The 1959 German Grand Prix was the sixth round of the 1959 Formula One Season, held on August 2nd. For political reasons, the race was run on the AVUS circuit, in southwestern Berlin. The mostly straight line track proved to be perfect for Ferrari, as their cars went 1-2-3, with Tony Brooks leading home Dan Gurney and Phil Hill.
1958 and 1959 were a time of heightening tensions between the NATO Pact and Warsaw Bloc countries, and nowhere was this felt more strongly than in West Berlin. A number of parties felt that a dose of western extravaganza, in the form of a Grand Prix, might be a propaganda coup. So the decision was made to run the 1959 German race at AVUS.
Since the late 1930s, all racing at AVUS had used the old 8.3km motorcycle circuit, and that was used again for the Grand Prix. (The claim that the circuit was shortened because of the border with Russian-occupied East Germany is just an urban legend. The actual border was a couple of miles beyond the old circuit, near Potsdam, and the old Sudkurve had been demolished in 1938 to construct an Autobahn interchange.) This event was chosen to show off the advantages to western society, to the point where East German spectators were encouraged to attend, and allowed to buy tickets using (otherwise worthless) East German marks.
For the first (and so far only) time, the race was held in two heats, over concerns regarding tire wear on the high-banked brick corner. Final standings were based on aggregate time and distance covered..
Changes in the entry:
- Aston Martin: The team skipped the race, to do some development.
- BRM: The team only brought P25s for Jo Bonnier and Harry Schell, with BRP entering another car for local driver Hans Herrmann.
- Cooper: There were three of the factory T51s, for Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren and Masten Gregory. In addition, Rob Walker entered two cars, for Maurice Trintignant and a returning Stirling Moss. And Scuderia Centro Sud had a Maserati-engined version for Ian Burgess, who was listed as a reserve entry.
- Ferrari: The Scuderia sent four of the 246 Dinos, entering Tony Brooks, Phil Hill and rookie Dan Gurney, with Cliff Allison in reserve. Allison managed the fastest time in practice, but was only allowed to start after the withdrawal of Porsche, and then at the back of the grid. Allison's car broke, but the remaining cars finished 1-2-3.
- Lotus: Two of the model 16s were present for Innes Ireland and Graham Hill.
- Porsche: The factory entered a 718 RSK for Maria Teresa de Filippis, and Jean Behra entered his own, custom-built Behra-Porsche-Porsche. But after Behra was killed in a support race on Saturday, both cars were withdrawn.
The full entry list for the 1959 German Grand Prix is outlined below:
Three days of practice were permitted, as very few of the drivers had raced on the AVUS before. Thursday was primarily for familiarization and setting up the cars, so no serious times were set until Friday. The field received a wake-up call when on Friday morning, Cliff Allison turned a lap at 2:05.8, at the time the fastest lap ever set on the track. Unfortunately, Allison was a reserve, and the time was only useful for comparison.
The full qualifying results for the 1959 German Grand Prix is outlined below:
|WD||14||Wolfgang von Trips**||Porsche||—||—|
* - Reserve entries
** - After Behra's fatal accident on Saturday, both Porsche entries were withdrawn, and no official times were released.
Because of the fatal accident of Jean Behra in the Saturday afternoon support race, the Porsche entries were withdrawn, allowing the reserve cars to run. But despite having the fastest time in practice, Allison was placed at the back of the grid, ahead of only the other 'reserve' driver, Burgess. This marks the only time in Formula One history that the fastest qualifier was unable to start on pole, simply because of the car's entry.
Before the race, a moment of silence was held for the popular Jean Behra, with the Ferrari contingent looking uncomfortable, as Behra had just been fired from the Scuderia a few days before. Then the drivers were in their cars, the flag was dropped, and the cars shot past the pits for the first time, with Tony Brooks and Stirling Moss battling for the early lead. Coming out of the Nordkurve for the first time, Brooks was pulling out a lead, and Moss had just been passed by Masten Gregory, followed by Jack Brabham, Jo Bonnier, Dan Gurney and Phil Hill. Cliff Allison had already passed three cars from his spot at the back of the grid. Soon it was obvious that Moss was in trouble, and he coasted to a stop out on the circuit on lap 2. At the end of the lap, Allison coasted into the pits rather slowly, as his clutch had broken. The race was developing into several groups of cars slipstreaming each other, and on lap 3 Gregory took advantage and came out of the Nordkurve ahead of Brooks. Brabham, Gurney and Phil Hill were just behind the lead pair, and both Coopers were taking advantage of the Ferrari power, but on lap 5, Brooks retook the lead, and usually managed to keep it past start/finish. Bonnier was dropping back, and being caught by a dueling battle of Bruce McLaren, Harry Schell and Maurice Trintignant. Further back, Innes Ireland had retired on lap 8 and Graham Hill lost his gearbox on lap 11.
