#413 1985 German Grand Prix

2022-07-30 00:00

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#1985, Fulvio Conti,

#413 1985 German Grand Prix

When we went to the first Formula One race on the new Nürburgring last October it was to see the European Grand Prix, an extra event slipped into the c

When we went to the first Formula One race on the new Nürburgring last October it was to see the European Grand Prix, an extra event slipped into the calendar for administrative purposes, so it was not necessary to take it very seriously as an event, though it did score points for the Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ Championships. This year the visit to the Eifel Mountains is much more serious, for it’s for the German Grand Prix, the first Großer Preis von Deutschland to be held in the Eifel since 1976. The British Grand Prix is held on the Silverstone Club circuit, instead of the 3 mile outer circuit, or at Brands Hatch on the club circuit within the stadium, instead of the exciting bit out to Hawthorn’s and Westfield. I don’t think there will be much enthusiasm among the followers of the Grand Prix of Great Britain. The new Nürburgring seems to have the same effect on the Germans and 67.000 spectators turned up to watch the German Grand Prix, a mere shadow of its former self. In the past there are some memorable Großer Preis von Deutschland on the mighty Nürburgring but the best we are going to get on the new Nürburgring are going to be forgettable. Formula One today is such a slick and highly organize to traveling circus, prepared to erect its big top anywhere where the money is good, that everyone will assemble and organize on our village green if the money is right. It will only be on Friday morning at the scheduled 10:00 a.m. when practice is due to start that someone will say here, wait a minute, we can’t race on grass. One thing that the new Nürburgring does have is good facilities, spacious pit lane, large workshops, vast paddock area, hospitality suites above the pits, heat, light and sound in the garages and obviously ease of entry into the Formula 1 sanctum judging by the number of children in the pit lane. There are numerous changes to the pit lane scene. Enzo Osella, who is financing his little single-car team for Ghinzani, has reach the end of the financial road. Piercarlo Ghinzani is driving for the fun of it, with no money being involve, but now Enzo is force to ask him to stand down and make way for a driver with financial backing that he can put into the team.
This is the amiable Dutchman Huub Rothengatter, so car number 24 is in new hands. Being quite fair and straightforward Ken Tyrrell nominates Stefan Bellof to drive the lone Tyrrell-Renault turbo, as Brundle has driven it in the British GP, so it’s only right and proper that Bellof should drive it in the German GP. As one car is a Tyrrell-Renault and the other, which Brundle is to drive, a Tyrrell-Cosworth they are consider to be two different makes and this transgresses some obscure rule in the Concorde agreement. Officialdom said if the drivers change numbers all will be well, so Bellof became No 3 and Brundle No 4. Nobody really understands what it’s about, but officialdom is happy and that is the important thing. Both Tyrrell drivers have a spare car at their disposal, but as yet there isn’t a surfeit of Renault engines, or any 1985 engines for the boys in blue. The works Renault team is surpassing itself, entering a third car for Francois Hesnault. Tambay and Warrick have the new RE60 B car’s and one of the earlier RE60 cars are rebuilt to as near B-spec as possible and is the T-car. Hesnault’s car fits with a compact TV camera behind the cockpit, and the idea is that there will be a direct transmission relay up to a helicopter, pilot by the old Formula One driver Henri Pescarolo, and then become down to the normal television channel. It’s all good high tech stuff backed by Elf in conjunction with Thompson. For this camera Hesnault has one of the earlier RE60 cars, and the testing team of mechanics look after it. After trouble at Silverstone with the modification AP-Lockheed clutches on the Honda engines the Williams team now has new and stronger clutches to cope with the obvious power increase of the new Honda engines. The Toleman team is under the control of Pat Simmonds, as designer Rory Byrne is laids low with a bout of flu, and Alfa Romeo by Euroracing has taken a big step backwards. Patrese and Cheever were to drive modified 1984 cars, called 184TB and a lone 1985 car acting as the T-car. 
Ferrari are back to square one, running normal 1985 cars for Alboreto and Johansson and not the ones with the new front suspension that has appeared at the French Grand Prix. Like McLaren, Lotus, Arrows and Ligier, the Zakspeed team has to blank out its cigarette advertising to conform with German laws. With a lot of stopping and starting on the new short circuit, brakes are a vital factor and much attention is being paid to cooling and heat dissipation during the first test session. Fortunately the weather is cool, which helps, though the skies are sunny and bright, just how cool and humid the mountain air can be seen by the condensation streamers flowing off the corners of the rear aerofoils on some of the cars. As the morning progres the skies become cloudy and rain isn’t far off, so the afternoon qualifying saw most people trying to get out promptly while the track is dry. It almost goes without saying this year that Ayrton Senna