Grand Prix Classic




Round 15 - European Grand Prix
Nürburgring, 5-7 October, 1984

Despite its' name, the Nürburgring wasn't the old Nordschleifering circuit last used for a Grand Prix in 1976, but a newer circuit - officially named the Eifelring - built nearby and opened in 1983. Eager to get Grand Prix racing back, the organisers had arranged for the track to host the European Grand Prix, and also the 1985 German Grand Prix. The track faced much cynicism from the press for its' relatively unchallenging nature compared to its' massive neighbour - the consensus being that building it so close was a foolish step, especially as the old track was still holding sportscar races.

The circuit would potentially see a new world champion crowned if Niki Lauda, who famously nearly lost his life at the old Nürburgring in that 1976 race, won, regardless of where Prost finished. With the McLarens unbeaten since the series returned to Europe five races previously, it looked likely the pair would be able to continue their title battle in relative peace. News in the paddock also concerned Michelin's announcement they would be pulling out of racing at the end of the season after a successful seven-year period. The French company supplied McLaren, Brabham, Renault, Toleman and Ligier, though Brabham immediately announced a three-year deal with Pirelli.


Entry Notes

Manfred Winkelhock had walked out on the ATS team on the grid at Monza after his patience was finally exhausted by the team's poor preparation, but Gunther Schmidt announced he was sacked regardless, and entered just a single car for Gerhard Berger.

Ayrton Senna returned from his internal suspension at Toleman, while Stefan Johansson's fine performance in Italy was rewarded with a two-year contract with the team, including the use of the second car for the rest of the season. Further down the grid, financial considerations saw Mauro Baldi return at Spirit in place of Huub Rothengatter. The British team had hoped to enter a second car for the Dutch driver, but missed the deadline.

Erich Zachowski had entered his new Zakspeed 841 with its' in-house V6 turbo prior to a full season in 1985, but the car wasn't quite ready. No driver was nominated and the car failed to appear, though the organisers kept his $30,000 deposit.

[Full Entry]


Qualifying

Variable weather affected the practice sessions - it rained on Friday morning, but stopped before the afternoon session, though the track was still damp. It then started raining midway through Saturday morning, and was much wetter in the afternoon - hence everyone had to use their minimal-preparation times from Friday.

Nevertheless, the grid produced few surprises. Piquet took another pole with Prost once more behind him, with Tambay (having span that into a barrier on Saturday, missing the second timed session while repairs were made) and Rosberg next, despite his engine blowing as he crossed the line on his fastest lap. In something of an improvement, the Ferraris took row 3, Alboreto ahead of Arnoux, with Warwick, Mansell, Patrese and Fabi filling the top 10.

Lauda was down in 15th after a misfire on Friday, and looked reliant on problems for Prost to clinch the title in Germany. With only 26 entrants there were no non-qualifiers - fortunate for de Angelis (23rd after a turbo failure) and Johansson (26th and last thanks to a misfiring engine). Things down the back were once again enlivened by ATS when Winkelhock arrived with a court injunction demanding full payment of his 1984 retainer, but after the team were able to prove the funds were on the way Berger was able to practice, starting from 18th place.

[Full Grid & Practice Times]


Race

The omens were bad for Prost in the morning warm-up, when he span into a parked tow truck. He was unharmed, but the McLaren drivers had to work overtime to rebuilt the car for the start (the spare having Lauda's settings, as per the team's alternating rota for the third car). On the plus side, the Eifel weather was bright and clear for race day, though the 150,000 capacity grandstands held only 60,000 spectators, and many expected rain before the day was done. Prost was then the man who made the best start, getting past Piquet, as did Tambay, meaning a vital obstacle was cleared immediately.

Not everyone was so lucky as the cars filed into the tight opening chicane - Rosberg had got off the line slowly, causing some congestion. Senna was forced to avoid Cheever, and in the process rode up over the back of the Williams. Berger took avoiding action and slid sideways, taking off Surer, while another slow-starter - Fabi - knocked Ghinzani into the grass. Fabi was able to restart a lap down thanks to the help of a course car, de Cesaris and Laffite had both been forced to go cross-country while Mansell had also been delayed (without going off) by the various incidents.

In all this Lauda had come through to 9th, behind Patrese and Cheever. The front trio were already edging away from the second Renault of Warwick, who had a slight lead over the Ferraris. Also taking advantage of the fuss were de Angelis, in 11th by the end of the first lap, and Johansson, who had moved up to 14th. It took Lauda only a lap to get past Cheever, and a few corners later he sliced past Patrese too up into 7th, with the next four cars dead ahead. Prost for his part was easing away, his lead increasing by around a second a lap in the early stages.

Lauda found the Ferraris, racing their new M2 McLaren-style variants, harder work, and after eventually getting by Arnoux found Alboreto an even tougher nut to crack, while Prost continued to pull smoothly away in the lead. Both Lauda and Alboreto were unable to get past Warwick, and Lauda thought he saw a chink of light when Alboreto dropped back after an abortive attempt to get by the Renault at the first corner, but the Italian was able to fend him off. Lauda would then spin as the trio lapped Baldi's Spirit - coming upon the slower car in the tight section before the start/finish straight, the Austrian tried to follow an opportunistic Alboreto through. Baldi had nowhere to go, Lauda got out of shape and described a 360° loop onto the grass, but kept the engine going through the cloud of tyre smoke. He rejoined without losing a place, but Warwick and Alboreto were now 12 seconds down the road.

