After the Formula One circus chickened-out of the Nurburgring in 1977, because it was too difficult (not too dangerous), the German Grand Prix has become a Formula One event, rather than a Grand Prix and in much the same way as happened in Belgium when their Grand Prix went from Francorchamps to Nivelles and Zolder, we have been attending the German Formula One race at Hockenheimring and “treading water” in the hope that sanity would return. We kept the faith in Belgium and it paid off, with a return to a rejuvenated Francorchamps circuit this year. We have been keeping the faith in Germany and now work is forging ahead on a new Nurburgring, and while a return to the Eifel mountains in 1984 seems a little unlikely, it must surely happen in 1985. It is anticipation that keeps some of as going, and those who keep the faith are seldom disappointed. We kept the faith with the Austrian enthusiasts when they held races on the Zeltweg airfield, and they gave us the magnificent Osterreichring, so it does pay to keep the faith. Should this prove to be the last visit to Hockenheim there will not be too many salt tears left behind. It is grey and foreboding as we drive down the famous Frankfurt- Darmstadt Autobahn, pausing at Langen to pay our respects at the monument to Bernd Rosemeyer who was killed on this Autobahn in 1938 attempting records at over 270 mph in an Auto Union. At Hockenheim the greyness does not improve and even Heidelberg is wet and soggy. For Friday morning’s untimed test session the scene in the pits reflects the ominous sky, which is grey and troubled though not actually raining.
Everyone is there who has been at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix, with only one new car (from Alfa Romeo) but quite a number of detail changes and improvements, like the more complicated rear aerofoil arrangement on the spare Toleman-Hart, a longer wheelbase on the newer of the two Spirit-Hondas; some Goodyear dry-weather race tyres of radial construction, rather than cross-ply, a lot of new advertising on the Arrows, but bad words like Marlboro, John Player and Gitanes are blanked out on cars, drivers, transporters and mechanics of other teams, as Germany forbids cigarette advertising at sporting events. There are small Italian flags on each side of the Ferrari cars, and a written statement from Ken Tyrrell saying that he now has the support of Frank Williams in his protest about the water-injection being used by Ferrari and Renault on their turbocharged engines. There seems to be more trouble in the first hour and a half than we have seen all season, with the Honda power from the V6 engine twisting the pinion gear off the Hewland mainshaft on the newer car, oil feed and turbo trouble on the number one ATS, water leaks on Mansell’s Lotus- Renault 94T, a bent front end on the sister car when de Angelis goes off the road, electrical trouble and engine troubles in the Brabham pits and engine problems in the Toleman camp. And this is only a test session in preparation for the serious business of qualifying in the afternoon. The Ferrari team and the Williams team are trying the Goodyear radially constructed race tyres, without coming to any definite conclusions and the Alfa Romeos are going quickly, but not as quickly as the time-keepers think at one point in the morning
When qualifying begins at 1:00 p.m. a number of drivers, like Warwick, Johansson and Winkelhock, are nothing like ready to go out, or to be more precise, they are ready but their cars are not, while others like Piquet and Mansell are out on the circuit but soon in trouble. In the Ferrari pits all is remarkably well under control with Tambay setting the pace on Goodyear one lap specials which destroys themselves in one fast lap, but as that lap is FTD and pole position, nobody worries. Arnoux is running on harder tyres that are raceworthy and was second fastest and very close to Tambay and both cars, which are the C3 models used at Silverstone, are behaving impeccably, so much so that the pair of C2 models acting as T-cars are never even started up. From the word go it is a Ferrari day, and both drivers get below 1'50"0 for the lap, while the nearest challenge comes from de Cesaris with one of the Alfa Romeo V8 cars with 1'50"845, a second and a half slower than Tambay. Renault are not happy, with little niggling troubles, and Prost cannot do better than fifth, but Piquet has his Brabharn-BMW in fourth place, in spite of having to change to the spare car. Warwick and Giacomelli are in a pretty healthy ninth and tenth positions and Johansson gets the older Spirit-Honda into 13th place in spite of all manner of small troubles. The Lotus-Renault cars are into much trouble that the team is in the running for the Team Shambles award, while Brabham are strong runners-up, only saved by Piquet going very fast when things are right, which is not often. Halfway up the list, or down the list depending on how you look at it, is the cool and quiet Thierry Boutsen in an Arrows, only Rosberg being faster among the Cosworth V8 engine users. During the qualifying hour Raul Boesel has a nasty accident when he goes off the track in the spare Ligier within the stadium and damages his neck. Before the end of the hour a cool wind has got up and before the end of the afternoon it is raining.
