There is no doubt in my mind that the return of the German Grand Prix to the Nurburgring after its brief removal to the Hockenheim Motodrom is popular, for the movement and race fever is already evident when I arrive at the circuit the day before practice begins. By the time race day arrives the Eifel mountains are like a human ant-hill, and though no official figures are given for the attendance the scene is reminiscent of the early post-war years and I have not seen crowds like it for ten or more years. A promise of superb weather for the weekend and the return of the Grand Prix to its only possible home seem to arouse enthusiasm throughout Western Germany and the neighbouring European countries, so that the result is memorable; the only sad thing is that the race des not turn out quite as expected. There is no lack of support for the first Grand Prix on the new look Nurburgring, for all the teams are entered, Ferrari, March, McLaren and B.R.M. with three entries apiece, and Tyrrell, Surtees, Lotus and Brabham with two entries each. Matra are reduced to one entry, for the affair of the Giunti/Beltoise accident in the Argentine last winter has arisen again in FIA circles and Beltoise has been banned from driving for a further period of time, so that Amon is left on his own to defend the French colours. To complete the list there are the private entries of Frank Williams’ March 711 for Pescarolo, the Clarke-Mordaunt March 711 for Beuttler, Bonnier with a McLaren, and the 1970 Surtees TS7 hire-car that Dieter Quester is arranging to borrow, but the financial arrangements fall through at the last minute, causing Surtees to remark something about: If Quester drove like he talked he’d be a World Champion. Of the three-car teams Ferrari are undoubtedly the strongest on paper, with Ickx, Regazzoni and Andretti in the three 1971 Ferraris, with a 1970 car as spare.
The B.R.M. team has co-opted Elford into their ranks to drive the late and much lamented Rodriguez’ car, with Siffert leading the team and Ganley being the third member, while McLaren are reduced to the two entries of Hulme and Gethin due to a shortage of engines caused by the Cosworth factory being on holiday, so it is Oliver who is dropped. The STP-March team has Peterson, Galli and de Adamich in their cars. The situation is rapidly developing where one Tyrrell car is bad enough for the opposition but two cars are twice as bad, and if Tyrrell ever enters three cars there will be a lot of people who will feel like giving up. His two entries are, as usual, Stewart and Cevert, while Lotus has their usual mixed-double of Fittipaldi and Wisell, and Surtees and Stommelen are in the Edenbridge factory cars, while Hill and Schenken are in Tauranac’s Brabham cars. The major changes to the machinery being used are confined to March and Lotus, for the STP-sponsored team has rebuilt 711/4, that Galli had driven at Silverstone with a Cosworth V8, and converted the back-end to take an Alfa Romeo V8 engine, while the Gold Leaf-sponsored team has built a new Type 72 to the latest D-specification, for Wisell to drive, this being R6, while his old car R3 has been refurbished and Charlton has taken it back to South Africa in place of Rob Walker’s R4, which has been the original choice. The minor changes involve the re-making (I cannot say re-designing) of bits that brake at the British Grand Prix, such as the coil mountings on the P160 B.R.M.s, and the addition of proven parts such as a full-width nosepiece on the spare Tyrrell car, while new minor details include a full-width nosepiece on Schenken’s Brabham BT33/3, German Bilstein shock-absorbers on Peterson’s works March as well as a cold-air box on its Cosworth engine, some experimental drilled brake discs on Hulme’s McLaren, revised air-collector boxes for the Surtees cars, and a solitary CSI/GPDA regulation rear light on Bonnier’s old McLaren, which is almost a new McLaren as it has been rebuilt with the monocoque being re-skinned.
Practice is arranged pretty fairly, with two sessions of one-and-a-half hours each on Friday and a two-hour session on Saturday. The first session starts at midday on Friday with the Eifel mountains on their best behaviour, the sunshine bringing out large crowds very early in the proceedings, and everyone who has not taken part in the ADAC 1.000-kilometre race last May is keen to find out about the cleaned-up Nurburgring. Although the widening, smoothing out and resurfacing meet with Stewart’s approval, it is soon evident that the Nurburgring is still one of the best challenges to Grand Prix car designers and builders, and to drivers, for speeds are higher everywhere and road-holding and suspension as well as bravery and skill are at a premium. Those teams that are not trying to stop the undersides of their cars scraping on the ground in the dips are trying to keep the wheels on the ground over the humps or trying to make their cars handle on the multitude of differing corners, both horizontal and vertical. More work is being done on shock-absorbers, springs, roll-bars, tyres and ride-heights than on engines or gearboxes, and those that are not trying to solve these problems are picking cars off the edges of the circuit or replacing broken engines. When the last German GP has been held at the Nurburgring, in 1969, it has been over 14 laps-a distance of 319.69 kilometres-and lckx has won with a Brabham in 1 hr. 49'55"4, he making fastest lap in 7'43"8. For some unaccountable reason that no-one would admit to, this year’s race is reduced to 12 laps, a mere 274 kilometres. (We must forget the bad old days of Ascari and Fangio when they raced for 22 laps of the Nurburgring to find out who was going to win the German GP, for I am told that that is not progressive thinking.) With two years’ advance in power and road-holding, to say nothing of the two years’ advance in the glory, the estimate of laps at 7'20"0.
