The 1968 German Grand Prix, officially known as the XXX Großer Preis von Deutschland, was the eighth round of the 1968 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Nürburgring on the 4th of August 1968. The race would be remembered for its extremely wet conditions, and a performance from future World Champion Jackie Stewart that would go down as one of the best drives in motorsport history.
It was not just Sunday that saw heavy rain produce some heroics, with Jacky Ickx slithering to pole for Ferrari by hitting the circuit as early as possible. The Belgian was over ten seconds quicker than his nearest rival, teammate Chris Amon, with Jochen Rindt of Brabham-Repco completing the front row, almost thirty seconds slower.
Low cloud and heavy rain shrouded the Nürburgring on Sunday, although the drivers did decide to simply "get on with it" in spite of the terrible conditions. When the flag dropped it would be Graham Hill who disappeared onto the Nordschleife first, followed by Amon, Rindt and Stewart as the entire field made it onto the Nordschleife without issue.
Come the end of the first lap and Stewart was leading having danced past Hill, Amon and Rindt with little issue after the Karusell. Vic Elford was the first victim of the conditions, crashing out at Schwalbenzschwanz just moments after Stewart snatched the lead. Elford would not be the only driver to lose it in the horrid conditions, fortunately all ending without injury, although from that moment on the race was all about the Scot out front.
At the end of the first lap, Stewart had established a nine second lead, a gap that would grow to thirty seconds at the start of the third lap. The Scot's lead continued to grow at an average of half a minute a lap as Hill spun behind, fortunate to continue on let alone hold on to second. From that moment on Hill and Rindt would be in a battle for second, as Stewart's lead ballooned out to four minutes.
Come the end of the race Stewart's lead was still north of four minutes, a staggering gap after fourteen laps of action. Hill fended off Rindt, extending his lead at the top of the Championship, with Ickx cruising home to a lonely fourth. Jack Brabham and Pedro Rodríguez would slither across the line to claim the final points, as fourteen drivers survived a wet afternoon in the "Green Hell".
Two weeks after the British Grand Prix and the field were gathering at the Nürburgring for the eighth bout of 1968. In previous seasons, the organisers of the German Grand Prix had decided to allow Formula Two cars to enter the race in a bid to increase the number of cars out on circuit, but with twenty two entries, there would be no need to inflate the field. That said the organisers had only allocated twenty one grid slots for the race, meaning one of the privateers would have to sit out.
The two orange McLaren-Ford Cosworths of Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren were among the first cars to arrive in Germany ahead of the race, the latter getting an aerofoil fitted to his car in time for an unofficial practice session on Friday morning. Lotus-Ford Cosworth, meanwhile, had redesigned their driveshafts to fit on Graham Hill's car after their dismal run of retirements, although Jackie Oliver would have to wait until the afternoon to drive his car. When it arrived, Oliver's car would finally be on a par with Hill's car after a total rebuild, the Norfolk squad having previously prioritised Jo Siffert's privately entered 49B.
Elsewhere, Brabham-Repco had three of their 1968 cars on offer for Jack Brabham and Jochen Rindt to test, with an older car held in reserve before being loaned to Kurt Ahrens of the Caltex Racing Team. Ken Tyrrell had brought two Ford Cosworth engined Matras for Jackie Stewart and Johnny Servoz-Gavin, although the latter would only race if Stewart decided his wrist was not up to the strain. The factory Matra team also had made the trip, providing two cars for Jean-Pierre Beltoise to try across the weekend, with different specifications of engine and aerofoils. The second Matra was of particular interest for its rear mounted aerofoil, which featured a solenoid that allowed the wing angle to be adjusted while the car was on track.
John Surtees was also out in action with the "Hondola", still refusing to use the new Honda after the tragic events of the French Grand Prix. Ferrari were unchanged after the British round, fielding Chris Amon and Jacky Ickx once again. Cooper-BRM were back with Vic Elford and Lucien Bianchi, the first time they were able to field the same two drivers for two rounds in a row, although the Alfa Romeo engined chassis would not be in attendance.
