Rindt Inspired Lauda's Entry into F1

It is difficult to imagine the last three decades of Formula One racing without Austria's Niki Lauda.

Rindt Inspired Lauda's Entry into F1

It is difficult to imagine the last three decades of Formula One racing without Austria's Niki Lauda.

But the triple world champion may not have become one the sport's most successful drivers had it not been for the inspiration from compatriot Jochen Rindt.

Speaking to commemorate the 30th anniversary on Tuesday of Rindt's death in practice for the 1970 Italian Grand Prix, Lauda said F1's only posthumous world champion had paved the way for aspiring Austrian drivers.

"Jochen led the way for us and proved that an Austrian could make it in a sport dominated primarily by Brits and Italians. He opened the door into F1 for us," said Lauda.

"He was also an idol."

Rindt was born on April 18, 1942, in the German city of Mainz but grew up with his Austrian grandmother in Graz after his parents were killed in an air raid on Hamburg when he was only 15 months.

When he celebrated his first major win by beating Graham Hill in a Formula Two race at Crystal Palace British media reported about an Australian victory.

"An Austrian motor racing success was unthinkable in those days," said Heinz Prueller, a reporter for Austrian ORF television and a friend of Rindt.

Lauda managed the step into F1 on the old Oesterreichring in 1971. He completed his first full season in 1972 and went on to lift the 1975, 1977 and 1984 world titles.

Pride Of Austria

Rindt never lived to collect his title trophy, which was handed to his wife Nina. But he was F1's first German-speaking world champion and the pride of Austria.

He had expressed concern about the safety of F1 racing and of his Lotus only weeks before brake failure led to the fatal crash at the Parabolica corner at Monza.

"My biggest worry is that something should break on the car. I know I'm good enough not to make a mistake," Rindt said in an interview.

Rindt cried on the podium and seriously considered retirement when his best friend, Briton Piers Courage, was killed in the 1970 Dutch Grand Prix.

Current F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone had told Rindt to quit immediately but his advice was ignored because the Austrian wanted to remain loyal to his team.

"I don't remember ever again having seen Bernie as devastated as he was after Rindt's death. They were close friends," said Prueller.

Rindt not only had an innate talent for driving but was also considered one of F1's most charismatic drivers.

In stark contrast to today's computer generation F1 drivers, Rindt was a chain smoker who made no secret of enjoying life in the fast lane.

Lauda, in reference to an advertisement of Rindt in a long fur coat, said: "Jochen looked great in that awful coat which would have made anyone else look ridiculous."

Lauda, as well as most older F1 fans, remembers exactly when he received the news of Rindt's death.

"I was at a race in Zolder when a friend called to tell me Jochen was dead. I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it," said Lauda.

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