Is reasonable enough, especially taking into account the widening, smoothing and resurfacing of the circuit, and in the first session Stewart takes his Tyrrell 003 round in 7'21"9, to set a new standard. Just what some of the other drivers, engineers, designers, team managers, mechanics and helpers are doing is hard to appreciate when you look at the list of best laps recorded during the first practice session, while some of the slowest laps of which we never hear must have been remarkable. For some people there are good explanations, such as the fact that Wisell never leaves the pit area as his Lotus 72 is so new it is being finished off as practice begins, so he confines himself to laps round the short pit loop and never sets off round the full circuit. Beuttler does not get far before he crashes his March 711 into an Armco barrier and Bonnier is presumably doing an official tour of inspection in his McLaren on behalf of the GPDA. Later Marko sets off for a lap in this car but runs out of petrol! Stommelen blows up the engine in his Surtees car TS9/002 and Galli brakes the Alfa Romeo engine in the March 711/4, while Pescarolo ends practice with his March monocoque bending in the middle and creasing the outer panels. Ganley’s P153 B.R.M. brakes its gear-change linkage but Siffert is recorded by the timekeepers at 7'22"4, a time that a lot of people doubted as he is the only driver to break 7'30"0 apart from Stewart. There is no practical reason why Stewart should be so much faster than everyone else, except that he is working hard for the people who pay him, as he always does, and the Tyrrell team is on such a winning streak at the moment that their air of efficiency and quiet calm is psychologically demoralising everyone into a state of depression that seems to make them stop trying, especially if they are trying to race with a Cosworth engine.
There are five training cars standing by but none of them are used during this first practice session, these being the 1970 Tyrrell for Stewart, no. 4 of the 1970 Ferraris for the Maranello drivers, the first of the 1971 Matras for Amon, the latest P160 B.R.M. for Siffert and the latest 1971 Surtees for Stommelen or the owner of the team. In the late afternoon there is another hour-and-a-half of practice and needless to say Beuttler is missing, as is Galli, but Stommelen practices in the spare Surtees while another engine is installed in his regular car. Siffert’s car is also undergoing an engine change so he uses the spare B.R.M., and Ganley is missing as his gear linkage is being repaired. Amon changes to the spare Matra-Simca V12 and Stewart goes out in the old Tyrrell only to have the engine break. He returned on the pillion of a motorcycle and promptly goes out in the 1971 car and sets fastest time of the day with 7'19"0, which demoralises everyone even more. Regazzoni lands all wrong his Ferrari after aviating over a new hump at Plfanzgarten, the jump being caused by the previous bends having been made smoother, and the Ferrari damages its right rear quarter; he returns to the paddock and goes out in the spare Ferrari. With Stewart getting below the estimated 7'20"0 it is not unreasonable to expect most of the reasonably good drivers to get below 7'30"0, but only three manage this during the afternoon. These are Ickx, as is expected, with 7'22"9, Regazzoni in the old car with 7'27"6, which keeps one’s sense of proportion straight, and Cevert with 7'24"0 in the Tyrrell 002. This last performance causes quite a flutter for it means one or all of three things, either Cevert has one of the Stewart special engines, the Tyrrell car is outstanding on the Nurburgring, or the young Frenchman is developing into an ace-driver under the tuition of Stewart and Tyrrell.
