1979 German Grand Prix race report

1979 German GP feature

Alan Jones scored a first win of the season for WIlliams

Motorsport Images

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

A Williams One-Two in the Hockenheim Stadium

Hockenheimring, July 29th

If one did not go to the Eifel mountains on the way down to the Heidelberg/Mannheim plains, and do a lap of the Nürburgring it would be easy to forget that the German Grand Prix used to be a great event. An event where racing drivers could prove themselves and make legends that would join those created since the start of the German Grand Prix, that would live forever in the annals of Grand Prix racing. They could also die on the Nürburgring, just like Jim Clark died on the Hockenheimring.

The German round in the Formula One championship series seems settled in the dusty concrete stadium of the Hockenheimring and nobody seems to be particularly worried either way. You either like Germany or you don’t, and if you do you accept the vastness of the stadium and the paddock area as being convenient for working on racing cars and sending them off into the woods to see if they work. The area beyond the stadium seems a sort of no-man’s land, hidden visually and orally from those inside the amphitheatre, and you get no excited anticipation of hearing the cars approach, and when they are in the stadium the corners do no provide much of interest. While they are gone from view, which is quite a long time by present day standards, with a lap time of 1 min. 50 sec. or more, there is nothing to encourage the imagination, so you simply wait with a vacant stare on your face until they return. When I first went to the Hockenheimring in 1950 I was not very impressed, having already been to the Nürburgring, and nearly 30 years later I am still not impressed.

The Mosley/Ecclestone “arrangement” with the AVD decided that 95,000 paying spectators that you can see and count, are better for their pockets than a mythical 250,000 that you might see, but certainly could not count among the hills around the Nürburgring. So we all went to Hockenheimring to see the German Grand Prix and fortunately it was nice and warm and everyone was friendly and pleasant so it was better than no German Grand Prix at all.

Following their victory in the British GP at Silverstone the Frank Williams team did not sit down and wonder what had happened, like some teams have done when they win a race. They arrived at the Hockenheimring ready to go and ready to challenge anyone. There was a brand new car for Alan Jones (FW07/004), the usual one for Regazzoni (002) and Jones’ previous race car as the spare (003). The hard-worked original car (001) was left at home and given a well-earned rest. All three cars were looking their usual neat and trim selves, with no alterations to the design, or ‘bodges’ to cover up original defects or design faults. It is a great credit to Patrick Head, the designer, that the FW07 design was about right from the word go, just as his FW06 design was last year.

In contrast the Team Lotus scene was very sad, with no sign of the Lotus 80, from which we had all expected so much nor the Mark 2 Lotus 80. Andretti and Reutemann each had a Lotus 79, albeit modified in many small ways to improve the rear suspension, and they had another Lotus 79 as spare. This situation must surely be temporary, for Colin Chapman never gives in, and he has produced too many successful designs in the past to assume he cannot do it again. While Lotus are floundering, McLaren seem to be regaining their feet; the new M29 went well at Silverstone in the hands of John Watson, and another one was now ready for Tambay, with Watson’s old M28/3C as spare. The Ferrari team rung the changes once more on their set of T4 models, the drivers having the cars they had used in the French GP (Scheckter 040) and (Villeneuve 041) with Scheckter’s Silverstone car (039) as the spare, no major changes being made, merely some puzzled looks as to where their domination had gone. Equally puzzled were the Ligier team who were so dominant at the beginning of the year and were now floundering in a muddle trying to find out what had gone wrong, when in reality nothing had gone wrong. The other 1979 cars, like Ferrari, Renault and Williams, were better than the Ligier when they appeared part way through the season. The French team seemed to be worrying unduly and looking for tiny details, like modified steering arms and different front suspension geometry, when in fact their cars were not going at all badly. If there was any trouble it was probably psychological, for Laffite no longer had the needling impetus of Depailler behind or alongside him.