BRM were out in force in Germany, bringing familiar duo Pedro Rodríguez and Richard Attwood, while also loaning Reg Parnell Racing their third car for Piers Courage. Dan Gurney would also be at the Nürburgring, restoring the rear mounted aerofoil to the Eagle-Weslake, while Jo Bonnier entered his yellow McLaren-BRM as usual. The field would be rounded out by Silvio Moser and his privately entered Brabham-Repco, while BMW arrived with their beefed up F2 Lola-BMW for local racer Hubert Hahne to race around the Nordscheleife.
A fourth non-score in a row at Brands Hatch had not been enough to see Graham Hill displaced at the top of the World Championship standings, although Jacky Ickx had closed the gap down to four points after his third podium. Jackie Stewart was sat in third, seven away from the Championship leader, with Denny Hulme two points further back in fourth. Pedro Rodríguez was in fifth, level on points with Chris Amon, while Jo Siffert's victory put him in a group of four drivers with nine points apiece.
Lotus-Ford Cosworth had managed to build up a larger gap at the top of the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers thanks to Siffert's victory, leaving their home race with a thirteen point advantage. Ferrari were their closest challengers, three points ahead of McLaren-Ford Cosworth, with Matra-Ford Cosworth two points further back. BRM, Cooper-BRM, Honda, Brabham-Repco and Matra completed the factory blessed efforts, with the privately entered McLaren-BRM effort of Jo Bonnier still propping up the table.
The full entry list for the 1968 German Grand Prix is outlined below:
Qualifying and practice would see three sessions scheduled across Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with an additional shakedown session on Friday morning although that was not meant to count as a qualifying session. The official sessions were effectively staged in exactly the same conditions, the Black Forest spending the entire weekend enveloped in heavy rain and fog. The conditions meant that the sessions were severely limited, most of Saturday and Sunday's running condensed down to just over two hours, while Friday afternoon's session was cancelled. That meant that the "shakedown" session's times were used by the timekeepers to create the grid, which had been staged in marginally better conditions than the rest of the weekend.
The morning session had been opened by the screaming Hondola of John Surtees, who had decided to get straight out on circuit and hope the conditions were not as bad around the back of the Nordscheleife. He was soon followed out by a bunch of cars, although most drivers opted to complete the small "loop" at the start of the circuit to bed in their cars before venturing off into the forest. Eventually, Ferrari allowed Jacky Ickx and Chris Amon to join Surtees on the full circuit, with the young Belgian putting together a stunning lap to record a time of 9:04.0, which would ultimately be good enough for pole.
The organiser's jobs were made significantly easier when Grand Prix Drivers Association president Jo Bonnier decided to withdraw from the weekend due to the conditions, although Silvio Moser would not get a lap in before an oil pump failure totalled his engine. Those two were heading home before the end of Friday, as most of the field registered a time in the morning running. Those without times were Jackie Stewart, Denny Hulme, Jackie Oliver and Bruce McLaren, all of whom had either been forced to sit out, or were testing new equipment on the "loop".
Hopes that Saturday would see an improvement in conditions were immediately dashed by the morning, with low cloud breaking into mist as the sessions approached. That said, the organisers deemed the track usable, after several delays, and the field were allowed onto the circuit, although without any great enthusiasm. Ultimately, the best time of the Saturday session would be by Stewart, fifty seconds slower than Ickx's Friday time, as all twenty drivers managed to qualify for the race. Indeed, a true sign of the conditions was to be shown by the Belgian, who was over a minute slower than his best Friday time.
Sunday would see a little over an hour of on track action, although most of the field abstained the chance to go out, not wanting to risk breaking the car only a few hours before the race. Stewart was the only man to make any serious ground, leaping into the top six, some fourty seconds quicker than anyone else that morning, although most drivers were experimenting with aerofoils. The session would come to an end with a bang too, with Jackie Oliver removing the front and rear suspension from the left side of his Lotus at Adenau, creating a panic in the garage as the team worked flat out to rebuild the car.
