LAT Archive: Memorable Hockenheim moments

With Formula 1 visiting Hockenheim this weekend AutoClassics and LAT look at some of the dramatic moments from the circuit’s past, complete with stunning pictures

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The Hockenheim circuit that hosts the latest German Grand Prix can be said more than most to have a past that is rarely pure and never simple.

Hockenheim joined the Formula 1 calendar initially in 1970 as a replacement for the lauded Nürburgring Nordschleife and has itself undergone a grand shift in the years since, with the previous long forest blasts dissected in 2002 by a much more all mod cons facility. Both track incarnations divided opinion, and perhaps aptly the circuit’s history has also varied – with plenty of enduring moments for good and for ill.

Thanks to the LAT Archive, AutoClassics looks at Hockenheim’s bittersweet and often enduring history in F1 and beyond.

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1970: Rindt’s final win

Hockenheim hosted its first Formula 1 German Grand Prix when the drivers refused to return to the fearsome Nürburgring until safety upgrades were made. They were made and drivers did return (for a while), but not until the following year.

For 1970 Hockenheim stepped into the breach, and was host to a fine slipstreaming battle which ended with Jochen Rindt continuing his dominant summer in the revolutionary Lotus 72. He and Jacky Ickx’s Ferrari swapped the lead on several occasions – Ickx’s team-mate Clay Regazzoni and Chris Amon’s March were in the mix too until mid-race engine failures.

With two laps left Rindt appeared in the lead with a 0.9 second advantage over Ickx – just about his biggest of the day – and it was decisive. The Austrian thus bagged his fourth win in a row and five from eight that season. But it was to be his last, as tragedy awaited at Monza prior to him becoming F1’s only posthumous champion.

1982: Tambay's timely triumph

Hockenheim has been the scene of its share of tragedy, not least with Jim Clark’s passing in a Formula 2 race in 1968. And in streaming Saturday morning practice for the 1982 German Grand Prix championship leader Didier Pironi in his Ferrari cheated death in a spectacular barrel roll over Alain Prost’s Renault, unseen in the thick spray.

It left Pironi with fearsome leg injuries and his title chances gone. Patrick Tambay – himself stepping in to replace his recently departed friend Gilles Villeneuve – the next day ensured some good came of the weekend for the Scuderia as he won the race. The sort of result that brings a smile to just about everyone.

Nelson Piquet wasn’t smiling though, as leading by a distance and with what should have been modern F1’s first planned in-race refuelling stop imminent he was pitched out after contact with Eliseo Salazar’s lapped ATS. And he immediately sought retribution with some unconvincing kicks and slaps at his foe.

1985: Bell keeps his cool

The sense of bittersweet continued when the World Sportscar Championship visited in 1985. There was near disaster in the Rothmans Porsche pit when Jochen Mass came into refuel. The intense mid-July heat meant the pressure inside the tank was such that it blew fuel back up the refuelling hose. Fire erupted and team boss Norbert Singer and five mechanics were burnt but by sheer deliverance not majorly.

Derek Bell in the sister Porsche somehow remained calm in his cockpit mere metres away as his car was serviced. He got back into the fray having only lost half a minute, and paired with Hans Stuck won after the leading Brun Porsche of Stefan Bellof and Thierry Boutsen dropped out with electrical failure.

There were two more pitlane fires – within seconds of each other – before the day was out. A pit crowded with all sorts of hangers on and Keystone Cops local fire crews hardly helped. It was unsurprising that sportscars stayed away subsequently, tending to prefer the Nürburging for its German stop-offs.

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1986: Prost tries a push

It had looked so simple. An on-form Nelson Piquet in the magnificent Williams-Honda FW11 beat the McLaren pair of Keke Rosberg and Alain Prost, despite Piquet having an extra tyre stop.

Yet this was an age of a strict in-race fuel limit, and the means of managing fuel use rather rudimentary. On the last lap it made itself felt, and with it provided an image that rather summed up the absurdity. The McLarens were hit – first Rosberg stopped with an empty tank halfway around the lap, then entering the stadium section loop at the tour’s end Prost, usually a master with the fuel gauge, was himself running dry.

He bobbed in the cockpit to try to bounce his final dregs into the engine, then as he slowed to a halt despairingly a few metres short of the line got out to push – before realising such a move was against the rules. A single point for being classified sixth was meagre reward.

1994: Towering inferno

The 1994 Grand Prix would have been noteworthy anyway. Gerhard Berger ended Ferrari’s longest ever F1 victory drought. Just 15 of the 26 starters survived the first lap after a series of incidents, and the survivors included both Williams crawling into pit with damage.

But that none of this provided the main headline shows what a bizarre race this one was. Refuelling had been brought back to F1 that year despite safety concerns, and the concerns came to pass at Hockenheim. Jos Verstappen pitted and fuel continued to flow after the hose had been detached from his Benetton, splashing over the side of the car.

And just at the point we could comprehend this an inferno suddenly towered – the Benetton and its crew enveloped in flame. Fortunately though the conflagration was extinguished about as quickly and the injuries were only minor. Everyone breathed a conspicuous sigh of relief.

2000: Barrichello’s breakthrough

As with many memorable drives this one was highly unexpected, and done in adversity. Rubens Barrichello in his Ferrari qualified just 18th in a crazy dry-to-wet-to-dry qualifying session. And by the race’s first corner it looked like the Ferrari challenge was over as Michael Schumacher crashed out, leaving McLarens imperiously first and second.

Barrichello moved smoothly up to third, albeit on a two-stop strategy rather than the usual one-stopper; whatever the McLarens were well out of reach. But the race started to tilt towards the Brazilian with a safety car, ironically brought about by a disgruntled ex-employee of McLaren’s engine partner Mercedes getting onto the circuit.

It tilted further Barrichello’s way with a later arrival of rain, in which the stadium section was soaked but the long back leg of the track was bone dry. Long-time leader Mika Häkkinen pitted for wet tyres; Barrichello pushed on bravely still on slicks and inherited the lead. He still led at the end and took his freshman win. They hardly get more popular.

2010: Scuderia switch around

By now Hockenheim had undergone its major layout revision, and the 2010 Grand Prix there contained a team call that similarly – and vociferously – divided views. Ferrari found itself in the first two places, but Fernando Alonso – with the better title chance – was behind his team-mate Felipe Massa.

Thus came the notorious ‘Fernando is faster than you’ message – the implications of which were lost on no one. Ferrari got its perfect result yet amid the embarrassment their expressions were those of losers.

From the championship angle the call made perfect sense, though as team orders were banned the team was forced to perform a charade. It didn’t help that it was exactly one year on from an accident in which Massa nearly died. Nor that while Ferrari had some months earlier agreed to back Alonso for the title it somehow neglected seemingly to tell Massa. Here it all came to a head. Though at least on the back of this the unworkable team order ban was ditched.

2018: Diverting DTM

The second race of the two in this year’s DTM season-opening round will live long in the memory. BMW's Timo Glock was locked in an exhilarating and seemingly endless fight with Mercedes’ Gary Paffett.

Glock led from pole but Paffett from a lowly grid slot closed in on him. Then the fun started; quickly we lost count of the number of times the pair got side-by-side and swapped the lead. In the end Glock won and Paffett slipped behind Mike Rockenfeller’s Audi to finish third, but in a way it mattered not.

Then, as if to remain in keeping with that at Hockenheim things are rarely altogether straightforward, on the slowing down lap Glock on his radio – and broadcast to the world – admonished Mercedes for planning to leave a series capable of such thrilling action. And did so in what could be described as rich Anglo-Saxon terms…

Images courtesy of LAT Archive

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