For two races Brabham had lain in wait, desperate to reintroduce pitstops at the highest level of racing. Two bursts on half-tanks and fresh rubber would be, reckoned Gordon Murray, the quickest way to complete a race.
Each time a Day-Glo stripe had been painted on the pit-road to guide the BT5Os of Piquet and Patrese into the correct space. Each time the Paramalat-liveried pressurised fuel tanks had been prepped. Each time the mechanics had sweated, togged up in their fireproofs. And each time their cars had failed to make it to half-distance.
It was more of the same for Patrese (on full tanks) along the straights of Hockenheim, his engine going pop when a piston failed on lap 14. But for his team leader (on half tanks), all was going to plan.
Having disposed of both Renaults on the opening two laps, Piquet proceeded to pull away steadily. By lap 19, he had a 24sec cushion a big lead by most standards. Except, of course, he was to stop soon, to enter uncharted waters. Because of this, he was pushing as hard as he dared when he came up to lap Eliseo Salazar on lap 20.
The Chilean was struggling along in one of Gunther Schmid’s ATSs. He had been 7sec slower than Piquet in qualifying and Piquet had only been fourth-fastest The speed differential was huge and the Brabham swept alongside in the braking area for the Ostkurve chicane, which in those days was a left-right-left pimple on the outside of this once-superfast right-hander. Piquet didn’t quite get by before turning in; Salazar did not quite get stopped, locking up on the dust and marbles off the line. They collided. Their races were run.
The reigning champion was furious outwardly with the hapless back-marker, inwardly with himself. But it was Salazar who copped it, Piquet flailing away with fists and feet Very unedifying.
Yet, as Piquet told Mike Doodson in a recent interview, Salazar had done him and BMW a good turn: “The guys discovered the skirt on one of my pistons had started to breakup. One more lap and it would have been finished. Imagine what the press would have said: the first F1 race for BMW in Germany with the turbo, and me leading…”
It’s just a shame Piquet only discovered this in 1993.