The 1973 German Grand Prix, officially known as the XXXVIII Großer Preis von Deutschland, was the eleventh round of the 1973 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged on the 5th August, 1973, at the formidable Nürburgring. The battle of the "Ring" would see Jackie Stewart claim his twenty-seventh and final victory to extend his Championship lead, while a series of retirements ultimately settled the order behind him.
Held just a week after the horrid death of Roger Williamson at Zandvoort, March and Hesketh Racing withdrew their efforts, while the regular combatants races on in his memory. Qualifying saw Stewart rise to the fore with an excellent lap to claim a seventeenth and final pole start, sharing the front row with quali-specialist Ronnie Peterson.
In front of the familiar 100,000 strong crowd it was Stewart who shot into the lead of the race, while teammate François Cevert moved into second after a strong start. Peterson only managed to threaten them for the first half of the opening lap before an engine failure ended his day, leaving the Tyrrell duo to dominate for the rest of the afternoon.
As the Tyrrell twosome disappeared, an on loan Jacky Ickx moved into third, Ferrari allowing McLaren to use their star driver while they solved their car's inherent issues. Niki Lauda, Carlos Reutemann and Peter Revson then stole the show with an intense fight for fourth, although it was over in a flash as Revson kissed the barriers and Lauda broke his wrist after going straight on at Kesselchen.
Reutemann therefore inherited fourth before retiring just after half distance, promoting Carlos Pace, while the two Fittipaldi brothers briefly battled for fifth. Ultimately the injured Emerson had to give way to the older Wilson, with the pair only five seconds apart at the flag.
Yet, out front, there was no-one who could deny Stewart the win, the Scot crossing the line with teammate Cevert a couple of seconds behind in a perfect display of dominance. Ickx matched his best finish of the season with third ahead of fastest lap setter Pace, with the two Fittipaldis completing the points. Other highlights saw Jackie Oliver actually finish a race for Shadow, Graham Hill finish on the lead lap, and a grief stricken David Purley finished the race a lap down in his March.
The formidable Nürburgring remained unchanged in 1973, although the circuit had been coated by advertisements from German tobacco companies. This was part of a government supported scheme to enhance Germany's tobacco industry, which also required all non-German tobacconist logos to be covered up. This caused a headache for many of the British teams who spent valuable time covering up title sponsors rather than setting up their cars, with only five days separating the end of the Dutch Grand Prix and the start of practice in Germany.
After the tragic loss of Roger Williamson, March decided to withdraw their full factory effort, despite an initial agreement to field Jean-Pierre Jarier in the only March chassis not in active service. The "semi-works" effort of Mike Beuttler would race, however, while David Purley felt it was best to honour his friend's memory by racing around the Nordschleife. The fourth car of Hesketh Racing was also a surprise withdrawal, although it was late revealed that they were completing an intensive test programme as they self-developed their 731.
Other absentees despite entering the race would be found in the form of Ferrari, with Enzo Ferrari still not satisfied with the 312B3. With no sportscar races being staged Mr. Ferrari decided to loan lead driver Jacky Ickx to McLaren for the weekend, while Arturo Merzario completed a series of tests back in Italy. Compatriots Tecno were also absent, deciding it would be more beneficial to sort out their internal struggles, while Ensign also missed out to try and revise their design.
In the tobacco realm and Lotus were forced to cover over all of the "John Player" logos on their equipment, including the transporters, before they were allowed access to the paddock, with the crew also having to cover over sponsorship on their overalls. Fortunately for them the distinctive black-gold livery was allowed to remain, with Ronnie Peterson and Emerson Fittipaldi both in action, despite the former's ankle injury. For Peterson there would be two cars on hand, his regular racer plus the spare, while Fittipaldi could only use his spare, although it was still in doubt whether the Brazilian would race at all.
At the BRM there was a similar rush to cover over logos on the entry road, although they too were allowed to keep their equally characteristic red-white colours. They once again fielded the trio of Clay Regazzoni, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Niki Lauda, although all three would have to wait for an engine delivery from Bourne before they could get out on track. Graham Hill, meanwhile, would race for "E. Racing" with a completely white Shadow, while the two Frank Williams Racing Cars Iso-Marlboros for Howden Ganley and the returning Henri Pescarolo would have their "Marlboro" logos removed in the pits.