The full qualifying results for the 1968 German Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||9||Jacky Ickx||Ferrari||9:04.0||10:04.4||No time||—|
|2||8||Chris Amon||Ferrari||9:14.9||10:17.4||No time||+10.9s|
|4||3||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||9:46.0||10:23.1||10:40.4||+42.0s|
|5||20||Vic Elford||Cooper-BRM||9:53.0||10:25.8||No time||+49.0s|
|6||6||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||No time||10:00.4||9:54.2||+50.2s|
|8||22||Piers Courage||BRM||10:00.1||11:00.4||No time||+56.1s|
|9||16||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||10:03.4||10:40.4||No time||+59.4s|
|11||1||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||No time||10:52.9||10:16.0||+1:12.0|
|13||21||Jackie Oliver||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||No time||10:48.6||10:18.7||+1:14.7|
|14||10||Pedro Rodríguez||BRM||10:19.7||10:40.7||No time||+1:15.7|
|16||2||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||No time||11:01.4||10:33.0||+1:29.0|
|17||17||Kurt Ahrens, Jr.||Brabham-Repco||10:37.3||11:14.4||11:39.5||+1:33.3|
|19||19||Lucien Bianchi||Cooper-BRM||10:46.6||11:34.3||No time||+1:42.6|
|20||11||Richard Attwood||BRM||11:08.7||10:48.2||No time||+1:44.2|
|DNS||23||Silvio Moser||Brabham-Repco||Oil pump|
- T Indicates a driver set their time in a test car.
|18||Kurt Ahrens, Jr.|
The race was set to start at 2:00pm local time on Sunday, although the horrid conditions meant that was delayed to 2:30pm and then 2:45pm, much to the annoyance of the (estimated) 200,000 strong crowd. After 2:45 rolled past the FIA delayed the start indefinitely, although the cars were still sat on the grid awaiting the flag. Ultimately, at 3:50pm, it would be Cooper-BRM who set the ball rolling, deciding to start the engines on their cars to keep the temperatures up, causing the officials to scramble into action and display the three minute board and prepare the starting flag.
When the flag finally fell the entire field would leave the grid in a huge clump, an incredible amount of skill on display as everyone made it to the first corner despite a universal lack of visibility. Emerging from the wall of spray first would be the red-white Lotus of Graham Hill, the Brit shooting between the two Ferraris as Jacky Ickx and Chris Amon hesitated as the flag fell. Ickx would fall to fifth as a result, taken by Amon, Jochen Rindt and Jackie Stewart, the latter using a set of "super-wet" Dunlops designed specifically for the Matra.
The opening lap would take well over ten minutes to complete, with reports of Stewart making a series of overtakes around the back of the circuit filtering through to the paddock. His final move would come at Schwalbenschwanz, slithering past Hill before dancing off into a ten second lead at the end of the opening lap. Amon duly tagged onto the back of Hill as the rest of the field streamed across the line, many surprised to see Dan Gurney up among the leaders in the veteran Eagle-Weslake.
The second lap proved that Stewart was in a class of his own out front, completing the second lap with a thirty second lead over Hill, who was slightly gaping Amon and the rest. A miserable John Surtees would stop for a second time in the "Hondola", an ignition issue dropping the Brit to the back of the field, only ahead of Vic Elford who had crashed out at Schwalenschwanz on the opening lap. Elsewhere, Jack Brabham was making ground, escaping the second group led by Piers Courage in a bid to catch the battle for second, with Denny Hulme and Jo Siffert also challenging the Reg Parnell Racing run BRM as a cloud of spray passed the pits.
Stewart would continue to disappear off up the road at the head of the field on lap three, although most of the attention would be on Ickx, who pulled off an incredible move at Flugplatz to move past Gurney, in spite of the spray. Gurney would stick to the back of Belgian until the pair made it through to Hohe Acht, where the American struck a stone, punctured a tyre, and was left to limp back to the pits for a fresh set. Gurney would ultimately rejoin in second to last, just ahead of Richard Attwood and behind a battle between the two German drivers Hubert Hahne and Kurt Ahrens.