On Saturday morning it is still teaming and there is no meteorological hope of it giving up. Although testing time carries on as usual on Saturday morning and the qualifying hour runs its course in the afternoon, the grid positions are decided by Friday’s performances, with the two Ferraris on the front row. On Friday Acheson (RAM-March) and Fabi (Osella-Alfa Romeo V12) have failed to qualify because they are not fast enough, and Manfred Winkelhock (ATS-BMW t/c) has failed to record a flying lap, so it is now all over for them and the troubled ATS team has to suffer the ignominy of not taking part in their home Grand Prix. Many of the others go round in clouds of spray, the scrutineers reprimand some teams for having inadequate obligatory red rear lights, some drivers do but a single lap so are not timed and others do not go out at all, as the practice-times table shows. If you don’t do three consecutive laps you don’t get timed for a flying lap and the timing mechanism does not register a standing-start lap from the pits, nor a lap on which you come into the pit lane, so a driver could be in and out of the pits all day and not record a flying lap. It may have been wet and slippery, but on racing wet-weather tyres today’s racing driver still goes incredibly quickly and Cheever and Arnoux records laps in the 2'09"0 bracket, only eight and a bit seconds slower than Fabi has managed in the dry, and I doubt whether the average sporting club driver can manage 2'19"0 in the dry. It is still raining when the qualifying hour finishes, leaving the two Ferraris strongly on the front row of the grid followed by the Alfa Romeo of de Cesaris, the Brabham-BMW of Piquet and the two Renaults of Prost and Cheever, and then Baldi’s Alfa Romeo. It is the big manufacturers hard at it again. As darkness falls depressingly early in Germany it is still raining, and when we wake up on Sunday morning it is still raining.
By the time we get into the dank concrete stadium the rain has stopped and the speed with which the ground is drying out is most encouraging. As the skies turn from dark grey to mid-grey there is hope, not of a scorching summer afternoon, but at least a dry one. Competitors in one of the many supporting races damage the catch-fences in places so the Formula One half-hour warm-up is delayed from 11:30 a.m. to mid-day, while repairs are effected. From midday for the next 30 minutes you have never seen so much concentrated trouble among the teams. The half-hour warns-up period is supposed to be no more than what it says, but it turns out to be something of a mechanical destruction derby as everything goes wrong. Before it is over Tambay is out in his old C2 Ferrari while eight Ferrari mechanics set to work removing the engine from his C3 Ferrari as it has suffered mechanical damage inside, and it is a brand new one only installed the previous evening. In the Renault pits the engine in Prost’s car is being removed as it has started to overheat violently, and another new one is being installed. Team (Shambles) Lotus are no better off as the 94T of Mansell has blown all its water and a lot of its oil out, all over the Spirit-Honda which has been following, and the 94T of de Angelis has stopped abruptly when the electronics for the fuel- injection has failed. While this in itself is not disastrous it means that the oil pumps suddenly cease their flow and with the turbocharger turbines running at over 100.000 rpm it speal disaster for the central bearings on the turbine/compressor shafts. By the end of this warm-up period the Brabham pits look like a major disaster area with all three cars torn apart and bits everywhere.
