2 August 1981
Lotus returned to the field with two new Lotus 87 chassis but on the long straights of Hockenheim it was always going to be the pure power of the turbo engines that ruled in qualifying, in particular the Renaults which had started to come good since their home win. Renault took pole for the third race running; Alain Prost with a career first pole position alongside team-mate Arnoux. The Williams cars were back on song, with Reutemann third and Jones fourth, then Pironi, outqualifying Villeneuve yet again in the Ferrari, and Piquet sixth in the Brabham. Laffite, Villeneuve and the two McLarens of Watson and de Cesaris completed the top ten. Both Fittipaldis, Gabbiani’s Osella and Alboreto’s Tyrrell would join the Toleman twins in parking up for Sunday’s race.
At the start, Prost got away well and kept the lead, but Reutemann got ahead of Arnoux, who then lost third to Pironi at the first chicane and at the Ostkurve Piquet tried to get through too, only to make contact. Arnoux pitted to replace a punctured right-rear tyre, while Piquet lost his position to Alan Jones. Then, on lap two, Pironi’s engine blew, so it was Prost leading from Reutemann, Jones, Piquet, Laffite, Villeneuve and Tambay’s Ligier.
After several frustrating races, Jones had the bit between his teeth and charged; passing Reutemann cleanly, he set off after Prost, caught him and a terrific scrap ensued as Jones tried everything to get past the Renault, which Prost was having to make as wide as possible – despite the Renault’s power advantage. Piquet
also got ahead of Reutemann and soon it was a three-way battle for the lead. On lap 21, Prost came to lap his hapless teammate Arnoux, who moved out of the way, but Alan Jones saw his chance and pulled a spectacular move to dash between the two Renaults and take the lead. Seven laps later, championship leader Reutemann was out with an engine failure, promoting Hector Rebaque to fifth.
The race remained fairly uneventful after that until, at about ⅔ distance, it began to rain and as Prost began to struggle to control his car, Piquet got past into second place. Then Jones’s engine started to misfire and he reluctantly headed for the pits, confounded by mechanical problems again, while Piquet swept through to take the win, with Prost second and Jacques Laffite picking up another podium finish for the resurgent Talbot Ligier team. Rebaque finished fourth in the other Brabham, with Cheever and Watson picking up the final points.
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