Your association with Grand Prix racing affects your choice of reason for this performance by Cevert and the only team that is not worrying was the Tyrrell team, they are very happy with their number two driver, while Cevert himself is overjoyed and well satisfied with his performance. Slower than the 7'30"0 mark are ex-World Champions, new rising stars, old hands and hopefuls. At midday on Saturday there is a final two hours of practice for honour to be retrieved by those embarrassed by Cevert, for potential winners to try and challenge Stewart, and for those in mechanical trouble to try and get themselves sort out. Stommelen is back in his normal car, Pescarolo’s March has been cleverly strengthened inside the monocoque, Stewart has another engine in his spare car, Regazzoni’s 1971 Ferrari has been repaired, as has Beuttler’s March and Ganley’s B.R.M., while Galli’s March and Siffert’s B.R.M. are ready with new engines. In fact, the amount of work that mechanics have done in the paddock in rather poor conditions during Friday and during the night is quite phenomenal, and if the GPDA want something to turn their good intentions on it might be double pay for overtime by their mechanics and some better lighting and bench facilities in the paddock garages. After spending many millions of Deutschmarks on the circuit to appease the drivers it is pathetic to see their mechanics working in crude lock-up garages with a single 40-watt bulb in the ceiling, just as they did twenty years ago. The daily thrash round the Nurburgring gets under way with quite a rush as people realize it is now or never and a number of drivers get well below the 7'30"0 time, and lckx joins Stewart in the super-ace category with a 7'19"2 lap, a mere two-tenths of a second away from Stewart’s pole-position time. Cevert proves that his Friday performance is not a fluke by improving to 7'23"4 and Regazzoni beats him with 7'22"7, which seems only right and proper in view of the time Ickx records.
Siffert dispels the Friday doubts with another good lap well below bogey time, and Hulme and Fittipaldi join him in the elite class, while Schenken scraps in by two-tenths of a second, which is praiseworthy enough when you look at some of the drivers who do not reach bogey time. The STP-March team are confident that Peterson is well in the elite category so are rather taken aback when the official practice results give Peterson’s best lap as 7'32"4. The number one talker of the March concern soon goes round the other teams and finds three of them have recorded a similar mid-20-sec. time for Peterson, the Swede being one of the drivers who other teams keep a stopwatch on during practice, so armed with this information he attacks the organisation after practice and eventually a new time is issued for Peterson; 7'26"5, and everyone is happy. Stewart has settled at 7'22"0 and before he can re-assert himself in the fastest time of day position rain clouds sweep across the Eifel mountains and practice fizzles out very suddenly as the rain pours down. At one moment the pits are full of photographers photographing, Press pressing and hangers-on hanging on, and it is almost impossible for anyone to do any serious work. Within seconds the whole pit area is clear except for the racing cars and the mechanics and one or two enthusiastic followers of Grand Prix racing. To everyone’s amazement, not the least mine, Hulme goes out in the pouring rain and does a full lap of the circuit and returns wet but laughing at all the open mouths that greet his return as if he has taken leave of his senses. He says that his 7'26"0. lap in the dry with a bog-standard Cosworth V8 engine has put him in a good mood. Stewart, Schenken and Surtees all have a splash round the short pits loop, and Wisell skates back to the paddock on Firestone slick tyres. As practice ends under rainy skies Pescarolo’s March is being retrieved from out on the circuit where it has landed in a heap after yet another rear hub casting has broken.
The start of the German Grand Prix is due at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday and even early in the morning it seems that most of the spectators have camped out overnight to be sure of a good vantage point, yet the traffic flows in continuously until well after lunchtime and the Nurburgring is as full as it has ever been. The only difference is that this time the paying public can really see something for the safety improvements have benefited the spectators almost more than the competitors. The morning is fully occupied by races for Formula Vee and Super-vee, a rousing demonstration lap by Ford’s Transit Supervan. displays by dancing girls and a variety of race-followers both in and out of the paddock that reaches an all-time high. The race rules say that no cars would be allowed through the tunnel that leads from the paddock to the pits later than ten minutes to one o’clock, and that a warm-up lap of the short pits loop would be made by everyone before lining up on the dummy-grid. When Hill’s Brabham BT34/1 is started up in the paddock there is a depressing shortage of fuel pressure, so a lot of the mechanical bits are torn apart to find the trouble and it is cured and reassembled in a mad rush to beat the paddock gate closing time. When Pescarolo tries to leave the pits his engine would not run properly and it is suddenly realised that in the flap of rebuilding the rear suspension the engine has not had a new set of plugs fitted, so this is done in haste while everyone else leaves the pits to go to the start. As most of the drivers join the circuit from the concrete pit lane they stop on the tarmac and do a practice start, and for the spectators in that area it is liked a non-stop drag-race meeting as car after car takes off in a cloud of tyre smoke. The modern 3-litre Grand Prix car presents an impressive sight as it accelerates away leaving 16-in. wide black lines on the tarmac. At the very last minute Pescarolo joins the happy throng on the grid, at which point Hill and Wisell are suddenly very unhappy for the Brabham’s throttle linkage has fallen apart and Wisell’s engine has developed a vapour lock in the fuel pump.
