The 1977 German Grand Prix, otherwise officially known as the XXXIX Großer Preis von Deutschland, was the eleventh round of the 1977 FIA Formula One World Championship, staged at the Hockenheimring on the 31 July, 1977. The race was the first to be staged at the German Grand Prix's new permanent home in Baden-Württemberg, and only the second time that the German race had been staged away from the Nürburgring.
Qualifying would see Jody Scheckter claim pole position for Wolf, edging out John Watson in his Brabham-Alfa Romeo. Niki Lauda, Championship leader, was next ahead of defending Champion James Hunt, with the best placed German racer, Hans-Joachim Stuck, next up in fifth.
It would be grid order for the leaders at the start of the race, with Scheckter and Watson formation flying into the first corner, with Lauda, Hunt and Stuck following them through. It was a less orderly start at the back of the field, as Clay Regazzoni and Alan Jones slithered into one another at the back. They were both out having never reached the start/finish line, let alone the first corner.
The top five would pull steadily clear during the early stages, stalked by Carlos Reutemann and Mario Andretti once they dealt with Jacques Laffite. The lead quintet would soon become a quartet, however, when Watson's engine expired on lap seven, allowed Lauda to move onto the back of the leading Wolf.
After several failed attempts, Lauda would finally manage to drag his Ferrari past Scheckter for the lead on lap thirteen, breaking away as the South African had to immediately fend off an opportunistic move from Hunt. The pair continued to squabble, allowing Lauda to pull clear, while Stuck had begun to fall away towards Reutemann and Andretti.
Ultimately, Hunt's charge would end on lap 33, promoting Stuck onto the podium, while Reutemann's day was made easier when Andretti disappeared with an engine failure. The American's disappearance signalled the end of the Lotus challenge for the afternoon, with Gunnar Nilsson already out with an identical failure.
There would be one last shuffle to the order in closing stages as Ronnie Peterson dropped out with an engine failure, as Lauda majestically swept home to claim victory. Scheckter was a lonely second ahead of Stuck, while Reutemann had cruised home to a quiet fourth. The numerous engine failures ahead had promoted Vittorio Brambilla into fifth, in spite of the fact that the Surtees had run for most of the race without a nose, while Patrick Tambay claimed his first points finish in sixth.
To hold the German Grand Prix anywhere other than the Nürburgring seemed a completely alien concept in the realm of Formula One during its first three decades, with only one attempt made to host the event elsewhere. Ultimately, and reluctantly, time was up for the Nordschleife heading into the 1976, with Niki Lauda's fiery accident that year sealing the circuit's fate. For 1977 the much less daunting Hockenheimring took over as permanent host of the German Grand Prix, amid some rumblings form the old guard about the future of the series.
In truth, the Hockenheimring was not a particularly popular circuit, its only real contribution to racing history being the location of Jim Clark's death in 1968. Regardless, F1 would head to the revamped Baden-Württemberg based circuit at the end of July, on a circuit which was a mix of long straights, chicanes, and couple of long-sweeping corners. The most intriguing section of the circuit was the "Stadium" section towards the end of the lap, with the banked Sachskurve one of the better known corners on the circuit.
Into the entry list and it was a rather poor turn out given the explosion in entries submitted for the British Grand Prix, with no need to hold a pre-qualifying session, something of a relief to the press. The most notable absentee was the new Renault of Jean-Pierre Jabouille, with the French firm deciding just before the meeting, to test their car instead. Given the long flat out lengths of the Hockenheimring this was probably a good call given their turbocharged engine had not made it to half distance at Silverstone.
Elsewhere, McLaren arrived with just the two entries, impressive rookie Gilles Villeneuve returning to the role of a reserve that he had occupied since the start of the season. That left defending Champion James Hunt and German born Jochen Mass as their only entries, using their now matching pair of M26s. Mass' battle hardened M23 was the team's sole spare.
Lotus arrived looking to regain the initiative after a relatively poor showing at Silverstone, with Mario Andretti and Gunnar Nilsson using their usual cars. Brabham-Alfa Romeo, meanwhile, hoped that they had cured their fuel issues from the previous two races, which had arguably cost John Watson two successive victories. His teammate would be Hans-Joachim Stuck as usual, with no changes to their allocation of equipment.