With Stewart moving over a minute clear at the end of lap four, the battle for second was the main story of the race over the following laps, with Hill, Amon, Rindt and Ickx stuck together as the race moved towards half-distance. The list of casualties was slowly growing as the race wore on, Surtees and Jo Siffert joining Elford on the sidelines after both giving up hope of solving persistent ignition problems. Lucien Bianchi would join them on lap seven, a fuel leak slowly filling his cockpit with fuel, leaving sixteen cars still running despite the horrible conditions.
Back with the leaders on lap eight and a car was missing from the second placed battle, Ickx having gone for a spin at the Nordkehre, recovered, and then spun again at the next corner. The Belgian would still be in fifth place once he returned to the pits at the end of lap seven to remove a mud covered visor. Gurney, meanwhile, was beginning to charge through the field, taking Bruce McLaren, Hahne and Jackie Oliver as he tried to get back into contention for points.By lap eight Stewart had set the fastest lap of the race, a 9:36.0 helping to extend his lead to over two minutes. Indeed, the Scot would be at Hatzenbach before Hill, Amon and Rindt made it onto the pit straight, before another large gap to Ickx, still in fifth but without a visor. Next came Brabham, challenged by Hulme into the first corner with no change resulting, while Pedro Rodríguez pounced on Courage and Jean-Pierre Beltoise in short order.
Ickx would lose more time on lap nine by stopping to pick up his now spotless visor from the Ferrari mechanics, while Gurney and Ahren were now losing pace with ignition problems, water having got into the electrical systems of the Eagle and the Brabham. Reports of a retirement also filtered to the pits, Beltoise having slithered into the trees in the Matra near Hohe Acht and escaped without injury. Yet, these dramas were trivial compared to the masterful display by Stewart out in the lead, the Scot beginning to lap the backmarkers on lap ten as the battle for second suddenly cut short.
Hill, Amon and Rindt had been nose-to-tail since Ickx's spins, and as the trio came past the pits to complete the eleventh lap, Amon tried to move into second, picking the outside line for the first corner. Unfortunately for the New Zealander his Ferrari was suffering from a differential issue, and as the pair came through to the Nordkehre, Amon was sent sliding into the trees and out of the race. An annoyed Amon appeared a few seconds later in front of the grandstands, a huge cheer erupting as he emerged uninjured and walked back to the pits.
Hill was not out of the woods, however, and was unaware that Amon had spun, or that Rindt's pace had suddenly plummeted in the wake of the New Zealander's accident. The Brit was still pushing, and later on lap twelve, just coming through Hohe Acht, Hill lost the backend and spun into the middle of the track, before allowing the car to roll onto the grass on the outside of the turn. Hill had been concerned that Amon would slam into his car if he had come to a rest in the middle of the track, but in allowing his car to roll into the weeds, the Ford Cosworth engine had stalled, and refused to start as Hill wondered where Amon had gone. Quick thinking by the Brit then saw him leap out of the car and push it back onto the tarmac, before jumping back in as the car began to roll down the hill out of Hohe Acht to bump start the car. The Cosworth engine duly fired and Hill slithered back into the race, all before Rindt made it to the scene of the spin.
The start of the final lap would see Hill and Rindt within sight of each other, or at least their spray, as a few positions changed behind them in the closing stages. Hulme had been cruising since the opening laps, content that he could see no one around him due to the fog and spray. He was therefore shocked to see Pedro Rodríguez to come streaking past on the penultimate lap, caught off guard in his defence of sixth place. Elsewhere, Oliver was forced to surrender to Hahne in the Lola-BMW, while Gurney was charging onto the back of Courage, although time would be on the latter's side as the race wound to a close.All that was left was for Stewart to collect the chequered flag, a feat the Scot duly did with a huge four minute advantage, the biggest margin of victory seen in F1 history at the Nürburgring. Hill came home second, having pulled out a six second gap over Rindt on the final lap, although the Austrian racer was content enough with a podium finish. Ickx came home in a lonely fourth, while Brabham had had to pick up his pace on the final lap to prevent a charging Rodriguez from taking fifth, the Mexican falling short by just under four seconds. Hulme, Courage, Gurney and Hahne completed the finishers on the lead lap, while Oliver, Ahrens, McLaren and Attwood completed the race a lap down.