Just after half distance, Brabham fell out from the lead group, and literally ground to a halt with transmission trouble. This elevated McLaren to fourth, as he had managed to pull away from his group. The slipstreaming was as entertaining as ever, with Brooks taking advantage to shatter the lap record on lap 18, but on lap 24, a brilliant drive came to a sad end as Gregory pulled into the pits with a broken engine. Phil Hill had started to drop back, leaving Brooks and Gurney to battle for the lead, but Brooks always seemed to have a slight advantage. The flag dropped with Brooks 1.3 seconds ahead of Gurney, with Phil Hill about half a lap behind. McLaren was fourth, having been lapped just before the end, and the last great battle ended with Schell leading Trintignant and Bonnier over the line, the three covered by about three seconds. Hans Herrmann and Ian Burgess held on at the tail of the field.
Heat 1 Grid
* - Reserve entries
Heat 1 Results
The final results for the first heat of the 1959 German Grand Prix are shown below:
|4||2||Bruce McLaren||Cooper-Climax||29||+1 Lap||9|
|5||10||Harry Schell||BRM||29||+1 Lap||8|
|6||8||Maurice Trintignant||Cooper-Climax||29||+1 Lap||12|
|7||9||Jo Bonnier||BRM||29||+1 Lap||7|
|8||11||Hans Herrmann||BRM||29||+1 Lap||11|
|9||18||Ian Burgess||Cooper-Maserati||28||+2 Laps||9|
After a brief interval for tire changes and minor servicing, the cars were rolled back out. Only the nine cars that finished the first heat were allowed to start the second. They were lined up on the grid in finishing order of the first heat. At the start, McLaren shot into the lead, but when the cars came back to the Nordkurve, he had already fallen behind Hill, Bonnier, Brooks and Gurney, in that order. Brooks had the bit in his teeth, and he drafted past Bonnier going into the Sudkurve. A similar maneuver going into the Nordkurve got him past Hill, and with Bonnier easing off to preserve his tires, the Ferraris were 1-2-3, and orders went out to maintain the formation. The cars were starting to string out, when on lap 7, Herrmann lost his brakes going into the sudkurve. The car bounced over the hay bales, throwing Herrmann out and cartwheeling down the track, but Herrmann only suffered minor injuries. Later that lap, McLaren crept to a halt near the pits with transmission trouble. The Ferraris were running easily in formation, with Schell trying to keep from falling a lap down, but that ended when he lost his clutch on lap 20. After 30 laps the three Ferraris came over the line less than a second apart, but Gurney got second overall on the basis of a lower overall time than Hill. Trintignant mounted a late charge to pull within 20 seconds, and get fourth overall. Bonnier finished fifth, losing a lap in each heat, with Burgess four laps down in sixth. Harry Schell pushed his car over the line for seventh. As Brooks also recorded the fastest lap, he pulled to within four points of Brabham.
Heat 2 Grid
Heat 2 Results
The final results for the second heat of the 1959 German Grand Prix are shown below:
|5||9||Jo Bonnier||BRM||29||+1 Lap||7|
|6||18||Ian Burgess||Cooper-Maserati||28||+2 Laps||9|
|7||10||Harry Schell||BRM||20||+10 Laps||5|
The final combined results for the 1959 German Grand Prix are shown below:
|4||8||Maurice Trintignant||Cooper-Climax||59||+1 Lap||12||3|
|5||9||Jo Bonnier||BRM||58||+2 Laps||7||2|
|6||18||Ian Burgess||Cooper-Maserati||56||+4 Laps||15|
|7||10||Harry Schell||BRM||49||+11 Laps||8|
- Sixth and final victory for Tony Brooks
- First podium for Dan Gurney
Standings after race
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|V T E||German Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Nürburgring (1951–1954, 1956–1958, 1960–1969, 1971–1976, 1985, 2007–2013*), AVUS (1959), Hockenheimring (1970, 1977–1984, 1986–2006, 2007–2014*, 2016, 2018–2019)|
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|* Nürburgring and Hockenheimring alternated between each other during these years.|