#399 1984 German Grand Prix

2021-09-13 00:00

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#1984, Fulvio Conti, Rebecca Asolari,

#399 1984 German Grand Prix

With the opening of the new Motodrome in the Eifel Mountains, to replace the legendary Nurburgring, there is a feeling at the Hockenheimring that 1984

With the opening of the new Motodrome in the Eifel Mountains, to replace the legendary Nurburgring, there is a feeling at the Hockenheimring that 1984 may see the last German Grand Prix to behold there. People who have this feeling have yet to visit the new Eifelring and they are not looking closely at the success of the Formula One races at Hockenheimring over the past few years. Not success by the standards of exciting races or legends being made, but the simple one of 100,000 paying customers pack into a stadium, making a financial success for the organizers. A stadium to the German populace is a bit like a golf course to the British, it is part of their nature and upbringing, and when that Stadium is alongside an Autobahn and only a few minutes from vast urban areas it isn’t surprising that the crowds pour in. Whether the same crowds, the stadium-goers, will travel all the way to the Eifel mountains is another question. To go to the mountains for a weekend of camping and open-air activities is one thing, but to sit in a concrete stadium and have to use binoculars to see the cars and drivers is something else. As proof that you can get use to anything is the fact that few people inside Formula One complain about Hockenheimring any more. The organization is trouble-free, the whole affair runs smoothly, traffic organization is very impressive, even though it does mean traversing the small town of Hockenheim, and there is an air of organization that is efficient if bland and impersonal. The flat and fast circuit (apart from the Mickey Mouse bit inside the stadium) leaves very little impression, for any sort of driving challenge has long since been remove by the introduction of chicanes. The Hockenheimring is where the German Grand Prix is held and every year someone wins it, but for the life of me I can’t remember who won it last year, or how he did it! It’s that sort of place. If you look upwards out of the concrete stadium on Friday morning you see the most beautiful blue skies, and the sun is shining brightly.


Just right for photography, so the morning test-session got underway with Warwick (Renault) and Fabi (Brabham) setting off with film cameras mount behind their heads, while others begin the serious business of testing tyres, suspension, aerodynamics, boost pressure and all the other variables in preparation for the afternoon qualifying hour. Although everyone is ready the session seems to be going rather slowly, but gradually the normal pace develops with all the expect fast drivers up at the front of the time list, all the slow ones at bottom, and the mediocre midfield with all the right people in it. Just behind the really fast boys is young Ayrton Senna in a brand new Toleman-Hart using a Ferrari-type rear aerofoil in place of Rory Byrne’s unique double rear aerofoil. This sight of Senna up with the fast boys is something that is becoming a regular occurrence, rather than a flash-in-the-pan, which puts into perspective any detractors of the Hart 4 cylinder engine. Team Lotus are in dire trouble, Mansell walking back to the pits after abandoning his Lotus-Renault, and de Angelis using the T-car after his own car blew up. Ferrari has bring along four cars for Arnoux and Alboreto, each driver having a car with new rear suspension and one with the old suspension. As neither driver seems able to decide whether the new suspension is an improvement over the old system, they both opt to use their T-cars with the old-type suspension. Mauro Forghieri’s look of despair told it all. If engineers can’t get any intelligent feed-back from the drivers, how on earth can they make progress? In the McLaren camp, as always, there is quiet progress being make as Lauda and Prost make their plans to win the German Grand Prix. In the Brabham pit it’s a similar scene, the BT53 cars using carbon-fiber brake discs and pads on this circuit that gives the brakes a fairly easy time as regards their rate of application and freedom from heat build-up. Piquet is his usual confident and mischievous self, while Teo Fabi is aiming to get down to Formula 1 seriously, having rid himself of his American racing commitments in the CART series.


