For what it is worth, the German Grand Prix is given the title of the European Grand Prix this year, a dubious honour it last received in 1968. As long as it remains a 14 mile-per-lap drive round the Eifel mountains, the Nürburgring will always remain the Nürburgring, no matter how much it is smoothed out, widened or made easier, for the better the circuit gets the more exacting is a fast lap and seven minutes is the aim that a lot of people have in their sights for a lap time when they begin to assemble in the paddock. The last piece of tidying up has been completed, this being the long undulating straight from Döttinger Hohe to the chicane at Tiergarten which has been widened and resurfaced, one bridge removed completely and another removed and replaced with a better one. The result is a much smoother passage along the straight, with no chance of becoming airborne. An arbitrary figure of 25 starters has been chosen, for reasons best known to the financial wizards of the Formula One Constructors Association, and 31 drivers are ready for practice. Among the new faces on the scene are Howden Ganley with the Japanese British Kit-Car called the Maki, Chris Amon making a return with his own car much modified since it last appeared, with the front brakes inboard once again, the water radiators on each side of the engine and new aerofoils front and rear as well as a million other mods. The Token of Ray Jessop is being driven by Ian Ashley, Derek Bell is driving the second Surtees, Jacques Lafitte is driving the second Williams and Edwards is back in the second Embassy-Lola, more or less recovered from his F5000 accident. Mechanically there is nothing startlingly new, though B.R.M. has finished off a third P201, which Pescarolo took over, Ferrari has a brand new 312B3 which Regazzoni is using and Brabhams had built a fourth BT44 which the Hexagon mechanics are finishing off for John Watson.
Everyone else is with their usual car, the Lotus team having the modified Type 76-JPS/10 as a training and test car for Peterson, while Scheckter has the use of Tyrrell 007/5 as a test car. Fittipaldi is using the latest McLaren, M23/8, with the new rear suspension using parallel links at the bottom instead of a reverse wishbone and the Marlboro-Texaco team’s spare car, M23/5, has also been changed to this layout. The Surtees team with their Mark 3 versions of the TS16 has new full-width front aerofoils to try out in practice and Ferrari confuses everyone by turning their rear aerofoils through 180-degrees, the Vee edge, which is the trailing edge, now becoming the the leading edge. This they did on 016, the new car, and 012 which is Lauda’s car, but the T Car which is 014, keep the old wing layout. First practice is on Friday, more or less for three hours over lunchtime, with a short break to tow in any cars stranded out on the circuit. Lauda’s claimed lap in under seven minutes during private testing is the standard everyone expected, but no one achieved, and few got anywhere near the seven minutes barrier. As is usual at the Nürburgring there is a lot of circulating round the pits-loop, taking in the South and North curves, before anyone strikes out over the bridge before Hatzenbach and set off on a full lap. The weather is dry but very overcast, and not at all promising, but impending rain keeps off. Poor Ganley circulates the Maki round the loop for some while and then when he sets off for a full lap, he is barely out of sight of the pits when something breaks and puts the car violently into the Armco barriers, ripping off the entire front of the car and damaging the driver’s ankles, necessitating his transport to Adenau hospital. Stuck is in trouble with the Cosworth engine in his March and has to be towed in during the break and while things are at their height in the second part, Hailwood has his McLaren M23/1 turn sharp left on him as something breaks in the front suspension, just as he reaches the start and Finish plateau.
