Hockenheim revisited - the 1970 German Grand Prix 23 Jul 2010
The German Grand Prix is among the oldest events on the Formula One calendar, having joined the world championship in only its second year back in 1951. It has been staged at three different venues since then, but its principal home has been the Hockenheim circuit near the historic city of Heidelberg, which hosted its first-ever Formula One race 40 years ago, back in 1970.
Of course it had long been a stop for other motorsport series, and was perhaps best known as the circuit that claimed the life of double world champion Jim Clark. The Scottish driver was competing in a Formula Two race there in April 1968 when his Lotus went off the road and into a tree. Two years later, however, the drivers insisted the by-then upgraded track was safer than the Nurburgring, which then usually hosted the German Grand Prix, and at the last minute the venue was changed.
The paddock arrived with Lotuss hard-racing Jochen Rindt leading the drivers championship by 11 points from veteran Jack Brabham, but it was Jacky Ickx who took pole in the increasingly quick Ferrari. Rindt was second on the grid ahead of Clay Regazzoni in the other Ferrari, the March of Jo Siffert and Henri Pescarolo's Matra. Reigning world champion Jackie Stewart, meanwhile, was seventh in his Tyrrell.
At the start, pole-sitter Ickx went straight into the lead. Rindt followed behind him with Siffert, Regazzoni and Marchs Chris Amon staying in contention too. It was a close-run thing and the leading five drivers continually diced over the ensuing laps. Siffert was the first to drop away (hed eventually finish eighth) and on Lap 31 Regazzonis Ferrari pulled over to retire with engine troubles.
Four laps later the same fate befell Amons March, leaving just Ickx and Rindt at loggerheads for victory. As the laps left dwindled, it seemed it would be a race to the finish, but then two laps before the chequered flag, Rindt managed to pull away. The Austrians lead was only marginal, and Ickx continued to push him hard.
In the end, however, Rindt stayed ahead and emerged victorious, clinching the win from Ickx by just 0.7 seconds. It was his fourth consecutive victory. McLarens Denny Hulme took a distant third, 80 seconds behind, whilst Lotuss Emerson Fittipaldi was fourth, Brabhams Rolf Stommelen fifth and Matras Pescarolo sixth.
As the paddock journeyed from Hockenheim to his home race in Austria, Rindt had a dominant 20-point lead in the championship. Sadly, his German win would prove to be Rindts last Formula One victory. A retirement in Austria was followed by his devastating death, aged 28, during practice for the Italian Grand Prix. He remains the sports only posthumous champion.
For Hockenheim too, 1970 would prove to be a watershed of sorts. The following year the race was back at the Nurburgring, where it remained for the next six seasons. Fittingly, the next to clinch a Formula One victory at Hockenheim, was another Austrian - Niki Lauda - who won for Ferrari in 1977.