At the lower end of the field the MacDonald RAM team has really worked overtime and rebuilt both the cars that are damage at Brands Hatch, and the Osella team has rebuild the car that Gartner crashed. Tyrrell has his three 012 cars in the pit lane, but neither of his regular drivers, Brundle still being on the sick-list and Bellof being commit to an Endurance race in Canada with the works Porsche team. Stefan Johansson stand (or to be more precise, sat) in for Brundle in 012/4 and Mike Thackwell took the place of Bellof in the black 012/5. The team is still under the cloud of suspicion, following rule breaking, and until Ken Tyrrell’s appeal is heard by the FIA, the cars are being allow to take part in the Grand Prix events, but not in the World Championship. Before practice starts it’s make clear that the 26 cars on grid rule will be change to 27 if any regular Championship contender qualifies behind the Tyrrell cars. If the Tyrrell cars are 26 and 27 in qualifying, the 26 cars rule would apply. The ATS team appears to be well-organize, with a brand new D7 car to supplement their original one, and the Arrows team has a full complement of three BMW-powered A7 cars. It’s still very warm when qualifying begins at 1:00 p.m. and Piquet is out almost immediately to set a bogey time of 1'48"698, which gives an average speed of 140 mph. He does this in his race car (BT53/4) rather than the sprint special qualifying car (BT53/3), as the latter has given trouble during the morning testing. This bogey time doesn’t last long, for both Warwick and de Angelis beat it, the Lotus driver almost breaking into the 1'47"0, with an impressive 1'48"033 lap. Their team-mates aren’t with them on this occasion, Tambay still sorting out a brand new Renault (RE50/09) and Mansell having gearbox problems. These eventually turn out to be some new Italian-made gears, deliver directly to the circuit, being .020 in oversize on the dog-depth. After they are correct in a local machine shop everything works perfectly, but it’s not put right until race morning.


Lauda is in fourth place and just behind him is that young man Ayrton Senna and the Toleman-Hart. In 27th place is Rosberg. There is little point in asking what is wrong, for if Frank Williams and Patrick Head knew, Rosberg will be up in the first half-dozen. It looks like it’s going to be one of those days for the Williams team. As the hour progres so did the heat, and inside the concrete bowl it’s oppressive as everyone waits for the last few minutes before having a final go for pole position. Unfortunately Tambay has his Renault engine blow up and there is a lot of oil around the track in the stadium, which put pay to any more really fast times, so de Angelis actually retaine pole position. Tambay has to make his qualifying time in Warwick’s car, as it’s the T-car which has blown up. Tambay’s race-car has given trouble early on. There are only 27 cars taking part, as the Toleman team has withdrawn their second entry, Cecotto being out of action following his Brands Hatch accident. On Saturday morning the rain is pouring down and those who venture out did so on heavily trade wet-weather tyres, but there is little to learn. The main concern is that the weather will not clear up, so that Friday’s times will give the starting grid positions. While this meant joy in the Lotus team, it’s despair in the Williams team, with Rosberg in last place. However, the weatherman has promise that clear and dry weather is on its way so everyone splashes around hopefully. Sure enough, as the test session ended at 11:30 a.m., the sun appears and vapor rose from the track as the hot sun dries things out. As the track isn’t completely dry out by 1:00 p.m., those who already have a good grid time from Friday are prepare to sit and wait, but Rosberg can’t afford this luxury so is all wound up tight to go at the instant the pit lane is open.


Unfortunately he is hold up by a recalcitrant body fastener that will not click shut and the Williams mechanics waste a lot of time frigging about with it before sending him off with a piece of sticky tape holding it in place! Instantly Rosberg moves himself up from 27th place to 19th place. The others wait, Piquet sitting in the lightweight Brabham, immobile but ready to go, Tambay sitting in his Renault, Arnoux and Alboreto in their old type suspension Ferraris and so on. There is quite an air of tension in the pits, which the spectators can unfortunately not see or appreciate, being a million miles away in their vast grandstands. At 1:20 p.m. Tambay drives off down the pit lane, the first to break the tension and all eyes and stopwatches are on him, for his lap times are going to give an indication of the track conditions. Laffite goes out, but causes little interest, though when Alboreto moves off down the pit lane interest perks up. As the fast boys begin to make their first runs the tension subside and by 1:40 p.m. all hell has broken loose. De Angelis is quick, but Prost is quicker, Warwick is still up with them, Piquet isn’t far behind and Lauda spins off onto the grass in the stadium! Things are hotting up. The Austrian is using a long-service engine in his McLaren and it’s beginning to smoke and show signs of wear. Trying a bit too hard, too soon, Lauda loses it and spins. He returns to the pits with a damaged nose cowling and grass on the tyres, but nothing serious is wrong. In the last ten minutes the pace is frantic but nobody can dislodge Prost from his pole position, though de Angelis is very close to him, these two being on their own in the 1'47"0, whereas Warwick, Tambay, Piquet and Alboreto are in the 1'48"0 In the 1'49"0 area are Lauda, Fabi, Senna and Amoux. Of these Fabi is particularly please, as he feels he is beginning to make Formula One progress at last, and Senna is there by reason of his Friday time, a continual misfire in the Hart engine preventing him going any quicker.