The full results for the 1968 German Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||6||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||14||2:19:03.2||6||9|
|2||3||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||14||+4:03.2||4||6|
|7||1||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||14||+6:31.0||11|
|11||21||Jackie Oliver||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||13||+1 laps||13|
|12||17||Kurt Ahrens, Jr.||Brabham-Repco||13||+1 laps||17|
|13||2||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||13||+1 laps||16|
|14||11||Richard Attwood||BRM||13||+1 laps||20|
|Ret||19||Lucien Bianchi||Cooper-BRM||7||Fuel leak||19|
|Ret||16||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||6||Ignition||9|
- 100th Grand Prix entry for Team Lotus.
- Ferrari were entered for the 150th time as an engine supplier.
- Maiden pole position for Jacky Ickx.
- Fourth career win for Jackie Stewart.
- Stewart also earned his first fastest lap, which was also the tenth for a Ford Cosworth engine.
- Repco were awarded their twenty-fifth and final podium finish.
Jackie Stewart would leave the "Green Hell" with victory and second place in the Championship, leaping ahead of Jacky Ickx after his masterful performance. The Scot was still four points away from Graham Hill, who had another strong weekend to add to his tally despite failing to win. Denny Hulme and Pedro Rodríguez remained in the top five as the European season headed to its final race in Italy.
Lotus-Ford Cosworth still remained unchallenged at the top of the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers standings after the German battle, their lead a very healthy fifteen points after eight rounds. Stewart's incredible performance had pushed Matra-Ford Cosworth into second, dumping Ferrari and McLaren-Ford Cosworth into third and fourth respectively, with BRM hanging on in fifth. Cooper-BRM still found themselves ahead of Brabham-Repco, who were still breaking in their latest creations, with Honda and Matra ahead of the only privateer scorer McLaren-BRM.
Images and Videos:
- Spurzem - Lothar Spurzem, 'File:Rodriguez, Pedro - BRM 1968.jpg', commons.wikimedia.org, (WikiMedia Commons, 07/03/2010), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rodriguez,_Pedro_-_BRM_1968.jpg, (Accessed 07/12/2016)
- _______, 'File:Stewart, J., Matra MS10, 2. Rd 1968-08-04 v2.jpg', commons.wikimedia.org, (WikiMedia Commons, 07/03/2010), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stewart,_J.,_Matra_MS10,_2._Rd_1968-08-04_v2.jpg, (Accessed 07/12/2016)
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: GERMAN GP, 1968', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr169.html, (Accessed 06/12/2016)
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42 2.43 2.44 2.45 2.46 2.47 2.48 2.49 2.50 2.51 2.52 2.53 2.54 2.55 2.56 2.57 2.58 2.59 2.60 2.61 2.62 2.63 2.64 2.65 2.66 2.67 2.68 2.69 2.70 2.71 2.72 2.73 2.74 2.75 2.76 2.77 D.S.J., 'The German Grand Prix: Stewart the "Meister"', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport Magazine, 01/09/1968), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/september-1968/46/german-grand-prix, (Accessed 06/12/2016)
- ↑ 'Germany 1968: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1968/allemagne/engages.aspx, (Accessed 06/12/2016)
- ↑ 'Germany 1968: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1968/allemagne/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 06/12/2016)
- ↑ 'Britain 1968: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1968/allemagne/classement.aspx, (Accessed 07/12/2016)
|V T E||German Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Nürburgring (1951–1954, 1956–1958, 1960–1969, 1970–1976, 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.|
|V T E||European Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Brands Hatch (1983, 1985), Nürburgring (1984, 1995–1996, 1999–2007), Donington (1993), Jerez (1994, 1997), Valencia (2008–2012), Baku (2016)|
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