Over at Ferrari things were looking far calmer after their recent updates, with both Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann happier with their cars. Tyrrell, in contrast, would hope that the low-drag bodywork on their P34Bs would help down the long straights, although Patrick Depailler and Ronnie Peterson remained doubtful. Wolf were back with their two newest cars for Jody Scheckter, while Ligier-Matra continued to field Jacques Laffite on his own.
Ensign continued to field their works-and-a-half effort of Clay Regazzoni and Patrick Tambay, amid rumours that Theodore Racing would design their own chassis in 1978. Shadow, meanwhile, had their complement of DN8s ready for action, with Alan Jones and Riccardo Patrese looking increasingly effective despite a lack of development. Likewise, Surtees had made little ground with their design evolution, although both Vern Schuppan and Vittorio Brambilla were optimistic upon arrival.
There was a change made at Hesketh, who brought in Héctor Rebaque to the full works squad to partner Rupert Keegan, for Harald Ertl had run out of money. Fittipaldi, meanwhile, arrived with another new car for Emerson Fittipaldi, although the Brazilian had seemed to have lost his edge since the start of the season. Completing the constructors entries would be the BRM squad, which had decided to let Teddy Pilette drive their latest P207.
Into the privateer field and all of the focus would be on the German ATS Racing Team, who had decided to submit entries for both of their privately owned Penskes. Jean-Pierre Jarier was therefore to be joined by local racer Hans Heyer, who had a lot of experience at the Hockenheimring due to his German touring car exploits. Indeed, Germanic pride was running high in the ATS team, with both cars running in the German national colours.
Elsewhere, March had their factory duo of Ian Scheckter and Alex Ribeiro back in action, joined by two of the more prominent, and often quicker, customer cars. The familiar faces of Patrick Nève and Williams Grand Prix Engineering were back in action, as was Arturo Merzario's self entered 761B. They were joined by the two ex-factory McLarens owned by Brett Lunger and Emilio de Villota.
Into the Championship and another podium finish for Lauda last time out had ensured that the Austrian racer extended his Championship lead over Andretti and Scheckter to seven points. Those two would be left to rue their late race issues in Silverstone as they slipped away from the leader, while race winner Hunt finally claimed a spot in the top five. The Brit remained behind Lauda's teammate Reutemann in fourth, while Nilsson had made way for Hunt by slipping to sixth.
Ferrari continued to lead the way in the International Cup for Constructors, extending their advantage back up to nine points over Team Lotus-Ford Cosworth. Behind, McLaren-Ford Cosworth were back into the top three after their first win of the season, overtaking newboys Wolf-Ford Cosworth. The Canadian team were still reluctant to field a second car to support Scheckter, meaning if the South African's recent run of bad luck continued in Germany, the young team would be out of the title fight.
The full entry list for the 1977 German Grand Prix is outlined below:
Practice/qualifying would be a simpler affair without the extensive list of extra entries that had appeared at Silverstone, with just the four sessions scheduled. Of these, Friday's running would see two "timed" or qualifying sessions staged, while Saturday's timetable featured the lone "untimed" session scheduled before the final fight for pole in the afternoon. In terms of a target time there were no real references in the minds of any of the F1 bosses, with the Hockenheimring completely virgin soil for F1 machinery.
It was James Hunt who topped the timesheets during the first session of the weekend, the Brit quick out of the gates with a 1:53.68. Closest to him, and the only other man in the 1:53.00s, was Jacques Laffite in the Ligier-Matra, with John Watson next on a 1:54.12. The rest of the field was spread out beyond the two minute mark, with a mix of setups tested throughout the day.
Indeed, teams were forced to choose between a low-drag/low-cornering speed setup to dominate down the long sweeping straights, or try and maximise their performance in the time eating section around the pit complex and stadium and lose out in the forest. Ultimately, however it was Niki Lauda, choosing the middle road between the two, that topped the second session, albeit with a time slower than he had recorded in the first run of the weekend. This was due to a brief spell of rain mid-session that denied many drivers an extended amount of time on track.