The car goes out of control and damages itself but the driver is unhurt, and M23/7 is quickly brought out of the paddock for him to continue with. Towards the end of the practice session Peterson fails to re-appear, for the left rear wheel on Lotus 72/R8 breaks up and puts the car into the guard rails, bending just about everything except the intrepid driver. Amon is making no progress at all with his own car, one lap being sufficient to reveal serious overheating troubles, so the car spends the rest of the day in the garage having its radiator mountings modified. Fittipaldi tries the latest Texaco-Marlboro McLaren, fitted with the very low and very rearward mounted rear aerofoil, the layout soon to be outlawed by the CSI, while both he and Hulme use the spare car. The two Ferrari drivers are in a class of their own, with Lauda fastest in 7 mins. 00.8 sec. and Regazzoni next with 7'01"1, not a great difference for a 14-mile lap. There is no real opposition to the cars from Maranello, only Scheckter in the latest Tyrrell being in the same league, with 7'03"4, but 2.3 seconds at an average speed of around 120 m.p.h. is an awful long way behind. The rest ranges through good tries to hopeless, while others are still learning their way round the circuit. Watson is still using the 1973 Brabham, as the BT44/4 is still being finished off in the paddock, and Migault is still using a P160 B.R.M. as the first of the 1974 cars is being rebuilt for him back at Bourne. When the day’s activities are analysed, the Maki, Lotus 72/R8 and McLaren M23/1 are beyond immediate repair, the Amon is having a pretty major rebuild, March are changing engines and a lot of people are disillusioned about the chances of a Cosworth powered car breaking seven minutes, though it is on the cards for both the Ferraris. On Saturday practice is the same time as on Friday, with a clearing up break half way through. The Lotus mechanics have worked through the night and built Peterson an interesting special.
This comprises the front half of JPS/10, including the front suspension, the monocoque and the water radiators just behind each front wheel, while the rear half is Lotus 72, the earlier type of rear suspension being grafted onto the 1974 monocoque. Hailwood is using his later McLaren, the bent one being abandoned, the Maki has been shovelled up and put back into its vast transporter, the Japanese mechanics looking a bit bewildered by it all, and the Amon car is ready to go, though its owner-driver is not. He has developed a streaming cold so the young Australian Formula Three driver Larry Perkins is all set to have a go. The Ringmeister form that Ickx is supposed to be going to show, according to his fans, never materialises and it is left to Fittipaldi to try and put some pressure on the two Ferraris, though it is not very heavy pressure. The organization is using a new automatic time-collating machine that prints the results very rapidly, but the only thing it does not take into account is when a driver does not improve on his first day’s time, with the result that an awful lot of people are merely credited with their Friday times when the day is done. Just before the collection break Regazzoni’s Ferrari emits a great sheet of flame out of the back as he hurriedly switches off with the throttle pedal jammed down fully. The fuel injection metering unit has seized wide open and prevented the throttle mechanism from closing, so he is towed back behind a course car. Not many people have been making improvements to their lap times during the first part of practice, and as the second part is due to start the rain began. It is just a sprinkle at first, but then it develops into a deluge and the clouds and weather comes right down onto the ground and sits there in the depressing way they can in the Eifel mountains. It is the end of serious practice, though a surprising number of drivers circulate round the pits-loop, splashing through the puddles on rain tyres and sending up fantastic spumes of spray behind them. Lauda is one of the first to try the wet conditions, soon followed by Regazzoni in the T Car, while Watson tried the brand new BT44 Brahham.
Scheckter was out in the spare Tyrrell. Hunt is out in the spare Hesketh, and Reutemann, Pryce, Lafitte, Peterson, Fittipaldi and Hill were all going round. Even Hulme makes a couple of passes, but he would have gone quicker on a push-bike! Fittipaldi gets all serious about the conditions and stops and has a different type of rear aerofoil fitted, to try the effect, but nobody seems interested in setting off round the full circuit under the rainy conditions. Practice eventually fizzles out and the fastest 25 cars are posted as starters, with the two Ferraris on the front row of the grid, followed by Fittipaldi and Scheckter leading the Cosworth brigade. Scheckter, Peterson, Hailwood, Watson and Pace all take advantage of the 1974 change-of-car rule, the South African having done his best time with the spare Tyrrell, the Swede having done his in the Lotus 72 before it destroyed itself, the motorcycle champion having done his time in his earlier McLaren before it too decides it has had enough, the Irishman deciding to use the new Brabham when his old one developed engine trouble and the Brazilian just wanting a change. Relegated to spectators on race day are Ashley, Migault, Schenken, Edwards, Perkins and Amon, but of these Ashley is told to stand-by with the Token, as first reserve, in case anyone fails to start. A really enormous crowd has been pouring into the Eifel mountains all during Saturday, the vast majority of them camping in the woods and fields around the circuit and the continuous heavy rain through Saturday night does not seem to have damped their enthusiasm. All the major vantage points are packed solid and the car parks are full to overflowing and the Nürburgring is all set to witness a good race. Overhead the sky is ominous, though the ground is dry and before the start, due at 1.30 p.m., it is announced that if rain develops during the first four laps the race will be stopped and restarted when the drivers and entrants consider it safe. If they will have done more than four laps and less than eight laps when the rain came, then the race will be stopped and restarted with everyone in the order they were when it was stopped.