Emerson Fittipaldi had his 1979 car out again, considerably redesigned from the monocoque outwards, the side pods and under-car airflow being much more on the Lotus/Ligier principles and shape. New front brake calipers by the Brazilian Varga firm were being used, with Lockheed rear brakes and the total redesign of the rear suspension layout to provide passage for the under-car air also incorporated new rear hubs with large diameter ball-races and the ultra-large hub nuts, rather like Ferrari, though the front ones remained small; this layout requiring two sizes of pneumatic wheel-nut spanners.

Not long ago the entry seemed to be overwhelmed with French drivers, but now they seem to be falling by the wayside through no fault of motor racing. First Depailler put himself out of action with a hand-gliding accident and now Jean-Pierre Jarier was on the sick list with a serious liver complaint. This mean that Ken Tyrrell needed another driver for his 009 team, and he gave the chance to Englishman Geoffrey Lees. Apparently Tyrrell had contemplated giving Lees a try at the end of last season, after watching him perform in an Ensign, but a shortage of cars prevented this happening, but now he was being thrown in at the deep end to support Didier Pironi in the blue Tyrrells. The darker blue cars of the Shadow team were their usual four for their two young rent-a-drivers and they each had an uprated car. That of de Angelis (DN9/3B-2) having been modified for Silverstone, and a similar layout being now added to Lammer’s car (DN9/2B). Mainly this involved an entirely new layout at the rear to bring it in line with Lotus 79 thinking, tucking the suspension units and exhaust system out of the way, to get the air out from under the car. The blue-black Wolf cars for Rosberg were the latest one, WR9, with the outboard rear brakes, and WR8.

In the Brabham camp it was a case of no change, Lauda and Piquet having their regular cars and a spare one to share, and a seemingly pious hope that the V12 Alfa Romeo engines would prove reliable. With Alfa Romeo withdrawing their own entry, to concentrate on preparation of new cars for the forthcoming races in Austria and Italy, Carlo Chiti and his engineers were paying more attention to the Brabham team. Renault were still quietly confident after their French GP victory, knowing full well why they only (only!) managed second place in the British GP. They arrived with their two cars for Jabouille (RS11) and Arnoux (RS12) and the spare (RS10) was following later. The remaining teams of ATS, Arrows, Ensign, Merzario and Rebaque were all in their normal condition, an equal and unchanging scene amidst the chorus.

Qualifying

1979 German GP Jabouille

Jean-Pierre Jabouille took another pole for Renault

Motorsport Images

The stadium was very dry and dusty and the air was very warm, so that the concrete atmosphere became very warm. Any misdemeanours by drivers within the stadium showed up as an enormous dust cloud, and brightly coloured cars arrived at the pits looking grey if they had been off the road, so that drivers could not make any excuses. During the hour of testing on Friday morning there were quite a few excursions off into the dust, one of the first being Jabouille with the Renault. Andretti was having the angle of the steering wheel on his Lotus 79 reset and everyone was looking toward the Renault pit, for Jabouille had recorded an unofficial 1 min. 50 sec. before spinning off. As last year’s fastest practice lap was 1 min. 51.90 sec. by Andretti, this initial flurry by Renault was important, even if it did end up in the dust. Spinning off in the wiggly bit of the circuit within the stadium was not important in itself, it was the after-effects that were important. The dust clouds would easily clog up the throttle slides, and sideways travel over kerbs could ruin the side-skirts. Villeneuve came in with grass adhering to his front suspension, which was bent, and Scheckter’s skirts were bent. Rosberg spun WR9 off the road, and de Angelis was in the pits watching his mechanics fit a new clutch to his Shadow. Piquet was stopped by a broken manifold pipe on his Brabham-Alfa Romeo, which seems to be a regular happening and Jones and Laffite were trying their spare cars, the Williams driver because of gearbox trouble on FW07/004 and the Ligier driver to compare the handling of his two cars. Although the morning session was only for one hour an incredible amount seemed to happen and the mechanics all had more than enough work to do in the lunch-break.