The "untimed" session on Saturday morning would see Jochen Mass destroy his McLaren, the German suffering a puncture at the back of the circuit at high speed and so duly slammed into the barriers. He would therefore join in the final qualifying session in the old M23, making it near-impossible for him to grab a spot at the front of the field. Arturo Merzario also had one hand tied behind his back heading into the final period as his March suffered a series of mechanical faults, while Emerson Fittipaldi was simply lacking speed, in any form, in the Fittipaldi.
Most of the final session would be dominated by Watson in the Brabham-Alfa Romeo, with the Brit improving with almost every run before settling with a 1:53.34. Indeed, it was only in the final moments that his time was truly challenged, and ultimately beaten as Jody Scheckter stormed across the line to claim a 1:53.07. They would share the front row ahead of Hunt, who failed to improve on his Friday morning run, with Lauda next after a quiet afternoon for Ferrari.
The fight to qualify also went into the closing stages, although it was clear that neither Merzario, nor the BRM of Teddy Pilette would make the cut. Another early withdrawal from the fight would be the aforementioned Fittipaldi, while Clay Regazzoni and the Heskeths slowly slid towards the fight. They would all escape, however, as Patrick Nève, Emilio de Villota and Hans Heyer all failed to make the cut. Yet, despite being 27th overall, and third in terms of the non-qualifiers, it was Heyer who was listed as "first reserve", largely as a result of his contacts among the organisers.
The full qualifying results for the 1977 German Grand Prix are outlined below:
|1||20||Jody Scheckter||Wolf-Ford Cosworth||1:55.08||1:55.65||1:53.07||—|
|2||7||John Watson||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:54.12T||1:55.70T||1:53.34T||+0.27s|
|4||1||James Hunt||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:53.68||1:57.02||1:53.89||+0.61s|
|5||8||Hans-Joachim Stuck||Brabham-Alfa Romeo||1:55.62||1:56.25||1:53.91||+0.84s|
|7||5||Mario Andretti||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:55.88||1:55.46||1:53.99||+0.92s|
|9||6||Gunnar Nilsson||Lotus-Ford Cosworth||1:54.97||1:56.73||1:54.44||+1.37s|
|10||19||Vittorio Brambilla||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:55.18||2:00.00||1:54.53||+1.46s|
|11||23||Patrick Tambay||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:55.58||—||1:54.77||+1.70s|
|12||34||Jean-Pierre Jarier||Penske-Ford Cosworth||1:55.19||2:10.02||1:57.27||+2.12s|
|13||2||Jochen Mass||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:55.25||1:57.44||1:56.23T||+2.18s|
|14||3||Ronnie Peterson||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:57.97||1:58.36||1:55.70||+2.63s|
|15||4||Patrick Depailler||Tyrrell-Ford Cosworth||1:57.74||1:57.48||1:55.92||+2.85s|
|16||16||Riccardo Patrese||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:57.01||1:59.01||1:56.09||+3.02s|
|17||17||Alan Jones||Shadow-Ford Cosworth||1:56.53||1:58.40||1:56.22||+3.15s|
|18||10||Ian Scheckter||March-Ford Cosworth||1:57.71||1:58.05||1:56.35||+3.28s|
|19||18||Vern Schuppan||Surtees-Ford Cosworth||1:57.91||2:32.15||1:56.54||+3.47s|
|20||9||Alex Ribeiro||March-Ford Cosworth||1:57.83||1:57.67||1:56.63||+3.56s|
|21||30||Brett Lunger||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:58.25||2:04.12||1:56.64||+3.57s|
|22||22||Clay Regazzoni||Ensign-Ford Cosworth||1:56.68||1:57.85||1:56.92||+3.61s|
|23||24||Rupert Keegan||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||1:57.44||1:56.89||1:57.50||+3.82s|
|24||25||Héctor Rebaque||Hesketh-Ford Cosworth||2:00.83||2:01.18||1:57.18||+4.11s|
|DNQ||27||Patrick Nève||March-Ford Cosworth||1:59.19||1:59.52||1:57.26||+4.19s|
|DNQ||36||Emilio de Villota||McLaren-Ford Cosworth||1:58.80||2:00.31||1:57.39||+4.32s|
|DNQ*||35||Hans Heyer||Penske-Ford Cosworth||2:01.43||1:58.51||1:57.58||+4.51s|
|DNQ||28||Emerson Fittipaldi||Fittipaldi-Ford Cosworth||1:59.89||2:08.59||1:58.53||+5.46s|
|DNQ||37||Arturo Merzario||March-Ford Cosworth||2:02.64||—||1:59.13||+6.06s|
|WD||32||Mikko Kozarowitzky||March-Ford Cosworth||Withdrawn|
- Bold indicates a driver's best/qualifying time.
