died beacuse parabolica is very fast and dangerous turn, now f1 drivers singing when drive but in 50 s safety in f1 race been 10% in 60 s 20% in 70s 30% in 80s 40% in 90s50% in 2002 to today is 99%. yes we have safe race but boring race f1 cars in rindt era might be slower but they could overtaking in every turn now is look like big nose runing.look in 70s you drive in monza kyalama argentina watkins mosport montjuic and you tell me before race that you dont died . my friend f1 now is like,,,,,

    1. I actually think this year has been one of the best seasons of all time. Easily one of the most exciting of the modern era, for sure.

      I agree about the drivers of that bygone time being almost super-human, especially considering the safety standards, but I can’t help thinking; if you could travel through time and bring a driver like Jochen Rindt to the modern day, would he be able to compete against today’s heroes in modern machinery? I’m not sure that they could…

      1. But thats partially because modern machinery is so different. A better test would be modern drivers in old machinery

        1. I don’t think so, look at Rubens he’s developed as a driver as the cars have. It’s just about what you experience and go through. If Mike Hawthorn was born now then I think he could learn the skills required in the modern era but he’d find it much harder just to be plonked in a modern car just the same as if Lewis was put in his car straight away.

          Heikki tried out a few old Lotus cars and it was in a copy of F1 racing I have here and he says “I enjoy modern F1 a lot. Many things have changed, but you still have to drive any racing car to the limit and it was just as difficult then as it is now. My biggest surprise was that these cars were muche asier to get used to than I was expecting, but I appreciate the drivers then took huge risks… but the principal is exactly the same. You go out, put your foot down and try to feel the limit of the car.”

          There bodies will need to be trained in different ways such as strength was so important when the cars were brutes but I think it’s just evolution.

          1. I agree, I am fairly sure that if you took a driver from 50 years ago and put them in a modern F1 car (with enough testing to come to grips with the modern technology) that they would be every bit as good as their modern contemporaries, and vica versa if you were to take Lewis or Alonso back to a previous era they would still be top performers.

            You just have to consider the fact that modern drivers tend to start in carting and work their way up the lower formulas to get into F1, its only as they climb that ladder that they get all the toys that we associate with F1 cars.

  6. He dominated the early part of 1970, taking 5 wins I believe out of 7 attempts, just before his crash. He seemed to be an excellent driver, one of the best of his era.

  7. rumour has it that his wife Nina was concerned about safety in F1 and Rindt promised her he’d quit once he won a championship, sale tale of irony there.

    1. It was worse than that, he was extremely concerned about the fragile first version of the Lotus 72 and Chapman had to order him to drive it. He preferred the Lotus 49. The front axel snapped and caused the accident so he was right. He was strangled by the seatbelt.

  8. Good article Keith. I always believed that Rindt was one of the fastest drivers ever and a pure racer.

    Apparently he wrote to Colin Chapman and said something along the lines of “honestly your cars are so fast, if you strengthened some parts they would still be competitive” so I guess that emphasises how keen he was to improve safety and it also shows how brave he was to carry on racing too.

    1. Yeah I saw that one in f1 racing mag

  9. A tragic loss for the sport. But then again, ALL losses, of course, were tragic.

    In a way, it does justice to all of them that the perished Rindt won a Championship.

    1. Beautifully said JA brown, I salute you.

  10. Wasn’t this the when Champman was experimenting with turbine engines but didn’t try it at Monza just in case Rindt was disqualified for his title?

    I started watching f1 about 4 years ago, but I think it’s much more entertaining today with all the safety. You worry less. I think you can even see the drivers push more.. Of course it’ll never be a safe sport, but the accident in Valencia with webber and kov, (webber getting out without even any help), or even last week at spa button and vettel, back then it would have been serious.

  11. Small detail: the 1970 British GP was held at Brands Hatch, not Silverstone

  12. It was common for the team and mechanics to be on the actual race track as their winning driver crossed the line up to and including the 1985 season. Scary to think that there could have been more fatalities in F1 than there was, and not just the drivers.

    Think about it. we could have seen the likes of Bernie Ecclestone, Ron Dennis, Colin Chapman etc wiped out because a driver lost control of his car going over the line. And for those old enough to remember, Chapman was always out on the track waving his hat at his winning driver.

    How times have changed for the better in that regard.

  13. Unfortunately, we’ve just had a painful reminder of how horrifically dangerous motorsport can be.

    Earlier today, Moto2 rider Shoya Tomizawa was involved in a horrific accident during a race at Misano. At this stage, he’s in a very serious condition in hospital and it’s not looking good at all.

    Regardless of how things are now in comparison to the decades gone by, motor racing of any kind is still tremendously dangerous. Not just for those competing but for the team personel, the marshalls and spectators as well. We must never become complacent or satisfied with the standards of safety in all forms of racing, MotoGP, Formula 1 or anything. Hopefully, in another 40 years, people will look back on this era as a ‘dark age’ in motorsport and fatalities in racing will finally be a thing of the past.

    1. Shoya Tomizawa has died. The accident looked horrific, just knew it was bad. Thoughts are with his family and friends of course through this horrendous time. I think even though safety standards have much improved, it’s easy to forget (or maybe we like to put it to the back of our minds) just how dangerous motorsport can still be.

      Agree Mag that safety standards must always be pushed forward.

      Everyone involved with motorsport shows absolute bravery and passion everyday and I have nothing but admiration for them.