If they will have done more than eight laps then the race will be stopped and considered finished. At 12:45 p.m. everyone is lined up in the pits road, ready to start off on a full warm-up lap, and standing by as a sign of the affluent times in Formula One, are spare cars for Team Tyrrell, Ferrari, Hesketh, McLaren, Surtees, Embassy-Lola and Shadow, while there is a spare Brabham in the paddock. As first reserve Ashley follows the 25 cars off on the warm-up lap, only to collect a flat tyre half-way round, so while everyone returns to the pits to top up with fuel and generally get ready, the Token is limping slowly round, arriving late with no tyre on the right front wheel. The suspension has been damaged, so while everyone begins to assemble on the dummy-grid the Token has new parts fitted and just makes it to the back of the grid in time. It is waved into position alongside Bell’s Surtees, making 26 cars on the start line, with no instructions as to what the driver is supposed to do. Everyone moves up to the main grid, the starting signal is given and a minor shambles develops. Gone are the days of the perfect Grand Prix start, we now get the standard Formula One fracas. Fittipaldi has trouble getting into gear, Depailler dodges past him, Hulme tries to go to the left, only to find Ickx overtaking him, and the two Texaco-Marlboro McLaren’s make contact, breaking the right rear suspension of Hulme’s car and knocking Fittipaldi’s left rear out of line. Hulme is left derelict in the middle of the track, while Fittipaldi gets away at the end of the field. Having seen Fittipaldi apparently unable to start, Ashley does not hesitate and took off with the rest of them. While this mid-field excitement is taking everyone’s attention, there are more important things happening out at the front. From his pole position Lauda does not make a very good start, and it is Regazzoni who shoots into the lead, with Scheckter hard behind him and Lauda in third place.
They go round the South Curve and up the straight behind the pits with Regazzoni leading and Lauda cursing himself for muffing his start. Going into the North Curve the Austrian tries to outbrake Scheckter’s Tyrrell, gets all crossed up on the inside, spins across the track, clipping the Tyrrell as he goes, and ends up in the barriers, the Ferrari badly bent and out of the race on the second corner. Regazzoni is away, with no one to bother him, and by the end of the first lap it is all over. Driving extremely confidently and running hard enough not to be bothered by anyone the Swiss driver reels off the laps, completely out of sight to all the hopefuls who thought they were going to beat him. The comic-turn among the mid-field runners has a second showing, for while McLaren M23/6 is dragged off the circuit, Hulme climbs into the spare McLaren and sets off round the full circuit, and, until the officials wake up and black-flag him, there are 26 cars running in the race, and a total of 27 out on the circuit. Fittipaldi is barely halfway round the first lap before his damaged rear tyre deflates and he limps his way slowly back to the pits. Hulme has two clear fast laps before being disqualified, and Ashley continues in the race, seemingly overlooked by everyone. Watson does only one lap with the new Brabham, retiring at the pits with something wrong with the right front suspension, which has put him off on the grass, and on the next lap Lafitte retires at the pits with the right rear upright casting broken on his Williams car. Reutemann is in good form and is pressing Scheckter hard, these two being in a Cosworth race that has little connection with the Ferrari race, and while Regazzoni dominates the scene a wistful Lauda explains to the continuous flow of enquirers that he has goofed. Fittipaldi does one more lap before retiring, the McLaren not feeling right, and Pace stops at the end of lap four to tell his mechanics that his Brabham does not feel right. As there is no obvious reason for his complaint they fiddle with the rear aerofoil and send him on his way.
