The XXXI Großer Preis von Deutschland, otherwise known as the 1969 German Grand Prix, was the seventh round of the 1969 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged on the 3rd of August 1969 at the formidable Nürburgring. The race, which would see both Formula One and Formula Two spec cars in action, would see Championship leader Jackie Stewart defeated for only the second time in 1969 after a masterful display by a certain Belgian racer.
Such was Stewart's dominance during the season that it seemed inevitable that the Scot would claim a sixth victory of the season, so it came as a surprise when Jacky Ickx stole pole in the Brabham-Ford Cosworth. The Belgian racer seemed to be at his best in the Eifel mountains, and when he bested the old circuit record by almost twenty seconds, the Scot was beaten.
Johnny Servoz-Gavin claimed the honours in the F2 field with a time good enough to qualify eleventh, although the F1 and F2 grids were split for safety reasons. These safety measures were made all the more clear when Gerhard Mitter lost his life after an accident during practice, the German having crashed heavily at Schwedenkreuz, prompting the BMW team to withdraw.
Yet, when the flag fell to start the race on Sunday Ickx's form suddenly disappeared, the Belgian tumbling down to tenth before the field entered the first corner. Stewart was therefore gifted an early lead, as an accident behind saw Vic Elford's car thrown into a flip after hitting an errant wheel from Mario Andretti's Lotus 63.
With Stewart in the lead it seemed as if the race was already run, although Ickx was already making up for lost time, taking cars left, right and centre as he climbed from tenth to second before the end of lap two. It was not much longer before the Belgian had glued himself to the back of the Scot, with the pair sprinting away from Jo Siffert as he battled for third.
It would take four laps of constant pressure before Ickx finally forced his way back into the lead, although he was no more successful in shaking Stewart than the Scot had been in sprinting away from the Belgian. Yet, fate was favouring the Brabham team, and when Stewart's pace fell away with a gearbox issue Ickx was left to cruise home to a commanding victory.
Stewart would half limp home to second, over two minutes ahead of third placed Bruce McLaren, who was himself half a minute clear of Graham Hill in fourth. Frenchman Henri Pescarolo snatched victory in the F2 field by finishing fifth overall, as the lightweight junior cars completed the rest of the top ten. Yet, as they could not score points, it would be Jo Siffert and Jean-Pierre Beltoise who claimed the final points, down in eleventh and twelfth respectively.
It had been a year since Jackie Stewart's incredible victory in the fog and rain at the Nürburgring, and when the field gathered for the German Grand Prix of 1969 it was the Scot who arrived in command of the Championship. It had been a year of change in Formula One, the age of the wing coming to the fore, while 4WD seemed to be on the verge of a major breakthrough. The Nurburgring, however, remained a terrifying fourteen mile roller-coaster with little to no safety barriers, despite an average lap speed north of 100 mph.
The entry list during 1969 had been rather disappointing until the British Grand Prix, although a late withdrawal by Ferrari on the even of the German race meant that there would only be fourteen potential starters. The organisers therefore revived the old trick of adding Formula Two cars to the Grand Prix entry, although they would not be eligible to score World Championship points. That inflated the entry list to 26, with the F2 field starting on a separate grid when the flag fell on race day.
Quality, however, would not be in short supply in the Eifel mountains, highlighted by the three car effort from Lotus-Ford Cosworth. Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt had their usual 49Bs to race, now with revised fuel pipes, while American star Mario Andretti was finally able to fill a race seat amid a mid-season break state-side. Andretti would race in the Lotus 63 that John Miles had used at Silverstone, having previously stated his belief in the future of 4WD.
Other Loti would be found in the hands of Jo Siffert and the Rob Walker Racing Team, and with Jo Bonnier and Ecurie Bonnier, currently being run by Tim Parnell. For Siffert, the Rob Walker car had received the same upgrades to the fuel system, while Bonnier had inherited the chassis used by Hill in Northamptonshire. Two Lotus F2 chassis would also be in action, with the Roy Winkelmann Racing effort fielding Hans Herrmann and Rolf Stommelen.
