Rindt died from injuries sustained when his Lotus crashed at Monza’s Parabolica during Italian GP practice on September 5, 1970. He had made 60 Formula 1 World Championship starts, winning six races and taking 10 pole positions – as well as winning the 1965 Le Mans 24 Hours in a Ferrari.
Fittipaldi first encountered Rindt before he got to Formula 1, but it was a day at Silverstone – when Emerson was getting his first taste of a Lotus 49 F1 car – that left his strongest memory of a friend as well as racing rival.
“Jochen was always extremely good to me in Formula 2,” recalls Fittipaldi. “He was always nice to me, always helping me.
“On my first F1 test in Silverstone, before I did a few laps in the Lotus 49, Colin [Chapman, Lotus founder] asked Jochen to go out and get it ready for me to drive. Jochen did a few laps, came back and said: ‘It’s all OK, Emerson can go.’
“I tried the car for 10 laps, came back to the pits and said: ‘The car is understeering a little too much.’ Jochen was there at the cockpit with Colin and heard my comments. I asked Colin for some more front wing, and Jochen says ‘no, no, no, just use more throttle. That will get rid of the understeer, don’t worry, the balance of the car will come back to you’.
“I went out and went much faster, did a very quick lap time. And Jochen was so happy, he was giving the pitboard to me! I could see him smiling on the pitwall as I went past. Incredible! He was very good to me.”
The wreckage of Jochen Rindt’s Lotus 72 is carried away after his fatal accident
In his obituary in Autosport, Rindt was quoted as once saying: “If a car is going to break, it will break anyway. It’s got very little to do with going quickly or not, so once you’ve made the decision to sit in the car you might as well go quick. I mean, it’s not going to break any earlier or later because you go quick or slow.”
Rindt had already won five of the 10 grands prix that season, and his 45-point tally was such that when Fittipaldi – who inherited his number one spot at Lotus – claimed his maiden grand prix win at the Watkins Glen finale it ensured Jacky Ickx didn’t overhaul him.