set the pace early on with a Lotus-Renault, but the surprise of the afternoon is that Teo Fabi whirle the Toleman-Hart round indecently quickly and improve on Senna’s time by more than a second. It’s not as the result of some sudden magic produces by Rory Byrne on the Toleman part, or Brian Hart discovering a whole lot more power from his 4-cylinder engine, nor is it some magical qualifying tyres produces by Pirelli. The TolemanHart is very close to the front runners at the end of last season, and the team doesn’t restart until late into 1985, so has had a lot of ground to make up. This it has done steadily and it got a good average across all the variables, with no weak points, which gives Fabi a very healthy 1'17"429. Some of the serious opposition is in trouble, stemming from the morning test session, Piquet, for example, having to use his racecar as the special T-car has broken its engine and a new one is being install. Prost is plagued by brake trouble all morning, which has delay his tyre selection and chassis tuning, so he is using the qualifying hour as an extend testsession.
Mansell is also in brake trouble in the morning and this fed over into the afternoon so that he doesn’t get out until near the end of the qualifying hour, and Rosberg has spent the morning experimenting with variables to suit the circuit and isn’t really ready for the afternoon qualifying, and neither are the two Ferrari drivers, Alboreto and Johansson. The pace at the front of Grand Prix racing today is so fast and furious that there is no room for anyone who is not absolutely ready and needle sharp. While others are floundering about, the Toleman team is right on the ball, and little Teo Fabi makes the most of it. After doing one flying lap, in a time of 1'18"792, at the beginning of the hour, Senna is content to sit quietly in his cockpit, watching a VDU of the times, while his front tyres are in the back of the garage wraps up in electric blankets. He is totally confident that he can reclaim pole position any time he wants so sat and waits until 1:45 p.m. when the warm-up front tyres are fits, the Renault engine is starting up and he is ready to go. But then the engine die! The Renault engine man fiddles about but it still will not start and then after undoing various pipes and checking fuel flow it starts but will only run on near full-throttle and even then it pops and bangs. Time is running out for Senna so he elects to give it a try even though there is obviously something wrong. He goes away down the pit lane with the choice of 9.000 rpm or nothing and did one lap and straight back into the pits. It’s impossible. More fiddling about by the Renault mechanics but there isn’t improvement and in the final minutes Senna tries again, but it still isn’t worth even attempting a flying lap, so his earlier time has to stand. It later transpires that a rubber sealing washer has disintegrate and bits has got into the fuel pressure pump. Meanwhile, Piquet, Prost and Rosberg all have their final fling but none of them can depose Fabi from his position at the top, nor can Alboreto and Johansson, so the qualifying hour ends with the Toleman-Hart team grinning broadly for they have really put the cat among the pigeons, and nobody’s grin is broader than little Teo Fabi’s.
Johansson, Prost and Rosberg all improves on Senna’s single flying lap but the Toleman is 1.2 sec ahead of the best of them, which meant they are all going to have to improve by nearly two seconds in the Saturday qualifying session if honor is to be retrieved. Fabi is very happy and sais he thinks it will be quite nice if it rains on Saturday! It isn’t a very popular suggestion. Among the also-rans, and these days it tends to include the Regie Renault works team, while Lotus-Renault and LigierRenault are ahead of them, there are all the usual troubles. Warwick has a big moment when something breaks in the rear suspension and he spins in the middle of the track without hitting anything, but it’s a lucky spin. Lotus shambles is added to by de Angelis pulling off onto the grass verge in the T-car when a driveshaft joint broke. The trouble-ridden Minardi team, which seems to start off quite well back at Imola, is in total chaos. One car broke its engine and Pierluigi Martini wrecks the other one during the morning testing, so he has nothing to use for the qualifying period. Teams like RAM-Hart, Zakspeed, Alfa Romeo and Osella just don’t seem to be making any visible progress, while Ligier and Arrows have flashes of brilliance that are not sustainable. As the schedule hour of 10:00 a.m. arrives on Saturday morning to herald the start of another test-session, the rain starts, and that is that. It’s obviously set in for the day so all hopes of any improvement on Friday’s qualifying times are gone. The only thing to do is try and prepare for race-day being wet. Although the rain stops now and then there is never any hope of a dry track arid the morning session is well summed up by dear old Jacques Laffite making the fastest lap. The qualifying hour from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. isn’t better and at times got worse, and those who did venture out are on heavily tread rain tyres. Gordon Murray has just explains that he isn’t letting Piquet go out in the foul conditions as all he can do is to risk losing it on the slippery track and wrecking the Brabham, when Fabi lost the Toleman T-car on the pit straight as he changes gear and ram the guardrail, destroying the front.