Consequently only 20 cars roar away when the German flag is lowered, with Ickx beating Stewart to the first corner by a few feet. The cars have been lined up in pairs, with Stewart on the right at the front, lckx alongside and Regazzoni and Siffert behind them, so once again the Scot is the only Cosworth-powered and Goodyear-shod runner in the forefront, which pleases his sponsors no end. As they round the South Curve and race up the straight behind the pits the leading Ferrari has the blue nose of the Tyrrell almost touching its exhaust pipes and the little beady eyes of the Scottish driver has a very hard and determined look in them, for with only two-tenths of a second between him and Ickx on practice times he can not afford to hang about. Back on the grid a shrewd blow in a strategic place has cured Wisell’s lack of fuel pressure, and he joins the race as the tail-enders are still down at the South Curve. Poor Hill is not so fortunate for his trouble is due to a vital nut being left off during the last-minute panic in the paddock, and the leaders are over half a lap away before his throttle cable is refixed and he can start racing. It is clear that Stewart is not going to stand any messing about from Ickx as he forces his Tyrrell into the lead on the North Turn before they are even out of sight of the pits. Although Hulme has made a good start from the third row, following the two Ferraris, he is passed by Siffert and Peterson during the opening lap. With the official lap record standing to Ickx from 1969 it is no surprise that Stewart’s standing lap at 7'37"7 is a new record, nor that his first flying lap is also a record, at 7'29"9. Stewart ends the first lap with a commanding lead over the Ferraris of Ickx and Regazzoni, who are followed by the B.R.M. of Siffert, the March 711 of Peterson, Hulme’s McLaren and Andretti’s Ferrari, then come Cevert, Schenken, Fittipaldi and the rest, except for de Adamich’s March-Alfa Romeo which has already expired with fuel-injection trouble.
Hulme is already in trouble with a leaking petrol bag tank, the petrol getting on his feet, and both Andretti and Cevert go past him on the second lap. With a clear road ahead Stewart is putting as much distance as he can between his Tyrrell and the Ferraris, and as Ickx sweeps up through the climbing right-hand turn at Wippermann he spins off the track, across the dirt safety area in a cloud of dust and clouts the Armco barrier with the back of the car. Regazzoni takes avoiding action through the dust cloud and before he gets himself sorted out he has an excursion off the track which lets Siffert nips through into second place and causes the Ferrari to damage its exhaust system under the engine. A very disgruntled Ickx is getting out of his derelict Ferrari, the impact with the Armco not only putting a very large dent in the new steel wall, but bending the left rear suspension and top radius arm of the Ferrari, and wiping off the battery and all the ignition and charging-system that is mounted on the rear of the gearbox. This little contretemps by the Ferrari team mean that Stewart ends lap 2 some 15 sec. ahead of Siffert’s B.R.M. and once again all hope of a Grand Prix race is gone. Regazzoni’s Ferrari follows, then comes Peterson’s March, followed by Andretti’s Ferrari and Cevert’s Tyrrell side-by-side, the young Frenchman getting ahead at the South Curve. The rest goes by one after the other in the order Hulme, Fittipaldi, Schenken, Pescarolo, Stommelen, Gethin, Elford, Surtees, Ganley, Beuttler, Galli and Amon, the Matra driver really suffering as his V12 engine is popping and banging. A long way back come Wisell with Hill even further back and when it has all gone quiet at the pits de Adamich arrives to complete his first lap. Amon’s practice has gone from bad to worse and all the good Matra engines are used up, so that he starts the race with a car cobbled-up from the front half of MS120B/06, a rather tired old engine, and the rear end off MS120B/04 with the earlier rear suspension layout.