It’s raining again on Sunday morning, but not for long, and by the time the warm-up period starts all was well, though the skies aren’t clear of ominous clouds. The Ferrari drivers are still in their T-cars, with the old suspension, and the other two cars are convert back to the old layout, making Forghieri wonder why he bother to design new things. There are troubles at both ends of the pit lane during this half-hour, for Lauda arrives with his Porsche engine screaming its head off, the throttles halving stuck open and the ignition switch having failed, while down in the Spirit pit there is gloom as Rothengatter has stop out on the circuit with a hole in the bottom of his Hart engine, so the spare car has to be made ready. Prost is soon back into his pit, his engine not running right in the McLaren, but the Brabham team and the Lotus team seem to be in good order. The race isn’t due to start until 2:30 p.m. so there is enough time to sort things out, for Formula 1 standards of work can accomplish miracles while most people are having lunch. Although it’s warm and dry as the cars are preparing for the race there are still some heavy clouds circulating, and as they form up on the grid a few spots of rain fall, but don’t develop into anything. Prost has rush back into the pits, his engine still not running properly and as the fuel pump is suspect he is strap into the waiting T-car and tore off round the circuit once more to take up pole position long after everyone else is in position. All is in good order and Prost led the field away on the parade lap, seeming to be gone for an awfully long time as the Hockenheim circuit is one of the longer ones. They all arrive back safely and as the tail-enders stop on their marks, the lights come on red, then blink to green and all 26 cars surged away. From his inside position de Angelis makes a beautiful getaway and got the drop on Prost, while Warwick sliced across and tuck in behind the Lotus.


They sort themselves out on the opening lap and de Angelis led back into the stadium, followed by Prost, Piquet, Warwick, Tambay, Senna, Alboreto, Lauda. Fabi and the rest. Rosberg is picking off the tailenders very quickly and his pace is such that one can be forgiven for thinking that he is on half a tank of petrol and soft tyres in a bid to make some sort of showing. When 25 cars have gone by and out of the stadium, the 26th arrive, this being the Arrows-BMW of Surer which has gone wrong in its fuel injection system and will only run on tick-over. He trickles into the pits but nothing can be done about it. Within three laps a gap has appeare after Piquet and before Warwick arrive, and while de Angelis looks comfortable in the lead, he can’t have feel comfortable with Prost and Piquet lurking behind him. Senna is an impressive fifth in the Toleman ahead of Tambay, but on lap five he has the father-and-mother of spins on the fast outward leg before the East Curve chicane, and thump the Armco with the right rear corner. The rear aerofoil has broken away and collapse while he is doing about 175 mph on the long right-hand curve. He escapes without so much as a bruise and is remarkably cool and collect about the whole thing afterwards, not so much annoyed by the breakage, but the fact that the car is going so well and he has his sights on Warwick’s Renault at the time. The incredible Rosberg is now up to seventh place. The scene at the front doesn’t last long, a mere seven laps out of the scheduled 44, for on lap 8 the Renault engine in the Lotus blew up and as Prost dodge past into the lead, Piquet goes one better and goes by both the stricken Lotus and the McLaren, to lead back into the stadium at the end of lap 8. Now it’s a straight confrontation, Piquet versus Prost, BMW engine versus Porsche engine, and both cars are on Michelin tyres so there aren’t excuses. It looks like stalemate for neither driver seems to have any sort of advantage and Lauda is too far behind in third place to join in with any team tactics.