It seems as if the rain may stay for race day so most drivers had a few laps in the rain, and when the rain stops and the sun shone briefly there is a flurry of activity, but it’s a waste of time as the rain returns and only de Angelis got below 1'30"0, more than 10 sec off a poor qualifying time of Friday. It’s now all over and Fabi is taking his first pole position in Formula One. It’s also the first time on pole position for Pirelli, Brian Hart’s engine, the Toleman car and their sponsors Benetton. Behind the scenes in the paddock there is genuine pleasure all round for the Toleman-Hart team, from rival engine manufacturers, other teams and ex-Toleman drivers. The only sad bit is that Rory Byrne isn’t there to enjoy it all. The Germans may have built a New Nürburgring, but it is still the same old weather in the Eifel mountains and nobody is very convince that Sunday will stay dry, though surprisingly it does, even though heavy clouds fill the skies. In the morning warm-up session, where everyone is running in race-trim, the heavies like McLaren, Lotus, Brabham and Ferrari are looking more their normal selves, but even so Fabi is still in with them with the Toleman. The 67 lap race is due to start at 2:30 p.m. and at 2:00 p.m. the pit lane is open to let everyone drive round the circuit to the dummy grid, most drivers putting in more than one lap. With Teo Fabi on pole position and Stefan Johansson in second place, these two comparative newcomers to the fore-front of Formula One must be a little apprehensive knowing that they have behind them a pretty tough bunch of racers in Prost, Rosberg, Senna, Piquet, de Angelis, Alboreto, Patrese, Mansell and Lauda. In the back half of the grid is the sad sight of three works Renaults, mingling with RAMs, Arrows and Tyrrells. The New Nürburgring starting grid is just after a slow corner so that though Fabi and Johansson take their places promptly at the front after the parade lap, it seems an age before the back of the field was in position after creeping round the slow corner.


The Toleman clutch seem to be dragging as Fabi held pole-position and Johansson got the jump on him as the green light comes on. The Toleman then spins its rear wheels violently and is swamp by the chargers from behind. In the rush to the first corner Senna made another Villeneuve start and is into the lead from Rosberg, while Alboreto locks his brakes and slid into his team-mate’s right rear wheel, puncturing the tyre. Senna and Rosberg are away, but round that opening lap the Honda-power Williams storms past the Renault-power Lotus and takes the lead with remarkable ease. Poor Johansson, who is looking forward to a really good race from the front, has to limp round the opening lap arriving at the pits long after everyone has gone by, with his right rear tyre in shreds. It’s replace and he rejoins the race as the leaders come up behind the paddock to finish their second lap. Of the 27 starters only 26 havd go by for Laffite has inadvertently punts his team-mate de Cesaris, off the track and into retirement in the first-corner fracas. In no time at all Rosberg and Senna opens up a gap to their followers, led by Alboreto, with de Angelis, Prost, Piquet, Mansell, Fabi and Patrese following. The Toleman driver has his moment of glory. A RAM retire almost at once, as seems inevitable, and the Renault team are so far back that they can’t see who is in the lead of the race. Back in the race Johansson is lapping fractionally faster than the race leader, which makes his first corner shunt all the more infuriating, and is galloping up on the tail-enders, but with little hope of getting in the top six, though it isn’t for want of trying. Patrese retires his Alfa Romeo in a cloud of smoke and the Zakspeed expires with engine trouble, and then the Renault camera car fizzled out with clutch trouble, thus putting an end to an expensive little TV experiment after only a few seconds transmission. The second RAM retires. By 10 laps a pattern has taken shape. Rosberg and Senna are well out in front, very evenly match, with Alberto, de Angelis and Prost in close company with third place at stake. Then comes Mansell leading a train of cars comprising the Brabham of Piquet, the Toleman, Boutsen’s Arrows-BMW, Lauda’s McLaren and Jack Lafferty in the Ligier. Cheever’s Alfa Romeo is leading the rest, which include Tambay and Warwick in the factory Renaults.