- T Indicates a test/spare car.
- * Heyer, thanks to contacts among the officials, was listed as first reserve.
- * Heyer was permitted to join the grid as "first reserve" but decided to start from the pitlane.
Raceday proved to be an overcast affair, although conditions were to remain dry for the race itself. Warm-up would pass without issue as would most of the pre-race entertainment, before a service vehicle managed to damage the starting lights ahead of the Grand Prix. As such, it was hastily agreed, on the grid, to start the race with a green flag, although this message was not very effectively delivered to the drivers before the start.
As such, there was little surprise when a series of collisions rocked the back of the field, while pole sitter Jody Scheckter leapt into the lead. The source of the issues at the back would be a hesitant Patrick Depailler, whose slow starting Tyrrell became a chicane for the crowd behind. Indeed, Clay Regazzoni had to jink around the Frenchman at the last moment and duly slammed into the side of Alan Jones, a collision which forced Vern Schuppan to bounce his Surtees across the grass.
When the dust settled, the Ensign of Regazzoni and the Shadow of Jones were found at the side of the circuit, both with smashed suspension. Depailler had disappeared with the back of the pack, while Schuppan was on his way with only minor bodywork damage. Amid the confusion, first reserve Hans Heyer had slipped into the race from the pitlane, although given precedents set in other Grand Prix, the German was not expected to continue to the flag.
Out front, meanwhile, Scheckter would complete the opening lap a few yards ahead of second placed John Watson, although the Brabham-Alfa Romeo was yet to throw a challenge at the Wolf. Behind came Niki Lauda, James Hunt and Hans-Joachim Stuck, all in grid order, before Carlos Reutemann and Mario Andretti led the rest across the line. Those two had made an excellent start from the back of the top ten to sixth and seventh, although their fighting around the back of the circuit meant that top five had clear air behind them.
Indeed, the early laps would indeed see Scheckter and co. streak away from Reutemann and Andretti, who continued to fight one another rather than work to catch the leaders. The lead quintet would soon become a quartet, however, as Watson's engine expired, opening the door for Lauda to attack Scheckter. It took a few laps before the #11 Ferrari got into striking position, before Lauda calmly outbraked the Wolf into the stadium section.
Lauda duly pulled clear of the rest of the lead pack over the following laps, leaving Scheckter to defend from Hunt and Stuck. Elsewhere, Jean-Pierre Jarier went out early courtesy of a self induced trip to the barriers, before the sister car of Heyer was disqualified for starting illegally. Other early retirements included Ian Scheckter and Brett Lunger, with clutch and gearbox issues respectively, before Héctor Rebaque disappeared with a battery failure.
Back to the fight for second and Hunt's progress was being hampered by a damaged exhaust manifold, denying the Brit full power at the end of the long straights as his Ford Cosworth engine lost exhaust pressure. That allowed Scheckter to retain second without much effort, while Stuck remained glued to the back of the McLaren despite his the increasing crescendo of strange noises from his Alfa F12. Behind, the Reutemann/Andretti duel was getting even more physical, with the Lotus losing out down the straights before almost running into the back of the Ferrari through the corners.
As their fights continued, a wave of engine retirements eliminated the runners in the midfield, with Jacques Laffite and Gunnar Nilsson both pulling out of the fray with smoke pouring from their exhausts. Jochen Mass was also out having made no real progress in the spare McLaren, as was Depailler with another ruined Cosworth V8. Further retirements would thin the field throughout the afternoon, with the Hockenheimring's long straights proving to be particularly brutal on all of the cars.