Elsewhere, McLaren-Ford Cosworth had two cars for Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren to use, having withdrawn the 4WD entry of Derek Bell so it could be further developed. Their two cars had revised bodywork around the engine cover, with the "tea-tray" over the engine replaced by a rear wing mounted above the gearbox. A third McLaren could be found in the hands of Antique Automobiles and their driver Vic Elford, although the Brit had not received the aero-upgrades that the factory team had applied.
Brabham-Ford Cosworth arrived with only one driver entered, although Jacky Ickx would get the choice of two BT26As throughout the weekend. A second BT26A would be raced by Piers Courage for Frank Williams Racing Cars, with the British team also entering an F2 Brabham for Richard Attwood. Other Brabham based F2 entries would be raced by Kurt Ahrens, Jr., Xavier Perrot and Peter Westbury.
French manufacturer Matra had a four car effort split between both F1 and F2. Ken Tyrrell's Matra International team would run the two F1 cars, the RWD MS80s for Stewart and Jean-Pierre Beltoise, while also running Johnny Servoz-Gavin in the F2 field. The fourth Matra was also an F2 car, with the full factory backed Matra Sports team entering Henri Pescarolo in a MS7.
Completing the F1 field would be BRM, with their two underfunded, underdeveloped cars entered for John Surtees and Jackie Oliver as usual. Another factory team could be found in the F2 field, with BMW entering a trio of cars for Hubert Hahne, Gerhard Mitter and Dieter Quester, all seen as "Ring Meisters". There was one further entry on the list, as Italian firm Tecno entered their self built F2 car for young Frenchman François Cevert.
A fifth victory of the season at Silverstone had seen Stewart extend his advantage at the top of the Championship, the Scot leaving his "home" race with almost three times the number of points of his nearest challenger. McLaren was the closest anyone could come to the Scot, having overtaken Hill and Siffert after a podium finish. Privateer Siffert was still impressing despite dropping to fourth, level on points with Ickx, with fourteen drivers on the board as the season passed the halfway point.
Matra-Ford Cosworth would be thanking Stewart for their strong lead in the Intercontinental Cup for Manufacturers', having left Silverstone with a twenty point advantage. Leading the rather lame attempts to deny the French squad were Team Lotus, once again ruing their poor reliability as the title slipped further away. McLaren-Ford Cosworth and Brabham-Ford Cosworth were a point apart in third and fourth, while Ferrari were still in fifth having failed to score once again.
The full entry list for the 1969 German Grand Prix is outlined below:
- Drivers with a yellow background were Formula Two entries.
The Eifel mountains were enveloped in a heat wave when the Formula One and Formula Two cars hit the circuit for practice/qualifying, with two days of heat and sunshine. Three sessions were scheduled, with two on Friday and a single session on Saturday to allow teams upwards of six hours of total running. Target times for the top runners would be well below the F1 record of 8:04.1, set by Jim Clark back in 1967, given that Jo Siffert had recorded an 8:00.2 during a World Sportscar Championship race in June, 1969.
Friday morning's session would be used by the majority of the field as a shakedown session, with countless trips along the "loop" around the first two corners to ensure that a driver did not have to wait all day to be recovered out around the mountain. That did not make it impossible for a driver to get stuck out on the Nordschleife however, as proved by Mario Andretti when his Lotus 63 broke down on the run to Bergwerk. That fate would also be shared by Denny Hulme when he suffered an ignition failure, having to wait until lunch before he was picked up, while numerous other drivers failed to record a time at all as issues were resolved.
In terms of pace, there would be no surprises when Jackie Stewart went to the top of the times, only taking a few laps before he dipped under the 8 minute mark. He would soon be joined by Jochen Rindt, although the Austrian would end the session 2.5 seconds slower, while Graham Hill and Jean-Pierre Beltoise missed the mark by four seconds. Elsewhere, Hubert Hahne was impressing as best of the F2 runners with a time good enough to get among the top F1 cars, while BRM found themselves at the bottom of the pile after struggling to get a time under 9 minutes.