Formula One regulations stipulate that there must be 21/2 hours between the end of warm-up and the race starting, unless everyone is ready before that period of time and are agreed to shorten the gap. On the face of it the start should have been delayed until 3 pm, but the great god television is dangling from his satellite in anticipation of a 2.30 pm start, as advertised in the programme. A quick walk along the pit lane makes it seem very unlikely that all the cars would screw back together in time, but it never ceases to amaze me just how much work eight or 10, or even 12 mechanics can accomplish. The pit lane should open at 2:00 p.m. to let the cars set off on their lap round to the starting grid, and many of the teams like Toleman, Tyrrell, Arrows and Williams are all ready to go. While the television moguls bit their nails the army of mechanics do wonders and at 2.10 pm everyone is ready, or as ready as they could hope to be. Tambay’s C3 Ferrari is ready, Piquet has chosen the spare car from his two Brabhams, Rosberg is in his regular race-car number 07, but Mansell is forced to take the 93T Lotus, rather than his Silverstone 94T. On his way round to the grid Prost finds out his new engine is overheating badly, suggesting an installation fault somewhere, and he goes back into the pit lane and transfers to the spare Renault. By 2:30 p.m. they are all on the grid, where they should seat for the regulation 20 minutes while pre-race formalities are concluded, but by mutual consent and everyone being ready this time factor is halved which reduces the overall delay to manageable proportions. The 26 cars go off on the parade lap with the two red Ferraris leading, watched by a packed stadium of people and in the pits is Didier Pironi, still on crutches, but looking remarkably fit, this being his first public appearance since his awful accident at the Hockenheimring exactly 52 weeks ago.
The crocodile of cars wounds its way back through the twists and turns of the stadium and lines up on the starting grid, are given the green light and all 26 drivers stamp hard down on the accelerator pedals. There have been a feeling that de Cesaris might do another screaming start, as he has done in the Belgian GP, and takes the lead from the two Fermis, but it is not to be and when the field returns to the stadium the order is Ferrari, Ferrari, Brabham-BMW. Tambay led from Arnoux, Piquet, de Cesaris, Prost, Cheever, Baldi, Patrese, Johansson, Rosberg and Warwick, but already Guerrero has stopped with a blown-up Cosworth engine in the Theodore and on the next lap the Renault engine in Mansell’s old Lotus expires. Tambay is all for choosing a pace that would not stress his car or his tyres and yet keep the two Ferraris just out of reach of Piquet’s Brabham, but Amoux has other ideas and on lap three bludgeons his way by his team- mate and goes off into a commanding lead, much to Tambay’s consternation as he sees Arnoux kerb-jumping and working his tyres unmercifully. Alboreto pulls his blown-up Tyrrell off onto the grass and the second Lotus runs into engine trouble, and then the second-place Ferrari goes sick. An unheard of engine failure sees Tambay completing a slow lap and disappearing into the pits. He does one more slow lap and then retires with suspected valve trouble in the Ferrari engine. This leaves Arnoux with a commanding lead over Piquet, and really there is no one else seriously in the race. Prost, Cheever, Patrese and de Cesaris follow in line-astern formation, but too far back to be of any real significance and then comes Warwick leading Baldi in the second Alfa Romeo. Johansson is hanging on to the end of the turbocharged trail and looking quite encouraging for a new project, and Niki Lauda is showing what he is really made of by leading all the Cosworth powered cars.
It is vintage Lauda and good to see. The race is being run over 45 laps and at quarter distance it is really all over as far as serious racing is concerned. It was just a matter of Arnoux and Piquet being careful as they begin to lap the tail-enders, especially Piquet remembering his nonsense with Salazar last year at this circuit, and of keeping going until the mid-race pit-stops were due. While Warwick is holding his own with the tail-end of the turbocharged cars his team-mate Giacomelli is in trouble with a failing turbocharger and only sufficient boost to allow him to keep station with the lesser Cosworth- powered cars. The Honda has expired and then when we think Warwick might be stopping early for new tyres and more fuel he is actually stopping for good with engine trouble. Prost is the first to make a routine pit stop, pulling out of third place to turn into the pit lane. He is far from happy for his gearbox is continually jumping out of top gear and first gear has broken on the start line, so after a refill and new tyres he is forced to make a slow start in second gear. Not long after rejoining the race top gear breaks and he is limited to peak rpm in fourth gear, which holds his speed down on the fast straights, and after rejoining the race in sixth place he can make no further progress up the field. Nearly a lap behind, Rosberg is also far from happy for he has chosen a different type of Goodyear tyre to Laffite and finds out he cannot keep up. He makes his routine pit stop and sets off on a different type of tyre, but it does not seem to make much difference and time lost in getting into gear after his stop puts him a lap behind the leading Ferrari. We are now at half distance and as Arnoux stops, Piquet and Cheever go by, temporarily, but Cheever stops on the next lap which means that Arnoux is now in second place, but not too worried for Piquet has yet to stop.