Indeed, it would ultimately be at the end of one of the long Hockenheim straights that Hunt's race came to a reluctant end, a mechanical fuel pump failure ultimately starving his engine of fuel at the end of the straights. His withdrawal gave Scheckter a little more security in second, although his Wolf was beginning to tire with the strain. That meant that Stuck could entertain his own hopes of finishing as runner-up at his home race, although his Brabham-Alfa was also fading as the race entered its closing stages.
Another unfortunate retirement came in the form of Andretti, who was left coasting down the back-straight when his Cosworth engine expired in a huge cloud of white smoke. Those failures promoted Rupert Keegan well into the points, only for the Brit to come across a slow moving Alex Ribeiro at the chicane. The Hesketh duly went skating into the catch fencing trying to avoid the Brazilian, who would cruise on towards the flag at the back of the field.
With that the race was pretty much over, bar an engine failure for Ronnie Peterson, and a scary looking wheel failure for Riccardo Patrese. Lauda, meanwhile, would cruise home to claim a very Lauda-like victory, a quarter of a minute clear of the sick sounding pair Scheckter and Stuck. Reutemann was a very lonely fourth once Andretti had disappeared, with Vittorio Brambilla completing the race in fifth despite losing his nose during a bounce across the grass. Behind him came Patrick Tambay, who had performed admirably despite a race long battle against a damaged gearbox, while Schuppan dragged his battle damaged Surtees home in front of Ribeiro.
The full race results for the 1977 German Grand Prix are outlined below:
- * Peterson and Patrese were still classified despite retiring as they had completed 90% of the race distance.
- † Heyer was disqualified for starting the race illegally.
- The Hockenheimring became the third circuit to host the German Grand Prix.
- First entry for Hans Heyer.
- Jody Scheckter claimed the first (and only) pole position for Wolf as a constructor.
- Fourteenth career victory for Niki Lauda.
- Ferrari claimed their 67th victory as both a constructor and engine supplier.
- Scheckter claimed his twentieth podium finish.
- Maiden podium finish for Hans-Joachim Stuck.
Victory in Germany had helped Niki Lauda to extend his Championship lead to ten points with a third of the season still to go, the biggest that the margin had been all season. Behind, Jody Scheckter had moved back into second ahead of Mario Andretti, who seemed to be suffering the curse of the fragile Lotus like so many before him. Carlos Reutemann, meanwhile, had closed to within a point of the American, while James Hunt completed the top five.
Ferrari continued their march to the International Cup for Constructors for the third successive season, their tally now up to 65 for the year. Lotus-Ford Cosworth remained their closest challengers, albeit some eighteen points behind, with Wolf-Ford Cosworth moving back into third. McLaren-Ford Cosworth slipped further away in fourth ahead of Brabham-Alfa Romeo, while Surtees-Ford Cosworth overtook Shadow-Ford Cosworth in the second half of the table.
Images and Videos:
- 'German GP, 1977', grandprix.com, (Inside F1 Inc., 2016), http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr291.html, (Accessed 09/05/2018)
- D.S.J., 'The Hockenheim Formula 1 Race: "Der Kleiner Preis von Deutschland"', motorsportmagazine.com, (Motor Sport, 01/09/1977), https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/archive/article/september-1977/54/hockenheim-formula-1-race, (Accessed 09/05/2018)
- 'Germany 1977: Entrants', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1977/allemagne/engages.aspx, (Accessed 09/05/2018)
- 'Germany 1977: Qualifications', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1977/allemagne/qualification.aspx, (Accessed 09/05/2018)
- 'Germany 1977: Result', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2016), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1977/allemagne/classement.aspx, (Accessed 10/05/2018)
- '1977 German GP', chicanef1.com, (Chicane F1, 2018), http://www.chicanef1.com/racetit.pl?year=1977&gp=German%20GP&r=1, (Accessed 09/05/2018)
- '11. Germany 1977', statsf1.com, (Stats F1, 2015), http://www.statsf1.com/en/1977/allemagne.aspx, (Accessed 09/05/2018)
|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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