In a surprising fourth place, but some way behind the Scheckter/Reutemann duel, lie Jochen Mass in his Surtees, leading Peterson in the cobbled-up Lotus 76/72, Depailler in Tyrrell 007/2, Ickx in Lotus 72/RS, Hailwood in McLaren M23/7 and Merzario in the latest Williams car. Hunt, Jarier, Beltoise and the rest follow at intervals. On the fifth lap Beltoise comes to rest when his BRM engine dies on him, through an apparent electrical fault, and Merzario is reduced to a crawling pace when the throttle linkage breaks a vital part and only allows one bank of slides to open. At this point it is sprinkling with rain on the far side of the circuit, and though most of the track is damp it is not significant enough for the race to be stopped, or to justify anyone stopping to fit rain tyres. On the Start and Finish plateau it is still dry, so only the drivers have to do any worrying, and they just get on with the job. Peterson, Ickx, Mass, Hailwood and Depailler have a bit of a carve-up during the sixth lap, and the Frenchman in the Tyrrell comes off second best, damaging the back end against the barriers, while Mass is elbowed to the back and the two Lotus drivers finish the lap side-by-side and a bit too close for comfort. Next time round the order of this group is Ickx, Mass, Hailwood and Peterson, and the issue seems to be settled. By the end of lap seven, which was half distance, Regazzoni is around the North Curve and away on his eighth lap before Scheckter and Reutemann come into view of the pits. The battle for fourth place is still going on, with Ickx in command, and behind them in eighth place was Hunt, followed by Jarier, Stuck, Pryce, Hill, Pescarolo, Brambilla, Bell, Ashley and Pace. Schuppan has retired the Ensign with gearbox trouble, having done nearly a lap with the throttle stuck open and driving and changing gear on the ignition switch. Regazzoni’s lead is so comfortable that he does not have to strain the Ferrari and is lapping just above the old lap record, which still stands to Pace (Surtees) in 7'11"4 from last year.
At the end of the eleventh lap Mass stops in a cloud of smoke as the Cosworth engine in his Surtees blows up in a big way, and this leaves Hailwood sandwiched between the two black and gold Lotus cars. Pryce is now in a good seventh place, having caught and passed his team-mate Jarier, and also Stuck in the orange March, and is driving an excellent race for one in a Grand Prix car on the Nürburgring for the first time. Scheckter just manages to scratch below the old lap record in his efforts to get rid of Reutemann, but it makes little impression on the leading Ferrari. Ashley has come charging into the pits with no tyre on the right front wheel of the Token for the second time in the day, and is soon back in the race with a new wheel fitted. The hurried repairs before the start meant that the steering was not properly aligned and the tyre had worn itself out. As Reutemann starts his last lap the rear aerofoil on his Brabham is breaking up, the right-hand side-plate hanging off and the whole thing threatening to fall off. The Lotus pair appears on their own, for Hailwood has landed all wrong after the jump at Pflanzgarten and the McLaren has turned violently sharp right, head-on into the Armco barrier, as if something has broken on landing. The front is smashed in and Hailwood is trapped in the wreckage with severely broken legs. When Regazzoni completes his fourteenth lap, having led from start to finish, he receives a rousing welcome and the whole Ferrari are beside themselves with joy, even Lauda raising a wan smile. Scheckter trails home in second place, followed by Reutemann, and then Peterson leads Ickx home by a few feet, having jumped him on the final straight. Pryce leads the rest home, Stuck coasting across the line with a dead engine having run out of petrol along the final straight. Graham Hill comes charging into ninth place right on the tail of Jarier’s Shadow, and Brambilla trails in at the end very slowly with a front tyre deflating. It has not been a great German Grand Prix, but it certainly has been an eventful one and it is a very satisfying win for Regazzoni and Ferrari.