|Nevertheless, what marked him out was his ability to create moments that took the breath away. One such was at the wet Silverstone International Trophy in 1969. Rindt was making up ground after being delayed by an earlier engine problem, which then cleared. Heading on one lap into Stowe Corner – then a super-fast bend that tested the very best – Rindt was closing on Piers Courage and Jacky Ickx, who themselves were coming up to lap Pedro Rodriguez and Graham Hill. When they turned into the corner, Rindt was at the back of the five cars; when they came out, he was at the front. It was, say those who were there, one of those moments that make you doubt what you have seen.The British Grand Prix that year, also at Silverstone, was another highlight. Rindt and Jackie Stewart staged one of the greatest races there has ever been. Swapping places for lap after lap, sometimes several times a lap, they disputed the lead, running at record speeds despite the intensity of their duel. Only when Rindt’s Lotus ran into problems did the battle break up. “It was a fantastic battle,” Stewart remembers, “yet full of good humour. Occasionally we’d go through Becketts or somewhere side by side, neither of us willing to give way, yet taking care always to give the other fellow room. And we’d come out of the corner and look across at each other.”Rindt forged his reputation against the likes of Stewart, Clark and Hill in Formula 2, in an era when F1 drivers also raced in the lower category. After 4 seasons racing uncompetitive machinery, Rindt’s fortunes changed when he joined Lotus in 1969. He moved there because he wanted a winning car but it was not an easy decision, for he did not trust the integrity of the designs of the legendary team boss Colin Chapman. There was no doubt about the speed of Chapman’s cars – but it was a speed based often on paring things to the bone, and as a result they tended to break a lot as well.
Rindt was effectively a replacement for Clark, the greatest driver of the era, who had been killed in a Lotus in a Formula 2 race at Hockenheim the year before Rindt joined the team. Chapman had been very close to Clark, but he always had a frosty relationship with Rindt. This was not helped in their first season together when the notorious high rear wing failed on Rindt’s car during the Spanish Grand Prix on the fast Montjuic Park circuit in Barcelona. He was lucky to escape serious injury when his car overturned after hitting the wreckage of team-mate Hill’s car, which had earlier suffered the same failure in exactly the same place.
Likewise, in 1970, Rindt initially distrusted Chapman’s new Lotus 72, and it was in the older 49 that he took his first win that season – chasing down Jack Brabham in the closing laps of Monaco in stunning style and pressuring the veteran Australian into crashing at the last corner of the last lap.
Eventually, Rindt came to accept the Lotus 72 and, after a run of four wins, that summer he arrived at the Italian GP on the brink of the world title. But again there was a dispute with Chapman. Rindt had wanted to race the Lotus 49 at Monza, thinking it would be better suited to the fast track, then without the chicanes of its modern format. But when he got there, there were three 72s, and Chapman told him to get on with it. There was further controversy when Chapman took off the car’s wings in the pursuit of straight-line speed. In that specification the car was very difficult to drive, to the point that it completely spooked third driver John Miles. Then, in Saturday practice, Rindt’s car veered suddenly left approaching the Parabolica, one of the fastest parts of the track, and crashed into the wall, probably because of a rear suspension failure. Rindt, not wearing a crotch strap, ‘submarined’ in the cockpit and suffered throat injuries caused by his seat-belt buckle, from which he died. Apparently earlier Rindt had told his wife Nina that he would retire once he had won the World Championship……