It was getting very warm in the afternoon, when official timed practice took place between 12.30 and 2 p.m. Laffite was back in the Ligier JS11/04, but Jones was still in the spare Williams; Rosberg was still in the spare Wolf, but Villeneuve and Jabouille were in their correct cars. Almost before the rest had got warmed up it was announced that Jabouille had put in a lap at 1 min. 48.48 sec., which sent everyone spinning, for most of the top runners were just beginning to set their sights on a lap of 1 min. 50 sec. It became a case of who was going to be second fastest, and at this point it was Alan Jones in the spare Williams at 1 min. 50.86 sec. The gearbox trouble on the new Williams had been put right so Jones came in to transfer to it, only to find no oil pressure registering on the gauge when the engine was started. Assuming that the new car was all ready to go, the mechanics had started rectifying some trouble on the skirts on the spare car, so suddenly Jones found himself without a car. While one group of Williams mechanics slaved away to finish off the spare car, another group were vainly searching for the cause of the lack of oil pressure. Meanwhile Jones had to stand by and watch the other teams approach his best lap time and then surpass it. While he stood there his position as second fastest to the Renault dwindled to fourth fastest, then fifth and sixth. Pironi, Lauda, Arnoux, and Laffite all improved on the Australian’s time, but none were within sight of Jabouille’s time, and to beat 1 min. 50 sec. was going to be heroic stuff, even though it would be 1 ½ seconds slower than the Renault! Lauda’s progress was halted by more Alfa Romeo exhaust-pipe trouble, and his team-mate was in real trouble when his Alfa Romeo engine blew up in a big way. As the spare Brabham was adjusted for Lauda’s leg-length there was a bit of panic behind the pits to reset everything to fit Piquet, but time ran out before it could be done.

As Regazzoni was about to join those happy drivers who had got themselves ahead of Alan Jones, the rugged Williams team leader was strapping himself back into the spare car. In no time at all he was into the low 1 min. 50 sec. laps and then did a 1 min. 49.94 sec., which not only retrieved his second fastest overall, but put him into a very elite class with Jabouille, but still 1½ seconds down on the Renault and at a lap speed approaching 140 m.p.h. that was a long way behind. Mechanical trouble was affecting all manner of people, Rebaque stopping after only seven laps when his gearbox failed, and Merzario never did get out to practice. The Renault team were so placid about their superiority that it was difficult to tell whether it was a lucky fluke or it was genuine, and many teams felt that it was totally unreal, and that the Williams team was the one to judge the situation by.

The Saturday morning test-hour saw Ickx in the spare Ligier, as its front suspension had been altered to suit the latest large-diameter Goodyear tyres, whereas his own car had not been altered. The spare car felt so much better that it was agreed that he should use it for the race, unless some unforeseen disaster befell Laffite’s car. The new Wolf WR9 was being tiresome, with minor bothers, so Rosberg was settled to race WR8. The mysterious loss of oil pressure on the Williams that Jones was to use had cured itself, being something obscure like a sticking pressure-relief valve, so all was well. Piquet’s Brabham was functioning once again, with a new engine, and it had aluminium deflectors riveted on to the leading lower edge of the side pods, all in the search for improved aerodynamics. The ATS was giving Stuck a lot of trouble as it dived off one way on acceleration and the other way under braking, suggesting something wrong in the limited-slip differential. A broken drive shaft encouraged the team to take the gearbox off and replace the whole assembly. Patrick Gaillard came into the pits in a grey coloured Ensign that had started out red, the thick layer of dust everywhere being self-explanatory.

Speed along the straight parts of the circuit seemed to be all important and various experiments were being done to try and gain a few more r.p.m. in top gear, such as removing nosefins (Williams and Fittipaldi) and adjusting the rear aerofoil to minimal down-force. Nothing very conclusive was discovered. The Ferrari team were very unhappy as they seemed to lack a bit of everything, even sheer speed, which had them all baffled. The sleek little Williams FW07 and the powerful and equally slick Renault twin-turbo cars were untroubled by a lack of anything, though Arnoux’s car disturbed the peaceful scene by breaking it’s valve gear so that instead of preparing the car for the afternoon timed session a leisurely engine change was begun. As the spare Renault was adjusted to the lank Jabouille’s measurements there was no possibility of the stocky little Arnoux driving it, so he had to sit-out the Saturday afternoon session.