Friday afternoon's running would be overshadowed by the horrible accident that claimed the life of Gerhard Mitter, a shock to most of the racing world given his prior experience on the Nordschleife. Coming over the hump at Flugplatz, the German's BMW suddenly veered sideways, meaning Mitter would have to battle with the steering wheel to keep control through the flat out Kottenborn. Mitter managed to hang on, but when the car suddenly snapped sideways again into the following Schwedenkreuz, with the German racer powerless to prevent the car flying off into the trees. Mitter was killed the moment the car shattered itself on one of the Black Forest trees, with most speculating that the accident had been caused by car failure rather than driver error.
Away from the tragic events at the Flugplatz, the times on Friday afternoon would be nothing short of spectacular as the entire field improved their pace. Stewart managed to get further into the 7:50.0s, ending the day on a 7:51.7, although everyone would be shocked to see him beaten to the top of the standings by someone other than Rindt. The man to beat the pair of them would be the young Belgian racer Jacky Ickx, who completed his best lap in 7:44.2, while Jo Siffert stunned the field by recording a 7:50.3 to go second fastest.
Saturday's session broke with the news that BMW had withdrawn from the event after the death of Mitter, a decision also undertaken by the German ace's friend Hans Herrmann. But the tragedy would not be enough to see the event cancelled, and when the Saturday running started the fans would not be disappointed. It would be a day full of sensational driving and lap times, with a ten second gap covering the top five, the equivalent of a single second on a more conventional Grand Prix venue.
The battle for pole would be between Ickx, Rindt, Stewart and Siffert, although the latter's overnight changes prevented the Swiss racer from actually managing to improve his times. Rindt, meanwhile, would spend the day gradually improving his pace, but would later admit that the 'challenge' of the Ring was proving too much. That left Stewart and Ickx to duel for the honours, and when the Scot set a 7:42.4 it seemed as if pole was his. However, Ickx was still on a lap when Stewart stopped, and before the Scot could get out again the Belgian flashed across the line with a 7:42.1, snatching pole and a stunning circuit record.
Elsewhere, nine of the F1 racers would get under the 8 minute mark, while John Surtees declared his BRM undriveable and so withdrew at the end of the day. He would be one of four Grand Prix racers beaten by Johnny Servoz-Gavin, the Frenchman's time of 8:11.1 enough to claim the honours in the F2 field, although it was only three seconds quicker than Ickx's old record for the formula, set in 1967. Other highlights included the effort of Vic Elford, who would beat the times of Piers Courage, Bruce McLaren and Graham Hill for Antique Automobiles, while Mario Andretti managed to set a 8:15.4 after just three laps of running, before the Lotus 63 ruined its second engine of the weekend with a driveshaft failure.
The full qualifying results for the 1969 German Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||6||Jacky Ickx||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||8:33.8||7:44.2||7:42.1||—|
|2||7||Jackie Stewart||Matra-Ford Cosworth||7:55.6||7:51.7||7:42.4||+0.3s|
|3||2||Jochen Rindt||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||7:58.0||7:54.0||7:48.0||+5.9s|
|4||11||Jo Siffert||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||No Time||7:50.3||7:55.2||+8.2s|
|5||9||Denny Hulme||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||No Time||8:01.5||7:52.8||+10.7s|
|6||12||Vic Elford||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||8:09.8||8:06.6||7:54.8||+12.7s|
|7||17||Piers Courage||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||8:41.8||8:01.6||7:56.1||+14.0s|
|8||10||Bruce McLaren||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||8:09.3||8:06.6||7:56.5||+14.4s|
|9||1||Graham Hill||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||8:04.0||8:00.6||7:57.0||+14.9s|
|10||8||Jean-Pierre Beltoise||Matra-Ford Cosworth||8:04.0||8:01.5||8:00.3||+18.2s|
