5 August 1984
The gang all arrived in a West Germany recovering from one of the biggest industrial disputes in her history, particularly in the engineering sector, which had coincided with the national football team’s embarrassing early exit from the European Championships in France. Despite the best efforts of the ATS team, Stefan Bellof and Manfred Winkelhock, the real point of German pride in Formula One at the moment was that – with the exception of Alboreto’s win for Ferrari in Belgium – every race so far this year had been won by a German built engine. For although McLaren’s engines were badged as TAG (a Saudi-owned, Luxembourg-based firm) everyone knew they were Porsche-built. The fans would just have to hope that they could last the distance at a high-speed car-breaker of a circuit.
Tyrrell were here again, pending a full appeal to FISA (and running with extra extra ballast just to make sure they weren’t underweight) , but with Brundle still injured and Stefan Bellof now away honouring his Rothmans Porsche sportscar championship, Mike Thackwell would join Tyrrell after his solo race at Canada for RAM. Toleman, meanwhile, had not replaced Johnny Cecotto and would run a solo entry for Ayrton Senna, and Teo Fabi had negotiated his way out of his CART contract and would complete the season for Brabham.
With all the attention on the McLarens and Piquet, it was Elio de Angelis who set the pace in practice, only to be pipped to pole by Prost. The Renault engines had the pace, though, with the works cars locking out the second row, Warwick ahead of Tambay. Only Mansell wasn’t happy – he had been balked by de Cesaris on his fast lap and starting 16th. Piquet was 5th, alongside Alboreto, with Lauda, Fabi, Senna and Arnoux making up the top ten. The Tyrrells, with their extra weight and non-turbo engines, struggled to even beat their 1983 times and were 26th (Johansson) and 27th (Thackwell), a full 3 seconds adrift of 25th placed Palmer. Ken Tyrrell asked for dispensation for Thackwell to start as Gartner had at Brands, but Ferrari refused to sign a petition to that effect and the New Zealander would sit the race out.
The weekend so far had been intermittently damp and there were threatening clouds on race day but the track was dry and when the lights went green it was the black & gold Lotus of de Angelis and not the red & white McLaren of Prost that led into the first corner, also keeping the lively Warwick behind him – the Englishman got over on the wrong side of the track while trying to get past and was crowded out and threatened by Piquet who had got ahead of Tambay. Coming out of the first chicane, Piquet used his BMW power to get past Warwick, while at the second chicane, Senna had a go at Tambay but put a wheel on the dirt and had to pull out of the move.
De Angelis was looking calm in the lead, and the leading trio of himself, Prost and Piquet were beginning to leave Warwick and the others behind. Marc Surer had worked his way up into the top ten only for a blown turbo to end his race on the first lap, and Ayrton Senna followed him into retirement on lap 5 when his rear wing suddenly collapsed and pitched him into a barrier. Piquet challenged Prost for second place, which became the lead on lap 9 when de Angelis’ engine went and put him out.
The Brazilian went past the Frenchman to take the lead on the same lap, while behind them Lauda had got past Warwick but was unable to make much impact on their pace. Rosberg, meanwhile, had made his way up from 19th on the grid to fourth behind Lauda by lap 9, but at that point his electrics cut out and he pulled off, with Laffite’s engine going in sympathy and both Williamses out on the same lap. A couple of laps later Alboreto joined them; Ferrari’s season not getting any better now back in Europe. Piquet was leading Prost but the McLaren was stuck resolutely to the Brabham’s rear and on lap 24 his gearbox started dropping gears and he toured round to the pits to retire (but waited until the mechanics had changed the tyres before climbing out in fits of laughter. The mechanics’ response is not recorded).
That left Prost in a commanding lead, with Lauda some distance behind. The Austrian started eating into his lead, but Prost simply reeled off a series of fastest laps to demonstrate his speed and that was that. Warwick was once again ploughing a lonely furrow in third place, but had Teo Fabi closing on him – the Italian seemed invigorated by his renewed commitment to F1 – until the Brabham’s engine blew just five laps after Piquet’s retirement. Patrick Tambay thus regained fourth position with Mansell now up to fifth after having husbanded his tyres and fuel and steadily moved up the field. Mansell was chasing Tambay, and behind Arnoux in sixth there was a ding-dong scrap between de Cesaris and Hesnault over seventh place, the two Ligiers putting on quite a show as young Hesnault gave his more experienced teammate a good fight. This lasted until Hesnault’s Renault engine began making terminal noises and he backed off to husband it home for an 8th place finish. Aside from Mansell finally getting past Tambay for fourth, the last ten laps or so of the race was a rather dull affair, the field too strung out for much in the way of action.
So Alain Prost took his first win since Monaco to extend his lead again, with Lauda staying in touch in second. Derek Warwick took his fourth podium of the year, with Mansell, Tambay and Arnoux the other scorers. De Cesaris and Hesnault’s Ligiers, Johansson’s Tyrrell and Rothengatter’s Spirit were the remaining finishers. McLaren had the Constructors’ title pretty much sewn up already, but Mansell’s points put Lotus into joint second place.
|1||Alain Prost||43 ½|
|3||Elio de Angelis||26 ½|
|4||René Arnoux||24 ½|
|18||Andrea de Cesaris||2|