The Austrian has start off carefully, as is his normal practice, and has pass Rosberg and Warwick as the race settled down. Within a lap the two Williams-Hondas fail, to complete a really miserable weekend for the Didcot team. Laffite comes into the pits with smoke pouring from an exhaust pipe and signs of a disintegrate piston coming out of the pipe, and Rosberg coasts to a stop out on the circuit with an electrical fault. Barely has the Williams cars gone then the second RAM car disappears and then Gartner drives into the pit-lane with his Osella carrying a merry little bonfire around its right hand turbocharger on the V8 Alfa Romeo engine. Alboreto goes out with an electrical fault and Patrese breaks his gearbox. The high-speed circuit with its three chicanes calling for instant stop-and-go tactics is taking its toll. On lap 22 Piquet finds difficulty in selecting gears and slows dramatically, with Prost and Lauda both going by. The Brabham is using its special 6-speed gear cluster, to give five normal ratios and a sort of overdrive top, and Piquet is having trouble finding second, fourth or sixth. He does one more lap trying to sort things out but to no avail, and drives into the pits at the end of lap 23. Mischievous as ever, the little Brazilian indicates to his mechanic that he wants all four tyres change as he pulls up. This they do in typical Brabham efficient manner and when they all step back after little more than 10 seconds, Piquet undo his seat belts, stand up and take his helmet off, roaring with laughter. Such is the respect for the World Champion within the Brabham team that the joke is taken in good part by everyone. Meanwhile, out on the rather dull track the two McLarens were in total command, the red and white cars looking a picture of efficiency as they drone their way onwards. No matter what you care to call the Porsche engine, or who is paying for it, as far as the Hockenheimring is concerne, Stuttgart has win the day over Munich, even though this time the failure doesn’t lie with the M-Power engine. It is an interesting German industry confrontation while it lasts. We are only just at the halfway point but it’s all over.


Lauda has a bit of a go to see how fast Prost is going, but the Frenchman responds instantly so the wily Austrian eases off and settles for second place, and the McLaren, Marlboro, TAG, Porsche combine keep a watch on two cars as they circulate together with no opposition in sight. In a lonely third place, but quite content with things, come Derek Warwick, followed by Fabi in the second Brabham, but on lap 28 the boost pressure on the Brabham begins to sag and the second blue and white car from Chessington is out. It really is a Stuttgart white-wash. A long way back (by today’s standards that is) come Patrick Tambay struggling hard with an engine that doesn’t seem to have enough power, and he is being haul in by Nigel Mansell who has work his way up from 16th place on the grid, eventually to pass the Renault and take a worthwhile fourth place. At the back of the field there is a jolly little dice going on between the two Ligier-Renault drivers, Francois Hesnault not only keeping station with his team-leader Andrea de Cesaris, but actually leading him a lot of the time. The two of them pass and repass continually, which helps to keep the huge crowd awake, for if you aren’t a Porsche fan the whole thing has become very boring. Arnoux’s Ferrari is still running but he is lap by the McLarens and right at the back of what is left, Rothengatter’s gearbox is breaking up under his strong right arm, while Johansson is keeping his Tyrrell going as well as he can on this fast circuit. It all run out according to plan, the McLarens finishing a magnificent first and second, with the fastest lap to Prost as a bonus. The Ligier team race fizzles out on the last lap as Hesnault’s car ran out of fuel, though he is able to coast over the line, thankful that he is lap by the leaders, so that he only has to cover 43 laps. Immediately after the finish the first six cars are weighed and Prost’s McLaren shows 551 kg, Lauda’s McLaren 546 kg and Warwick’s Renault 550 kg, just as they finish. Think about that. Around 1.200 lb or 10 1/2 cwt in racing trim, with at least 650 bhp available at around 11.000 rpm.


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