|11||27||Johnny Servoz-Gavin||Matra-Ford Cosworth||8:38.7||8:12.5||8:11.1||+29.0s|
|12*||14||John Surtees||BRM||8:51.9||8:12.1||No Time||+30.0s|
|13||28||François Cevert||Tecno-Ford Cosworth||8:35.0||8:15.6||8:13.9||+31.8s|
|14||26||Henri Pescarolo||Matra-Ford Cosworth||8:30.7||8:16.8||8:14.8||+32.7s|
|15||3||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||No Time||No Time||8:15.4||+33.3s|
|17†||23||Hubert Hahne||BMW||8:24.7||8:19.5||No Time||+37.4s|
|18||31||Peter Westbury||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||8:44.0||8:26.2||8:20.0||+37.9s|
|19||20||Kurt Ahrens||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||8:39.7||8:24.4||8:23.2||+41.1s|
|20||29||Richard Attwood||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||No Time||8:35.6||8:24.6||+42.5s|
|21†||25||Dieter Quester||BMW||10:20.2||8:26.8||No Time||+44.7s|
|22||22||Rolf Stommelen||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||8:55.5||8:28.1||No Time||+46.0s|
|23||16||Jo Bonnier||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||No Time||No Time||8:35.0||+52.9s|
|24||30||Xavier Perrot||Brabham-Ford Cosworth||8:45.6||8:43.1||8:35.4||+53.3s|
|25‡||24||Gerhard Mitter||BMW||8:36.5||No Time||No Time||+54.4s|
|26†||21||Hans Herrmann||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||9:04.0||8:50.3||No Time||+1:08.2|
- F2 drivers highlighted in yellow.
- * Surtees was unable to start the race.
- † Hahne, Quester and Herrmann all withdrew from the race once news of Mitter's death reached the paddock.
- ‡ Fatal accident.
Much like the practice/qualifying days, raceday dawned bright, warm and without any threat of rain, prompting an estimated 350,000 strong crowd the gravitate towards the Eifel mountains. After the familiar pre-race entertainments passed, including the one-lap bicycle battle around the entire Nürburgring, the F1 and F2 cars were wheeled out onto the grid, minus the BRM of John Surtees. The Brit had given up hopes of challenging for points in the ill-handling P139, although his absence would only be a footnote when the flag fell to signal the start of the race on Sunday afternoon.
Although any of the top five qualifiers could have been considered a contender for victory, when the cars slithered off the grid at the start there would only be one driver in the fight. That man was Jackie Stewart, who found an incredible amount of traction to sprint into the lead of the race, sweeping into the Sud-kehre with a gap to the rest of the runners. Jacky Ickx, in contrast, made another poor getaway, becoming engulfed in the pack before the field followed Stewart into turn one, as Jo Siffert and Jochen Rindt moved up to try and keep with the flying Scotsman.
The legendary length of the Nurburgring meant that the opening lap lasted over eight minutes, with a lot of action going either unseen or unreported, while false reports of retirements were frequent. Mario Andretti, for example, was said to have crashed in turn two, only for the American to be seen later in the lap in the middle of the F1 pack, battling away with the RWD cars. Yet, the American would be involved in a race ending accident on the opening lap, losing control just after the Karussell and spinning across the circuit.
Unfortunately, Vic Elford was the first man to come across the spinning Lotus 63, and was powerless to avoid the out of control Andretti. The Brit was duly hit by the Lotus' front wheel and flew into the trees, where the McLaren-Ford Cosworth flipped into the air and obliterated itself on impact. Andretti followed Elford's car into the trees, although the young American escaped from his ruined Lotus without any injuries, before helping to extract the Brit as he struggled to climb out of his cockpit with a badly broken arm.
The rest of the opening lap passed without incident, with Stewart flashing past the pits with a six second lead. Next came Siffert and Rindt, while Ickx had battle back from a lowly eighth to run in fourth, and was challenging the former two as the trio began the second lap. Bruce McLaren, Graham Hill and Denny Hulme were next, having leapt out of the way when Ickx came barrelling up behind them, with the rest of the F1 field coming through in a long line, ahead of the first F2 racers.