At Tyrrell there would be no such problems, for the cars of Jackie Stewart and François Cevert were solely sponsored by manufacturing related companies. The inflated McLaren effort was similarly unaffected, with Ickx joining regular runners Denny Hulme and Peter Revson, while their usual spare racer Jody Scheckter was absent racing in Formula Two. Ickx himself, meanwhile, had been expected to join one of either Team Lotus, Tyrrell or McLaren, for the Belgian had remarkable form on the Nordschleife, and would only accept a drive in a car that would give him a shot at victory.
Elsewhere, Brabham arranged for Rolf Stommelen to drive for the "semi-works" effort of Ceramica Pagnossin, the German taking over the seat of their man Andrea de Adamich, who was out with a broken ankle. Their second entry in the colours of Hexagon Racing for John Watson was also pencilled in on the list, but the car never arrived, leaving the Ulsterman to wander around the paddock for most of the weekend. The two full blooded factory cars arrived fighting fit too, with Carlos Reutemann and Wilson Fittipaldi Júnior also getting new front wings to try for the weekend.
At Surtees there was an expanded effort, with a third car for German rookie Jochen Mass back in action after it had been written off at Silverstone. He joined Carlos Pace and Mike Hailwood in the regular cars, although John Surtees looked no happier after their recent struggles. Completing the field were the two factory Shadows for Jackie Oliver and George Follmer, with the former getting the newest of the black cars after crashing out at the feet of designer Tony Southgate back in the Netherlands.
An emotional record victory for Stewart back in the Netherlands left the Scot with a ten point advantage at the top of the Championship standings, with Emerson Fittipaldi really beginning to struggle with both poor luck and unreliability. The Brazilian now looked more likely to battling for runner-up as Cevert continued to close the gap, while Peterson slipped further behind in fourth. Elsewhere, Revson overhauled teammate Hulme, Hunt moved ahead of Ickx for seventh, while Gijs van Lennep manage to ensure that there were eighteen different scorers for the season with his first points finish.
It was advantage Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth in the battle for the International Cup for Manufacturers with five races to go, the Surrey squad overtaking Norfolk's Lotus-Ford Cosworth effort and establishing a four point advantage. McLaren-Ford Cosworth were sat in an even more distant third, twenty points behind Lotus, although they were hardly under threat from behind with Brabham-Ford Cosworth and Ferrari still level on twelve points. Other points of note were the fact that March-Ford Cosworth were up to sixth thanks solely to the efforts of Hunt, BRM remained in seventh, and Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth were finally on the board, ahead of Tecno on countback.
The full entry list for the 1973 German Grand Prix is outlined below:
- * Ickx was still registered as an entrant for Scuderia Ferrari, despite his loan to McLaren.
Practice/qualifying was scheduled across Friday and Saturday, with two three hour long sessions to be held on each afternoon. Both would be affected by showers of rain, although a heavier, and far more patchy burst on Saturday effectively made Friday the more valuable of the two days. As for target times the outright circuit record on the Nordschleife had been set by Jacky Ickx back in 1972, a 7:07.0, with many believing that the seven minute could be broken for the first time, just four years after the Belgian burst through the eight minute mark.
The light shower ahead of the Friday afternoon run sent all of the teams scurrying to the back of paddock for wet tyres, although their worries evaporated quicker than the clouds overhead did leaving the entire Eifel circuit bone dry. Most of the early running saw the drivers focus solely on the "South loop", a run which included the first corner until the entry to Hatzenbach, where a service road would carry the cars back to pits. This was a familiar feature of the Nordschleife, designed intentionally to allow teams to get their cars up to speed without taking on the full 22.935km layout, as a stranded car would not be retrieved until the end of the day.
After a first hour spent orbiting around the "loop", a few of the drivers, including Championship leader Jackie Stewart, ventured out onto the full lap, recording a 7:20.0 on his first lap. He was soon followed by the rest of the field, although they were cruising along in the 7:30.0s for the most part, until Ickx decided to push his new McLaren. On his first flying lap in the car the Belgian set a 7:09.7, much faster than anyone else, although his session ended a few minutes later when the Ford Cosworth engine in the back chewed itself to pieces.