      1. That was such an innocuous low side until he got hit. If He doesn’t get hit he probably gets up and carries on. Only 19 years old, such a shame.

      2. How sad this had to happen. I absolutely agree, that all participants in Motorsport should work further towards finding safety improvements.

        The last 1,5 years have shown us, that Motorsport is safer than it used to be, but there were far to many serious accidents lately.

        1. Remember Kato? The marshalls did the same thing with Tomizawa as they did with Kato.

          The race was not Red-flagged and Tomizawa was dragged to the side of the track. Later, the gurney was dropped. Official cause of death was rumoured to be “spinal infarction” (broken neck).

          Look at the video. Shoya had his right arm up in a painful gesture as he came to a stop of his sliding.

          I feel the track-side safety crew delivered the coup-de-grace.

          1. “Tomizawa died of subsequent cranial, thoracic and abdominal trauma” from the official release by GP officials. I think to be honest with you there was never any real chance. I don’t think you can blame the marshalls. Theres not much can be done to help someone with such grave head injuries.

      3. Oh my…
        I feel for his family

      4. R.I. P. Tomizawa. Way too young to go. We will never know what a great talent he would have been. Just so very sad.

  14. Tragic that its the loss of lives that had to happen before the Sport took action into saftey for the drivers. To someone that was 10 when Senna lost his life and the continuing rise in saftey since, that loosing 3 or so drivers a year was the norm in Rindts era.

    Im looking forward to getting David Tremmaynes new book on him.

  15. RIP Shoya Tomizawa, 1990-2010

    1. I’m so shocked by that…I really like Tomizawa. He was quick and had a really great future in front of him. RIP :(

      1. RIP Shoya Tomizawa. Saw it live on the red button this morning, knew when I saw it the situation was grave, very disapointed with the tv director, they continued to show the replay even when it was clear something was very wrong. Found it hard to watch so turned off. Then heard on the Moto GP coverage afterwards, so incredibly sad, 19 years of age. Not been this sad since a certain day in the month of May 1994. Everyone knows motorsport is dangerous and things like this are a certain, but it dosn’t make it any easier. Thoughts are with his family.

        1. RIP Shoya Tomizawa. In his short time in MotoGP, he has achieved a lot and so I pay my respects to him today.

  16. A very sad day. RIP Tomi.

  17. Another one of the greats of F1 and motor racing. I am glad he did get the title, but even more glad that the drivers and later the FIA were successfull in improving safety to todays level.

  18. RIP Jochen Rindt

    RIP Shoya Tomizawa

    exactly 40 years passed but the danger is still there. That’s the dark side of motorsport unfortunately

  19. Terrible news about Tomizawa, I remember him winning the first race of the year. Sad to say but these guys know there’s going to be a chance they might not come back, whenever a tragedy occurs that could have been prevented we should always do our utmost to up the safety standards but there will always be freak accidents like today, fallen riders will get run over and drivers will have cars fly across them (Alexander Wurz was so nearly the last fatality in F1 three years ago). It’s sad but moving on is just as important as making everything safe as possible.

  20. What a bad day, of all days, to have someone else die in motorsport.

  21. HounslowBusGarage
    5th September 2010, 20:53

    I remember the day that Rindt died. It didn’t really seem possible as he always seemed ‘responsible’. I was only a youngster then and I couldn’t really understand how you could have a posthumous champion.
    As your article points out Keith, 1970 was not a good year for motorsport fatalities.
    And poor Tomizawa. To die at nineteen in any circumstances is tragic. I’ve got children older than that. Sympathies to his family.

  22. a week ago the German TV 3SAT showed a Rindt documentary, Jochen Rindt’s Last Summer. Very insightful stuff, also now available on DVD I guess.

  23. Younger Hamilton
    5th September 2010, 22:57

    RIP Shoya Tomizawa, i was gonna say Keith that we all need to share our condolences to Shoya’s Family and Friends because two racing drivers died on this day from this day onwards this September 5th is a important day in Motorsport So So Scary and Tragic.F1 Drivers and others in Motorsport really need to open their hearts out to them during Monza next week because that crash reminds us How Motorsport is still very dangerous

  24. David Sherwood
    6th September 2010, 9:36

    I met Jochen Rindt at the 1970 non-championship Formula One Oulton Park Gold Cup – 22nd August 1970, which may have been his last race, iirc. He signed my programme (along with Jackie Stewart, John Surtees and Graham Hill) which is a prized possession.

    The race was won in two heats of 20 laps each, with John Surtees winning the first and Jochen winning the second, with Surtess being the overall winner due to his faster aggregate time. Jackie Stewart set the fastest lap in the Tyrell 001, which may have been on its first competitive outing. He retired due to the throttle sticking open – which may explain the fastest lap!

    Jochen was really good with the young fans (I was 14) and spent several minutes chatting with us about his new car (the Lotus 72).

    A great driver, sadly missed.

  25. I know this isnt the time or place, but watching the crash I get the impression the astro turf didnt help in the unpredictable response from He`s bike.

  26. I remember reading how Ickx was “relieved” he didn’t “steal” the championship out of Rindt’s hands. A truly great from the get go (Crystal Palace anybody?) sadly a daredevil in an age where the Lotus fragility was all too common …

  27. amazing (it might have been posted before in this thread, haven’t checked)

  28. Very good article and nice pictures to go with it.

    Mabye one of the best articles written so far on f1 fanatic

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