The second lap saw Stewart stretch his lead to nine seconds, largely due to the work of Ickx in battling his way past Siffert and Rindt through the first half of the lap. Once clear the Belgian began to close in on the Scot, while Siffert and Rindt moved away from each other as the rest of the field spread out. Elsewhere, Piers Courage ended his race in a ditch when his Frank Williams run Brabham BT26A grounded itself on a bump and threw itself off the circuit.
The following laps would see Ickx catch Stewart hand over fist, appearing to gain time around every single corner as the rest of the runners fell steadily behind. As the Belgian challenged for the lead the third "Jackie" in the field was coming under pressure, Jackie Oliver having to fend off F2 trio Johnny Servoz-Gavin, Henri Pescarolo and François Cevert in an outclassed BRM. Oliver's defence was holding for the time being, the BRM having around 200 horsepower more than the F2 runners to pull away down the straights, only to lose all that time through the corners.
It took until the end of lap three for Ickx to latch onto the back of Stewart, with the Belgian pulling alongside the Scot down the long, undulating, Döttinger Höhe. The flatout kink of Antoniusbuche saw Ickx have to lift off as he was on the inside, forcing him to follow Stewart through Tiergarten, before pulling alongside down the pit straight. Into turn one and Ickx was once again on the wrong side to effectively challenge, meaning Stewart was able to hold the lead as they disappeared off around the Nordschleife once again.
Lap four proved a stalemate in the fight for the lead, with the Brabham tucking right into the wake of the Matra as they flashed past the pits once again. Elswhere, Siffert was running on his own having fended off Rindt's early attentions, while the rest of the field had strung out around the Eifel mountains. Oliver was also running on his own at the back of the field, having escaped the attentions of the F2 cars as they began to fight amongst themselves, while Jo Bonnier limped into the pits with a fuel leak.
Back with the leaders and Stewart had once again managed to stay ahead of Ickx with some spectacular defensive driving as the pair once again hit the brakes into turn one to start lap six. This prompted Ickx to try a lunge into the Nordkehre, with the Belgian locking up all four wheels to briefly take the lead, only to slither onto the grass on the outside of the corner. Stewart duly swept back inside to retake the lead, although the heroic attempt by Ickx had thrown most of the crowd behind his challenge.
The pair once again reappeared at the rise of Tiergarten with the Matra in the lead, although the Brabham was so close that they entered the chicane almost as one. Exiting the Hohenrain chicane Ickx pulled out and drew alongside the Scot, before deciding to try and out-brake into turn one. It was a 150 mph game of chicken, and when Stewart blinked first Ickx duly swept into the lead, before sprinting off into the Nordschleife to try and deny Stewart an attempt at revenge.
As the battle at the front drew all of the attention, Rindt's race was ruined when a misfire dropped him from fourth to eighth in the length of the Döttinger Höhe. As he fell away Hulme had moved ahead of Hill and teammate McLaren, with the latter also moving past the Lotus as the pair flashed past the limping Rindt. Given that Ickx and Stewart were over two minutes ahead by this stage gave the impression that the rest of the field were simply out of their depth, until a quick overview of their times demonstrated that they were all lapping at an average speed north of 100mph.
The F2 field were also getting some really impressive times around the Eifel mountains, with Servoz-Gavin and Pescarolo battling away for the lead. That lasted until the former's engine let go in a cloud of oil, promoting Pescarolo, while Cevert sat in a season high second until his pace dropped him to the very back of the field. He would ultimately fall behind an impressive scrap for second, as Richard Attwood, Kurt Ahrens and Rolf Stommelen battled away, a truel which slowly drew attention away from the leaders when Stewart's gearbox began to suffer.
Indeed, the Scot had been glued to the back of Ickx since the Belgian's lunge for the lead, although the Scot had been unable to make a serious challenge. But, after two laps of waiting for the Brabham racer to make a mistake, Stewart suddenly started to struggle with finding a gear, costing him ten seconds through a single corner. With no viable solution the Scot would have to adapt, running the rest of the race with only third and fourth gear.