A short break was then called, for Ickx had left his car in a dangerous area, meaning the officials thought it best to go and retrieve it. After the break the "Aces" in the field really began pushing, with Stewart in particularly fine form to end the day with a 7:07.8, although the Tyrrell timekeeper believed he was under the old circuit record. He was joined in the sub-7:10.0s by Ronnie Peterson and François Cevert, with Niki Lauda putting his BRM colleagues to shame by joining them after a late blast.
Saturday's session would be marred by a cloud covered sky, the Eifel Mountains causing showers to break up and spread across the circuit, meaning there were patches of wet and dry tarmac. The result was a 95% dry circuit, but it was the 5% covered in water that ultimately meant that the session was a write off. In the first hour there was a split over whether the wet or dry tyres were the best to use, with Stewart chewing through an entire set of "rain" tyres in a single lap, while David Purley braved the Nordschleife on a set of slicks.
Fortunately the circuit began to dry, and times began to creep towards the best of those set on Friday. Yet, most would fail to improve, and it was only a particularly brave lap by Ickx that saw him get with six tenths of his previous best, despite the greasy surface. Before too long another set of showers dumped water on more of the circuit, just as Peterson crashed out of the session with a suspension failure. At the back of the field, meanwhile, Howden Ganley crashed out of the running in his Iso-Marlboro, having been completely outclassed by temporary teammate Henri Pescarolo.
The full qualifying results for the 1973 German Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Ganley would be unable to start the race after his accident on Saturday.
Raceday was a far nicer day than Saturday, with a 1:00pm start time preceded by a short warm-up session, with fans also swarming towards the circuit. A full set of ambulance and fire crews had been stationed at strategic points of the Nordschleife too, while the Grand Prix cars dragged themselves around the "loop" to complete the parade lap. With that the twenty-two strong field assembled on the 2x2x2 grid for the start, with the German tricolour raised at precisely 1:00pm local time.
It was third placed François Cevert who reacted fastest to the starter's flag, with the Frenchman shooting past the front row to take a half car length lead into the South Curve. Teammate Jackie Stewart was a fraction slower to react, by the Scot was able to slither across in front of Ronnie Peterson to make it a Tyrrell one-two, with the pair completing an excellent display of formation flying through the first corner. Stewart got the better exit and duly swept onto the Nordschleife proper in the lead, with Cevert neatly tucking in behind to defend his title pretending teammate.
Behind them went Peterson, who had to fend off an early challenge from Jacky Ickx through Hatzenbach, leaving the Belgian in fourth. Niki Lauda was an early fifth after holding station, while Carlos Reutemann fended off the rest of the field in sixth. Yet, all were powerless to deny the blue-white charge out front, with reports around the back of the Nordschleife stating that the pair were dancing away from the rest of the field at a rate of knots.
At the end of the opening lap Stewart crossed the line with a second in hand over Cevert, having recorded a 7:27.5 for a standing lap, with a large wait before the third placed driver arrived. That man proved to be Ickx, for Peterson's new engine had expired at Breidscheid, an electrical fault caused by its late installation. Lauda was next after a brief pause, with the Austrian in an intense tussle with Reutemann and Peter Revson, while Denny Hulme led the two Fittipaldi brothers across the line at the back end of the top ten.
The Lauda/Reutemann/Revson fight would only last until Kesselchen, where Lauda suffered a front right puncture and flew off the road, his BRM then obliterating itself on the barriers. The Austrian racer climbed out of the wreckage with difficulty having sustained a broken wrist, and would later report that he had felt something fail on the climb of Bergwerk. A few minutes later and Revson was out of the fight, with the American bouncing off a curb at Hatzenbach and clipping the barrier, rejoining the field with a badly buckled rear wheel rim.
Back with the two Tyrrells and the following laps suggested there was very little for the Oakham squad to be concerned with, with Stewart and Cevert flying around nose-to-tail and going a second quicker with each tour. Ickx was providing no real challenge, cruising along ahead of Reutemann, while Lauda's teammate Jean-Pierre Beltoise limped into the pits with a puncture, and to report the Austrian's accident. As this was going on George Follmer slid into the barriers at the North Turn and fatally wounded his Shadow, while David Purley was another driver to suffer a puncture.