It was getting very hot and the pit area with its concrete base and surrounded by the concrete stands was behaving a bit like an oven. Alan Jones was feeling very happy with the new Williams, it feeling right from the moment he got into it, and Regazzoni was equally happy with his car. The Ensign was not ready when the timed practice session began, still having the dust got out of it and the skirts repaired. Rosberg was in the Wolf WR8. Ickx was happy with the spare Ligier and everything started off well, with the really fast runners aiming to break into the sub- 1 min. 50 sec. bracket, and others just hoping to get somewhere near 1 min. 50 sec. There was little point Jabouille going out as he had done all the testing he wanted to do in the morning, and until someone got within half-a-second of his Friday time there was nothing to worry about. With Arnoux’s car in pieces the team just stood around in the shade of the pits while their timekeepers kept the watches on the opposition. It was a very cool piece of gamesmanship – there was even a suggestion that the English press might like to take a cup of tea with Jabouille and interview him while official practice was in progress!

When this session was just about half-way through there was a scurry in the Lotus pit to prepare the spare car, as news had come through that Reutemann had crashed violently at the far end of the circuit. The car was badly damaged but the driver was OK. Seeing the wreckage across the track most of the drivers pulled into the pits; it was a convenient excuse for stopping banging their heads against a wall, for a few of them were within seconds of Jabouille’s Friday lap time. After 20 minutes of clearing up, practice restarted and almost immediately the spare Brabham was being got ready for Piquet, as his own car had died with an electrical failure. Alan Jones was on the front row with Jabouille in the time-line-up, and Laffite was getting close with a lap in 1 min. 49.43 sec. In a very leisurely fashion Jabouille prepared himself and then went out to practice, the flat exhaust note of the turbo-charged V6 Renault engine giving no feeling of urgency, but stop-watches told everything. As if to issue a warning the Renault put in some low 1 min. 50 sec laps, and then a 1 min. 49.75 sec.; not as quick as Jones had gone but well in the select group. Jones had the fastest time with 1 min. 48.75 sec., which put him on the front row of the grid, but still a quarter of a second off Jabouille’s best time of Friday. Piquet was out in the spare Brabham and beginning to get well wound up, while Lauda was sitting waiting for the end of the practice and the coolest possible conditions for one final fling. Scheckter had done all he knew and managed 1 min. 50.00 sec. and Villeneuve changed to the spare Ferrari when his own had engine trouble, but for once couldn’t match his team-leader’s time.

In the Tyrrell camp the new boy Lees was doing alright, having recorded 1 min. 54.12. sec. on the first afternoon, and improved on that to 1 min. 51.50 sec. in the final session. Pironi was very close to the 1 min. 50 sec barrier, and for a brief time took Lees’ car as the spare Tyrrell wasn’t ready. In the closing minutes of practice Piquet was under 1 min. 50 sec., which gave him fifth place overall, but he hadn’t finished and a rapid tyre change and a final effort gave him 1 in. 49.50 sec. which placed him in fourth place and on the second row of the grid, alongside Laffite. Lauda’s last-minute rush prevailed him nothing and he had to be content with a place in the fourth row of the grid, behind Scheckter and Regazzoni.

It all ended at quite a fast tempo, not so much to qualify for the grid, or get on to the front row, but more to save face for the Renault time of Friday was embarrassingly fast. With only one practice session to his credit Rene Arnoux was in the fifth row of the grid, which gave some indication of the potential of the turbo-charged Renault. While BMW races, Touring Car races and Formula One teams were all hard at work in the paddock preparing cars for the big Sunday event. Fresh engines were installed, gearboxes checked, brakes serviced, tyres mounted, wiring looked at, aerodynamic aids scrutinized, suspension systems checked, fuel tanks drained, fuel systems cleaned out, nothing could be overlooked, even though the race was only going to last less than 1½ hours.