The Alfa Romeos, the McLarens and Laffite all make their routine stops, with Lauda showing how not to do it by sliding past his pit with his front wheels locked up. He reverses back and is subsequently disqualified for the action. Neither Brabham has stopped and we wonder if Gordon Murray is pulling a crafty trick by running his cars through non-stop when everyone else have stopped. At the end of lap 28 there is universal relief as Patrese pulls into the pit lane, having gone eight laps further than Prost, for example. The Brabham mechanics excell themselves and Patrese’s car is stationary for a mere nine-and-a-quarter seconds, during which time all four wheels are changed and petrol is pressured into the tank. This is nearly two seconds quicker than the best of the opposition and nearly four seconds quicker than most teams. Piquet continues to circulate until lap 30, a full 10 laps more than the first Renault that stops and seven more than Amoux’s Ferrari. It is now clear what is happening. As the art of wheel- changing has become perfected it has become obvious that the time- limiting factor is the speed of putting petrol into the tank, or expelling the air in the tank. If, for example, the wheel-changing is going to occupy 10 sec. and the refuelling is going to occupy 12 sec, you need to find a way of saving two seconds on the refuelling. If it is not possible to increase the flow through the petrol filler nozzles, there is only one solution and that is to put less fuel in, in other words only 10 sec-worth of fuel instead of 12 sec-worth. And if 10 sec-worth is not enough to cover half the race the solution is to start with more petrol and run beyond half distance to the point are 10 sec-worth of petrol would see you through to the finish, thus reducing your pit-stop time to the time needed to change wheels.
It has worked perfectly with Patrese’s stop, with the 9.25 sec result, but is not quite so good with Piquet, his stop taking 11.12 sec, still faster than anyone else, and two seconds faster than Arnoux. But the Ferrari have built up too much lead in the early stages, so the calculated change of tactic doesn’t work, but nonetheless it is an interesting time-and-motion study, and liven up a rather dull race. Apart from Prost being in trouble with his Renault gearbox we are back to square one after all the stops, with Arnoux comfortably ahead of Piquet, with Cheever third, Prost fourth, de Cesaris fifth and Patrese sixth. Everyone else is a lap or more behind and being led by Lauda, followed by Watson, Laffite, Surer, Jarier, Boutsen and Rosberg. Cecotto and Sullivan have been having a nice little dice together and Ghinzani is a lonely last. Prost falls back behind de Cesaris and then Patrese, and Arnoux begins to ease up as the end is in sight. On lap 39 Cheever’s excellent third place goes out of the window when his Renault engine dies on him due to the throttle mechanism breaking. With only three laps to go misfortune (and luck) hits Piquet’s Brabham when a fuel line bursts and the pumps filled the engine compartment with neat petrol which ignites in a merry blaze. Piquet does a crash stop and nipps out hurriedly as fire marshals move in and douse the flames, but his race is run. A delighted de Cesaris finds himself in second place with the demise of the Renault and the Brabham and it is joy day for Italy as Ferrari finishes first and Alfa Romeo second. There is some small consolation for the German crowd with BMW M-Power bringing Patrese’s Brabham home into third place. All the hot-shoe Cosworth-powered runners with unblown 3-litre engines are a lap behind. If you haven’t got 600 or more bhp these days you are not in the picture. Engines are indeed the heart of the Grand Prix car, whether they be 120-degree V8, 90-degree V6 or V8, 80-degree V6 or simply 4-cylinder in-line power units.