Altogether he would have rather have gone home than try to race. Going along the straight behind the pits Ganley suddenly finds oil pouring into the cockpit of his B.R.M. and switches off in a cloud of smoke before the whole engine brakes, so with the race hardly begun we are down to twenty runners of which Hulme and Amon have little hopes of finishing, and de Adamich is too far back to get anywhere even hads his Alfa Romeo engine been made to run properly. The end of lap 3 sees Stewart with so much lead that he is passing by the back of the pits as Siffert arrives at the front of the pits, and Hulme has dropped out of the running as the fuel leak has become impossible. He draws into the pits, drip trays are put under the leaking McLaren and he removes his petrol-soaked shoes and socks and sat and watches the race. In the meantime Beuttler has got a flat right front tyre on his March as he passes the back of the pits and rather than try and drive a full lap on the flat tyre he turns off into the loop at the North Curve and comes back to the pits, entailing immediate disqualification. It is unfortunate but there is no other way for he would not have got far on the flat tyre, so now there were only seventeen little Grand Prix drivers for de Adamich has given up. Almost without being notice Cevert has overtaken Peterson and is in fourth place on lap 3, and on lap 4 when Stewart laps in a new record time of 7'27"2, Cevert does 7'27"9. At the same time Siffert’s B.R.M. engine begins to misfire which causes him to drop back so that the B.R.M., Regazzoni’s Ferrari and Cevert’s Tyrrell end the lap in close company, and during lap 5 both the Ferrari and the Tyrrell pass the ailing B.R.M. This leaves Stewart with 33 sec. lead, aided by a lap in 7'25"5 and Siffert passes the pits in fourth place pointing at his front suspension. From the mid-field Pescarolo stops at the pits as his March seems to be falling apart again, and a short trip round the pits loop confirms his feelings for the front suspension is bent and the rear suspension is coming away from the chassis.
After a mere six laps the race is halfway through and Stewart’s lap record run is down to 7'23"6, while Cevert is trying hard to get past Regazzoni’s Ferrari which is sounding bad and is 500 r.p.m. down on maximum due to the damaged exhaust system. Siffert takes the short loop back into the pits as his engine dies on him with a defunct coil, entailing immediate disqualification, which he dies not mind as his right front lower wishbone member is coming adrift from the chassis. Amon is long overdue and arrives late at the pits with signs of a private accident with a barrier on the right-hand side of the car, so now there were only thirteen little drivers left, for Gethin has also gone, having spun gently off the track on the left-hand bend at Metzgefeld, just in front of Surtees and Elford, the McLaren sustaining a bent rear suspension. To add to the carnage Galli is black-flagged as the March-Alfa Romeo’s rear aerofoil is falling off, a trouble that Peterson has experienced in practice, so he draws into the pits after seven laps to have it removed, and Fittipaldi is already there as his Lotus is losing oil and has broken its front anti-roll bar. Cevert has got in front of Regazzoni but the Ferrari driver is doing his best to keep up, and just has not got the speed of the Tyrrell along the main straight. Stewart covers lap 8 in 7'22"9 and Peterson dashes into the pits to have a damaged fibre-glass cover removed from one of the side-mounted radiators of his March 711 and this drops him from fourth place to fifth behind Andretti, but safely ahead of Schenken who is sixth. Galli returns to the pits with broken engine mountings on the March-Alfa Romeo, probably the reason for the aerofoil falling off, and as nothing can be done he limps away to try to finish. Fittipaldi also comes back to the pits, this time for good as all his oil has leaked away from a split tank, so this leaves eleven fairly healthy runners and one sick one, and by proper Grand Prix standards the race is barely under way, but by mini-Grand Prix standards it is fortunately nearly over.
The ninth lap sees Regazzoni driving really hard to stay with Cevert, but on the next lap the Tyrrell number two driver does an inspired 7'20"1 lap, which even Stewart does not improve upon, having done 7'21"8 on that lap. As Elford goes by the back of the pits his B.R.M. engine stops as the ignition coil fails, as has Siffert’s, and while the leaders are ending the race he gets another coil from the pits and fits it to the engine and gets going again, finding that the engine goes better than it has done since the start. Stommelen makes a quick stop at the pits to say that his Surtees feels a bit odd, but as nothing is visibly wrong he goes on. As Stewart is a comfortable 40 sec. ahead of his team-mate he is able to take things easy by his standards, and goes round in 7'20"8, not knowing that Cevert is holding the lap record. The number two Tyrrell driver can not relax for the swarthy Swiss Ferrari driver has not given up the chase and is hounding the pretty young French lad unmercifully, though without hope of regaining second place unless Cevert makes a mistake, which is unlikely as he has the ability to concentrate to the full even when under pressure. Stewart cruises home to another undisputed victory to the joy of Tyrrell, Gardner, Elf, Ford and Goodyear to say nothing of Jackie Stewart Incorporated and Cevert finishes a strong second to the absolute joy of Monsieur Francois Cevert himself and Regazzoni is a hardworking third. Then comes a rather uninspired Andretti, an ever-improving Peterson and Schenken, the Australian having a trouble-free run this time. Surtees follows with the two late starters WiseII and Hill behind him, and the Brabham driver just fails to make up his handicap on the Swede. It has been a short and sweet German Grand Prix run in perfect conditions and everyone seems well satisfied to see it back on the circuit where it rightfully belongs, for the Nurburgring is still the Nurburgring and one of the finest Grand Prix circuits ever built.