Race

1979 German GP start

Jones leads at the start

Motorsport Images

Overnight, rain helped to lay the dust a bit, but made it rather uncomfortable for those who were out and about, working or camping. By 10 a.m. on Sunday morning all was warm and dry again, ready for the half-hour warm-up session, and all 24 starters were ready, the two unfortunate non-starters being Gaillard with the Ensign and Arturo Merzario with his own car. Reutemann was feeling far from well, the after-effects of his high speed crash affecting his reflexes and judgement, and though the spare Lotus 79 had been race-prepared he was unsure about starting the race. The Wolf team had decided to race WR8, as the new car had been suffering small bothers, and Ickx was pleased to race the spare Ligier. Apart from a little trouble with the gearbox on Lauda’s Brabham, all seemed to be well and the interval before the start was due at two p.m. was filled in with Renault R5 racing and an impressive aerobatic display by the famous Red Arrows. Shortly after 1.30 p.m. the cars left the pits one by one to drive round the circuit and assemble on the starting grid. By 1.45 p.m. they were all neatly lined up in pairs, with Alan Jones on the front row alongside Jabouille, the Australian determined to get to the first corner first, but wondering how long it would be before the yellow and black Renault powered past his Williams. Behind them were Laffite (Ligier) and Piquet (Brabham), the Frenchman also having his sights on being first into the first corner, but the young Brazilian was ready to drive to team orders, which dictated that he took things easy for the opening stages, even if lots of competitors went by him, and to speed up when things had settled down. In the third row Scheckter was at least satisfied at being ahead of his young team-mate, and alongside was the swarthy Regazzoni seeing no reason why he shouldn’t win another race, then came Lauda and Pironi, Villeneuve and Arnoux, grinning at each other and recalling the Dijon race, and wondering what the ‘nagging old women’ would say if they had another dice together. Andretti and Watson followed, and then the rest, Reutemann prepared to start the race and see how things sent. The new boy Geoff Lees was in quite a respectable position, in row eight alongside Tambay in his new M29 McLaren, having survived being thrown in at the deep end.

At 1.55 p.m. the field was flagged away to do a parade lap, with Jabouille setting the pace, and they all arrived safely back in the Stadium to line up before the red light. Everyone was in position when the red light went out and the green came on, and it was one of the better starts as all 24 cars powered off the line in an impressive blast of sound and cloud of smoke from spinning wheels. As expected, Jones was into the right hand bend first, and gave it all he’d got up towards the first chicane. The Renault did not power past, as expected, but sat in third place behind Lafitte until they reached the return leg when it went by the Ligier. As they streamed back into the Stadium the order was Jones (Williams), Jabouille (Renault), Lafitte (Ligier), Scheckter (Ferrari), Regazzoni (Williams), Piquet (Brabham), Lauda (Brabham), Pironi (Tyrrell), Andretti (Lotus), Villeneuve (Ferrari), Arnoux (Renault), Tambay (McLaren), Ickx (Ligier), Watson (McLaren), Reutemann (Lotus), Mass (Arrows), Lees (Tyrrell), Lammers (Shadow), Patrese (Arrows), Rosberg (Wolf), de Angelis (Shadow), Rebaque (Lotus) and Fittipaldi. Twenty-three cars, there was one missing! It was Hans Stuck and the ATS, for as he braked for the chicane on the return leg of the circuit the suspension collapsed.