Behind, de Angelis' fine drive through to 7th ended with turbo failure, a similar problem accounting for Laffite in the remaining Williams. Johansson had also disappeared with cooling failure, while both of the RAMs and Cheever would soon follow. The race had degenerated into something of a procession, aside from Mansell's efforts to recover from his misfortune at the start, though some excitement was briefly generated when Piquet caught Tambay. However, it was more due to the Renault V6 misfiring, so the Brazilian was swiftly by, and the unfortunate Tambay slipped down the order.

This promoted Lauda to 5th on lap 45, and the McLaren had halved the gap to Warwick and Alboreto by this point. Alboreto finally passed the Renault, and then simply strode away after Piquet. Lauda would follow past on lap 55, by which time Mansell's valiant climb to 6th ended with a major engine blow-out on the final corner, the oil spinning his Lotus off. Lauda could do nothing about catching the pair ahead of him, and simply maintained the 4th place - important for the championship, as it meant he would have enough of an advantage over Prost that he would not have to beat the Frenchman home in Portugal. Warwick disappeared after being slowed by an exhaust, the unequal power output breaking the engine, while Fabi also stopped with a broken gearbox, having been unable to rise higher than 10th after his early delay.

Prost took a signature win, having barely been noticeable the whole race but winning with a comfortable 24 second advantage. The battle for second caused some belated interest as Alboreto reeled in the Brabham of Piquet, but the outgoing world champion found something and pegged the gap at just under two seconds. The fight would be solved in dramatic fashion as Piquet suddenly ran out of fuel coming into the last corner. Alboreto nipped by to steal second place, running dry himself as he came up to the line and coasting through to second as Piquet weaved to slosh his remaining fuel around and managed to get one final burst from the engine to secure third. Both rolled to a stop on the grass by the first corner.

Lauda took an unflurried 4th to keep in overall control of the title (though without his spin he most likely would have finished 2nd), while Arnoux secured a low-key 5th place ahead of Patrese and de Cesaris. Baldi took a solid 8th on his return to the Spirit team, ahead of the much-delayed Boutsen (who stopped with ignition problems), while Hesnault - who also ran out of fuel at the death - was the final classified finisher in 10th, parking neatly behind Alboreto. The race had been rather dull after the early charges of Lauda and de Angelis, with most changes of position down to mechanical trouble rather than overtaking, with the jury very much out on the tight, clinical new Nürburgring circuit. Nevertheless, the result did set things up nicely for a title showdown at the final race - Lauda 4.5 points ahead of Prost.


Result

Pos.
Driver Car
Laps
Time/Retirement
Grid
1
Alain Prost McLaren-TAG
67
1h 35m 13.284s
2
2
Michele Alboreto Ferrari
67
+ 23.911s
5
3
Nelson Piquet Brabham-BMW
67
+ 24.922s
1
4
Niki Lauda McLaren-TAG
67
+ 43.086s
15
5
Rene Arnoux Ferrari
67
+ 1m 01.430s
6
6
Riccardo Patrese Alfa Romeo
66
+ 1 lap
9
7
Andrea de Cesaris Ligier-Renault
65
+ 2 laps
17
8
Mauro Baldi Spirit-Hart
65
+ 2 laps
24
9
Thierry Boutsen Arrows-BMW
64
+ 3 laps/Electrics
11
10
Francois Hesnault Ligier-Renault
64
+ 3 laps
19
11
Derek Warwick Renault
61
+ 6 laps/Overheating
7
R
Jo Gartner Osella-Alfa Romeo
60
Fuel feed
22
R
Teo Fabi Brabham-BMW
57
Gearbox
10
R
Nigel Mansell Lotus-Renault
51
Engine
8
R
Patrick Tambay Renault
47
Fuel feed
3
R
Eddie Cheever Alfa Romeo
37
Fuel pump
13
R
Philippe Alliot RAM-Hart
37
Turbo
25
R
Jonathan Palmer RAM-Hart
35
Turbo
21
R
Jacques Laffite Williams-Honda
27
Engine
14
R
Elio de Angelis Lotus-Renault
25
Turbo
23
R
Stefan Johansson Toleman-Hart
17
Overheating
26
R
Keke Rosberg Williams-Honda
0
Accident/Senna
4
R
Ayrton Senna Toleman-Hart
0
Accident/Rosberg
12
R
Marc Surer Arrows-BMW
0
Accident/Berger
16
R
Gerhard Berger ATS-BMW
0
Accident/Surer
18
R
Piercarlo Ghinzani Osella-Alfa Romeo
0
Accident/Fabi
20

Fastest Lap: Nelson Piquet (Brabham) & Michele Alboreto (Ferrari), 1:23.416s

[Team-by-Team report]


Tables

Driver's Championship

Pos.
Driver
Points
1
Niki Lauda
66
2
Alain Prost
61.5
3
Elio de Angelis
29.5
4
Nelson Piquet
28
5
Michele Alboreto
27
6
Rene Arnoux
26.5
7
Derek Warwick
23
8
Keke Rosberg
20
9
Nigel Mansell
13
10
Patrick Tambay
10
11=
Ayrton Senna
8
11=
Teo Fabi
8
11=
Riccardo Patrese
8
14
Jacques Laffite
4
15=
Eddie Cheever
3
15=
Thierry Boutsen
3
15=
Stefan Johansson
3
18=
Andrea de Cesaris
2
18=
Piercarlo Ghinzani
2
20
Marc Surer
1

Constructor's Championship

Pos.
Constructor
Points
1
McLaren
127.5
2
Ferrari
53.5
3
Lotus
42.5
4
Brabham
36
5
Renault
33
6
Williams
24
7=
Toleman
11
7=
Alfa Romeo
11
9
Arrows
4
10=
Ligier
2
10=
Osella
2