Jackie Stewart on Jochen Rindt: My Greatest Rival

An adversary but also a friend – Sir Jackie Stewart remembers his grapples in 1969 and ’70 with the Lotus driver who had hit his prime

Rindt Stewart rivals
Browse pages

You may expect me to choose Jimmy Clark but I didn’t see him as a rival because he was ahead of me when I arrived in Formula 1 in 1965. I wasn’t quite ready to challenge him – although I won at Monza that year – and we still share the lap record at Goodwood, which is so nice for me. My first season at BRM, my team-mate Graham Hill was my main rival as I knew I had to be faster than the number one driver. When BRM brought the H16 engine in 1966 my main rival was the car…

So, across my career it was Jochen Rindt who was the toughest, the most competitive. In 1969 we had some great battles, notably at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix, passing and re-passing each other for the lead all the way. Out of Becketts, in the slipstream, we would point to which side we wanted the other to pass. We did that a lot, going on to the Hangar Straight. I was in the Matra, which was robust and reliable, Jochen was in the Lotus 49, a hell of a car but fragile, and I noticed his rear wing end plate was loose and touching his left rear tyre. I signalled to him that he had a problem with the rear wing when I came alongside him. We were racing nose to tail but he had to pit and I won, a lap ahead of the field with Jochen fourth. It was a really great fight while it lasted. One of my very best memories is racing with him as closely as we did that day.

Jochen was very fast, a very clean racing driver, and he had learnt not to over-drive the car by this time. Early in his career he was always sliding, lots of opposite lock, fast but furious, bordering on reckless. Everyone thought that was wonderful but it wasn’t, it was bad for the car. You know, I don’t think he ever felt 100% safe in a Lotus but in 1970, that terrible year, he was unstoppable in the Lotus 72. Until I got the Tyrrell in the summer I was in the March. The car was a waste of time, so I couldn’t race him.

You can always learn from your rival. I learnt a lot from Jimmy Clark; he was simply the best, a truly classical driver. The main thing is you have to trust a close rival and Jochen took time to mature, to control his emotions in the car, become a less furious racer. From my success in shooting for Scotland and for Britain I’d learnt to control my emotions, and I knew what it took to win. Emotions in motor racing are dangerous. Mine went to zero during a race. I talked to Jochen about managing his mind, driving more smoothly, less of a spectacle, but faster. We were good friends as well as neighbours and great rivals.”

Start of the 1969 British Grand Prix

Stewart and Rindt at Silverstone in 1969

Bernard Cahier/Getty Images

Jackie Stewart and Jochen Rindt head-to-head

Stats from 1969 and 1970 F1 World Championships

Stewart vs Rindt
7 Wins 6
6 Poles 8
5 Fastest laps 3
11 Podiums 8
88 Points 67