Next time round Piquet let Lauda go ahead, as arranged, and Arnoux and Tambay passed Villeneuve, as was not arranged. The French-Canadian was finding his Ferrari engine a bit flat, as if the timing or mixture was not quite right! As Reutemann came into the second chicane Jochen Mass crowded him, and the Lotus shot off the track and demolished the right-front corner against the guard rail. Two laps gone and two cars retired. The first visible gap to open up was between Regazzoni and Lauda; once again the Austrian was unable to keep up with the leading bunch and led “the rest”. Villeneuve was back ahead of Tambay, and at the back of the field Fittipaldi had got ahead of Rebaque. By lap four a clear pattern was evolving, with Jones and Jabouille pulling away, the Renault driver seemingly biding his time behind the Williams. Then Laffite, Scheckter and Regazzoni were in close convoy, with the Swiss eyeing the two cars in front of him with a serious look. The rest were trailing along, with Fittipaldi lasting only one more lap before electrical trouble intervened. On lap six Jabouille began to move close to the leading Williams, and at the same time the number two Williams was leaning on the Ferrari of Scheckter. They were both much closer to their quarries on the next lap, and as Alan Jones appeared in the stadium to complete lap eight the Renault was uncomfortably close is as near as it got, for as he braked for the left-hand hairpin inside the stadium Jabouille over-did his braking, locked the wheels, slid onto the loose stuff and spun off in a cloud of dust, just as a great cheer went up from the crowd for Regazzoni was ahead of Scheckter as they took the right-hander into the stadium. It was a momentous lap eight.

With eight laps gone and four retirements it began to look as though we would run out of cars before the 45 laps were up, and when Arnoux disappeared two laps later prospects looked grim. The right rear tyre had burst at full speed on the Renault, and it had taken a lot of the bodywork panelling away, but Arnoux was able to control the car and skate to a standstill. He had just got past Lauda, as had Villeneuve so now the Brabham-Alfa driver was trying his best to hang-on to the number two Ferrari. Scheckter had made no attempt to stay with Regazzoni when he went by, and the Swiss was now sniffing at the heels of Laffite’s Ligier. Meanwhile Alan Jones was out on his own, lapping fast and consistently without taking risks or straining the machinery. On lap 13 “Regga” was by the Ligier and into second place to the accompaniment of another enormous roar from the crowd, for he seems as popular with the German spectators as he is with the English ones. Passing Laffite had not been easy, and the Frenchman was not about to give in. He clung on to the tail of the Williams in a spirited fashion, obviously driving his heart out and refusing to give in. For six laps he stayed there, but then had to give the Williams best, realizing that he was driving over the limit to keep with Regazzoni and the could not go on forever, so he eased slightly into a secure third place, but it had been a fine example of a tenacious driver at work.

1979 German GP race

Mario Andretti leads the midfield pack in his Lotus

Motorsport Images

For the second Grand Prix in succession the Williams team were running 1-2 and in complete command of the situation, the neat green-and-white cars looking really nice and no doubt giving the Saudi Arabians who back the team with finance, an enormous amount of satisfaction. On lap 17 Andretti disappeared quietly, the rear brakes of his Lotus 79 having transferred heat to the inboard universal of the drive-shafts, and one of them broke-up when the grease escaped due to the heat. At 20 laps, with Laffite now settled in third place, Scheckter an uninspired fourth, Villeneuve a long way back in fifth place, with Lauda still behind him in sixth place, the race as such seemed to be over. Piquet had failed to make any improvement to his position as the race settled down, and in fact, had been passed by Ickx, who was really enjoying his Ligier and trying his brilliant best. The Belgian was very happy and was closing on Lauda and Villeneuve, but just when he had caught them up his right-rear tyre exploded at full speed on one of the straights. The effect was as if a bomb had gone off under that corner of the car, for the whole hub assembly was ripped off the suspension members, taking the drive-shaft with it, and lots of the bodywork. Ickx was able to control the car and slithered to a stop without hitting anything, but he was very lucky. This was on lap 25 and a lap before Rebaque had retired, so that a third of the field had gone with the race only just over half way.