Reutemann soon became a bottleneck, with a huge line of increasingly agitated drivers forming a train behind him after Revson disappeared. In this train were Carlos Pace, Hulme, Emerson Fittipaldi, Wilson Fittipaldi, Jochen Mass, Clay Regazzoni and even Henri Pescarolo in the lowly Iso-Marlboro, with the officials increasingly concerned that the Argentine would cause a serious accident. At the start of lap eight the officials decided to show him a blue flag, with Reutemann very obediently pulling aside to release the herd.
As it turned out their efforts were wasted, for Reutemann's engine only lasted for another few corners. As for his train, Pace had instantly managed to pull clear and briefly began to close onto the back of Ickx, although the Belgian picked up his pace before the Brazilian could entertain hopes of challenging. Hulme, meanwhile, was caught out and duly passed by the Fittipaldi brothers, with Wilson giving his injured little brother a hard time as they danced around ahead of the Kiwi. Mass was quickly dropped from the rest but was enjoying himself nonetheless, Regazzoni disappeared into the pits with the familiar BRM issue of tyre wear, while Pescarolo was caught and passed by Jackie Oliver, who was relieved to have made it through the opening lap, never mind the fact he had actually overtaken someone.
The rest of the race would see the two Tyrrells continue to pound around together out front, while Ickx was a very secure third, and hardly pushing. Pace had no hopes of improving on fourth but was throwing his car round the Nordschleife regardless, bagging himself fastest lap, while Hulme stopped in the pits to report an engine issue, a rather obvious one from outside of the cockpit for he had lost an exhaust. The last fight to rumble on was the Fittipaldi duel, with Emerson still fending off the attentions of Wilson, while Oliver was now flying round, barrelling past a disinterested Revson as the race entered its final lap.
With that the race was run, with the Tyrrell one-two crossing the line a second and a half apart to complete one of the most dominant team displays in recent years. Ickx was a distant third ahead of a thrilled Pace, while Wilson smuggled fifth place away from his brother with a late move on the the final lap. Mass cruised home in seventh ahead of a delighted Oliver, while Revson, Pescarolo, Rolf Stommelen, Hulme, Graham Hill, Mike Hailwood, Purley and Mike Beuttler all managed to see the chequered flag, the final three having been lapped by the flying Tyrrells.
The full results for the 1973 German Grand Prix are outlined below:
- The was the first German Grand Prix to feature tobacco advertising in any form.
- It would also be the last until the 1999 German Grand Prix.
- Last race not to feature an Italian driver until the 2012 Australian Grand Prix.
- Twenty-seventh and final victory for Jackie Stewart.
- Tyrrell claimed their sixteenth win as a constructor.
- François Cevert claimed his thirteenth and final podium finish.
- Carlos Pace claimed his maiden fastest lap.
Jackie Stewart left the Nürburgring with a fifteen point lead over the rest of the field after his dominant victory, with the Scot now undisputed favourite for the title. His teammate François Cevert had moved into second after finishing second, relegating the injured Emerson Fittipaldi down to third, in spite of the Brazilian's early season supremacy. Ronnie Peterson, Peter Revson and Denny Hulme all held station, while Jacky Ickx moved back ahead of James Hunt after his podium.
Another poor show of reliability for Lotus-Ford Cosworth saw them slip eleven points behind arch-rivals Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth, as those two headed into the final four races as the only two teams with a realistic shot at the International Cup for Manufacturers. McLaren-Ford Cosworth had inched closer to the fight after Ickx's podium, but still trailed the Norfolk squad by seventeen points, while Brabham-Ford Cosworth moved clear of Ferrari almost thirty points further back. Surtees-Ford Cosworth were finally on the board, leaping ahead of newcomers Tecno and Iso-Marlboro-Ford Cosworth, with eleven different constructors on the board.
Images and Videos:
- 'GRAND PRIX RESULTS: GERMAN GP, 1973', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr231.html, (Accessed 06/03/2017)
- D.S.J., 'German Grand Prix: A Tyrrell Demonstration', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/09/1973), http://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/september-1973/29/german-grand-prix-tyrell-demonstration, (Accessed 06/03/2017)
- 'Germany 1973: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/allemagne/engages.aspx, (Accessed 06/03/2017)
- 'Germany 1973: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/allemagne/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 07/03/2017)
- 'Germany 1973: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1973/allemagne/classement.aspx, (Accessed 07/03/2017)
|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.|
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