The rest of the race saw all of the fans' focus switch to the F2 battle, as Stewart slipped further and further behind the spectacular Belgian out front. Siffert was of no consequence, only able to lap at the same pace as the limping Scot, while Hulme went out with a gearbox problem, promoting teammate McLaren. Hill remained in a steady fifth ahead of Beltoise, Rindt had stopped only to be told his issue could not be cured before having to retire, and Oliver was out with a monumental oil leak.
Onto the penultimate lap and Ickx was cruising past the battle for second among the F2 field, which was still up in the air between the F1 veteran Attwood, Nurburgring specialist Ahrens and single seater debutante Stommelen. Stewart was still hanging on in second, while Siffert suffered a suspension failure while approaching the Karussel, ending any chance of the Swiss racer making it to the podium as his car disappeared into the trees. He was joined on the sidelines moments later by Beltoise who had a similar failure as he came past the pits at the back of the field.
With that the race was run, with Ickx being greeted with a huge roar from the crowd when he came to the finish line. Pescarolo was forced to complete another lap having just escaped from being lapped by the Belgian, although the Frenchman was instantly declared the F2 winner as the second place battle had been lapped, Attwood having defied Ahrens and Stommelen in the closing stages. Stewart limped home to second ahead of McLaren and Hill, while Pescarolo and his F2 colleagues filled the rest of the top ten. As they were not eligible for points, Siffert and Beltoise were given the points, despite being classified down in eleventh and twelfth respectively.
The full results for the 1969 German Grand Prix are outlined below:
- F2 drivers highlighted in yellow.
- * Both Siffert and Beltoise were still classified despite failing to complete the final lap.
- † Hahne, Quester and Herrmann all withdrew from the race once news of Mitter's death reached the paddock.
- Jo Bonnier made his 100th Grand Prix start.
- Second pole position taken by Jacky Ickx.
- Ickx earned his second victory in a World Championship race.
- Also the Belgian racer's first fastest lap.
- Brabham claimed their eleventh victory.
- Ickx also earned Brabham's tenth fastest lap.
- Tenth podium taken by McLaren as a constructor.
- 22nd victory earned by a Ford Cosworth engine.
Despite being beaten to victory for only the second time in 1969, Jackie Stewart would leave the Nürburgring having managed to extend his Championship lead to 29 points. Race winner Jacky Ickx was up to second, his second career win seeing him leap up from fifth, a single point clear of third placed Bruce McLaren. Graham Hill was a further two points back and almost certainly out of the title fight already, while Jo Siffert still held the honours for the privateer field as he maintained his position among the top five.
Like lead driver Stewart, Matra-Ford Cosworth had managed to extend their lead despite tasting defeat in the race, leaving West Germany with a 23 point advantage. Brabham-Ford Cosworth would thank Ickx for putting them into second, although they were level with Lotus-Ford Cosworth on 28 points as they duelled for second. Those two would also have to factor in McLaren-Ford Cosworth into their fight until the end of the season, with Ferrari and BRM remained in single figures.
Images and Videos:
- John Hintlian, 'Motorsports Monday -Jo Siffert, 1969 German GP', blogspot.co.uk, (Blogger, 2017), http://johnhintlian.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/motorsports-monday-jo-siffert-1969.html?m=1, (Accessed 24/01/2017)
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: GERMAN GP, 1969', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr180.html, (Accessed 23/01/2017)
- D.S.J., 'German Grand Prix: Some Man's Motor Racing', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/09/1969), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/september-1969/47/german-grand-prix, (Accessed 24/01/2017)
- 'Germany 1969: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/allemagne/engages.aspx, (Accessed 24/01/2017)
- 'Germany 1969: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/allemagne/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 24/01/2017)
- 'Germany 1969: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1969/allemagne/classement.aspx, (Accessed 26/01/2017)
|V T E||German Grand Prix|
|Circuits||Nürburgring (1951–1954, 1956–1958, 1960–1969, 1971–1976, 1985, 2008–2013*), AVUS (1959), Hockenheimring (1970, 1977–1984, 1986–2006, 2008–2014*, 2016, 2018–2019)|
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|* Nürburgring and Hockenheimring alternated between each other during these years.|
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