As Jones started his 28th lap his works Cosworth engine faltered a little on acceleration, and next time round it was still doing it. There was a burbling misfire as of fuel-injection trouble or fuel-delivery to the injection system. Although it hardly affected his lap times, it was very disconcerting and was causing him anguish, remembering how he had lost the British Grand Prix through engine failure. Frank Williams and his pit staff were equally worried, and though Regazzoni was in second place and sounding as strong as ever, it was no consolation. As this misfire in the Williams had started Lauda’s Alfa Romeo engine gave up completely and he coasted into the Stadium and parked the Brabham up the escape road. This gave Piquet a clear road in front, so he promptly piled on steam and caught up with Villeneuve, who was far from happy with an engine that was still flat and an unbalanced feel to the car due to the rear aerofoil beginning to collapse. Just as Piquet passed the Ferrari, on lap 33, an exhaust manifold-pipe broke on the Alfa Romeo engine and made it sound rough, but it was still going alright.

In quick succession after Lauda’s retirement Rosberg stopped with no oil pressure in the Wolf, Tambay coasted into the pits with engine trouble and Patrese suffered a tyre blow-out on the right-rear, it not being so spectacular as the other two blow-outs, for the walls remained intact, though the whole tread came off. Before starting lap 38 Villeneuve was in the pits as the rear aerofoil had collapsed on the left side and a complete new unit was fitted, this stop dropping him back to ninth place behind Lees, who was running neatly and consistently. By now there were only six cars on the same lap, the Williams of Jones and Regazzoni, the Ligier of Laffite, the Ferrari of Scheckter, the Brabham of Piquet, and a long way back the McLaren of Watson, then came Mass leading Lees and Villeneuve, with Lammers, Pironi (after a pit stop) and de Angelis being the only others still running.

Even before the misfire had started on the leading Williams the team members on the pit wall could see that something was happening to the right rear tyre, for it was taking on a darker colour than the left one, which usually means a loss of pressure. Running with only 12-15 p.s.i., the loss of even 1lb. can be critical, and their fears were right for a leak had developed and the pressure was dropping and causing the tyre to overheat. It wasn’t long before Alan Jones sensed an imbalance between right and left corners and on the straights he was looking into his rear-view mirror and seeing the changing shape and colour. There were still more than 10 laps to go by the time he faced up to the realisation that he had got a slow puncture, and he did not have enough lead over Regazzoni and Laffite to allow for a pit stop. Changing his driving tactics to ease the load on the right-rear tyre, his lap times only dropped by a second and a half. He could hold the same speed on the straights and round right-hand bends, but had to pussy-foot round left-handers, and he wasn’t helped any by the constant misfiring on pick-up. He would appear into the Stadium at his normal speed, but then almost coast round the left-hand hairpin and be slow out of the right-hander into the pit straight, as the misfire plagued the pick-up. He was holding the lead alright, but it was no easy task, and while there was little chance of Lafitte catching him, there was every possibility of Regazzoni catching up – and going by!

1979 German GP Jones 2

Alan Jones scored his second career win for Williams

Motorsport Images

 

While everyone waited tensely during the final laps, no-one was more tense than “Jonesey-boy” for if the tyre got too hot it would blow-out and snatch victory from him. So great was the tension of following the leading Williams that the disappearance of Piquet went almost unnoticed on lap 43. A certain fifth place went out the window with a big bang in the Alfa Romeo engine and most of the valve-gear seemed to be in the air intakes. The two Williams were in sight of each other as they started the last lap, but there was a great sigh of relief as number 27 re-appeared to complete lap 45 and cross the line ahead of number 28. It was a magnificent Williams one-two, thoroughly deserved by both drivers and the satisfaction for Frank Williams and designer Patrick Head was enormous, as it was for all the mechanics who had worked so hard on the cars. For Alan Jones it was a long-overdue victory for he has been so near and yet so far during his two years with the Williams team. As the two green-and-white cars did their slowing down lap nose to tail there were some tears of emotion in many eyes and enormous happiness for the Williams team. And dear old “Regga” scored another worthy second place, and he was very happy about it, no matter what other drivers may say about him. Some team sponsors who view the whole Formula One business as nothing more than an extension of their normal business life show little apparent interest or elation if their team wins. The Saudi Arabians who back Frank Williams were beaming with delight, and it would be true to say that Frank and all his men received a royal smile of approval. – D. S. J.

You may also like

Related products