On lap 14 Senna decides he has to follow the Williams-Honda for long enough and make a lunge through the inside at the hairpin at the far end of the circuit. Rosberg is unimpressed and sat it out with the young Brazilian, but on the next lap Senna is more forceful and is by and into the lead. There is still little to choose between the two of them and it looks as if stalemate is approaching, but on lap 27 fate step in with another cruel blow for the brilliant Brazilian driver. This time Renault are blameless, unlike at Silverstone, for the Lotus let him down in the shape of a broken drive-shaft universal joint. How many times has Ayrton Senna retires while leading a race? Tambay spins off into the sandy run-off area on the corner before the pits and gets bogged down into retirement, and Warwick retires at the pits with electrical problems. Piquet is out in a cloud of flame and smoke as his turbo-charger blows up, and before half distance Cheever is out and also Fabi, the Toleman expiring onto the grass verge with no drive to its rear wheels. Rothengatter retired the Osella with a broken gearbox, de Angelis retires with Renault engine failure, and so it goes on. Rosberg has seem to be completely uncatchable but as lap 40 approaches he begins to lose ground and Alboreto and Prost close up on him. As they end lap 45 there is a bit of pushing and shoving as they break for the last corner and Rosberg goes into it in first place, but comes out of it in third place. The Williams breaks are behaving oddly and Rosberg has to leave the other two to go. A fair way behind him Mansell is still holding off his pursuers, but they are now down to Boutsen and Laffite, for Piquet has gone out spectacularly, as already mention and Lauda has gone into the pits with a nasty grating noise somewhere behind him. A piece of ducting has come loose and is chafing a tyre, so it’s just as well that he stops to have it removes, and he has new tyres while he is there. Boutsen’s tyres are wearing badly and Laffite finds a way by, into fifth place and begins to close on Mansell. Throughout all these happenings Johansson has never ease up and is driving splendidly, now up into seventh place.


With ten laps to go Rosberg is into the pits for a change of tyres, but it’s to no avail as four laps later, he’s back to retire with brake trouble. In the closing phase of the race the leading Ferrari begins to smoke slightly as it accelerates out of the slow corners, and Prost must have smile to himself, thinking it will only be a matter of time before he inherits the lead. However it doesn't work out that way. At the end of lap 57 Rosberg is heading for the pits and a new set of tyres, and Mansell and Laffite go by, and at the end of the next lap Prost locks up his rear brakes into the last corner and spin off into the run-off area. He keeps the Porsche engine running and is able to get back on the track without losing his second place, but now all hope of catching Alboreto is gone, and the smoke from the Ferrari isn’t getting any worse, so obviously it’s not serious. As Alboreto cruises through the remaining laps, with Prost trailing some ten seconds behind, Laffite and Mansell are having a splendid ding-dong. The Honda engine in the Williams is losing turbocharger boost and subsequent power, while the Renault engine in the Ligier is very healthy and the two cars pass and repass, but with three laps to go the Honda sounds very rough and Laffite got away, while Boutsen catches and pass Mansell, and within sight of the finish Lauda catches and pass the sick Williams-Honda. Johansson’s climb up through the field has suffer a setback at the end of lap 63 when erratic wearing brakes catch him out and he spins, letting Berger’s Arrows get ahead again, and a lap later Bellof in the TyrrellRenault passes the Ferrari. Martin Brundle’s drive in the totally outclass Tyrrell-Cosworth V8 is a classic example of the right stuff. Although he is last, some four laps behind the leader, he never gives up driving hard and quite a few factory team drivers will do well to copy his example. As a Formula One race it’s not exactly enthralling and as the Großer Preis von Deutschland it’s a shadow of its former self. The new Nürburgring is what the Formula One establishment demands under the guise of the great god safety, and that is what they have got. I don’t think very much adrenaline flowes either on the track or among the handful of spectators.



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