4 August 1985
The German race would be held at the new Nürburgring in 1985 after the more-or-less successful debut of the new circuit as the European Grand Prix in 1984. The twisty circuit had not been liked by the drivers, but the circuit organisers were keen to promote the track and the fans and media had enjoyed the facilities. So Hockenheim lost its race for the year, with another country expecting to begin alternating its races.
There were a couple of returning faces in the paddock; Huub Rothengatter had got together enough sponsorship to hire the Osella seat from the unpaid Piercarlo Ghinzani (rumour suggested that the affable Italian was being lined up for a second Toleman car), while Francois Hesnault would drive a third Renault as a one-off, mounted with an experimental on-board camera. It was Stefan Bellof’s turn for the turbo Renault (temporarily changing his race number to 3 for the weekend), while a desperate Euroracing team reverted to their 1984 car in an attempt to persuade Alfa Romeo not to withdraw.
The cheerful Dutchman had spent half of 1984 flogging unsuccessfully round in a Spirit-Hart but hadn’t completely embarrassed himself in the process and so was able to once again gain enough sponsorship to replace the unpaid Ghinzani at Osella. Rothengatter’s status as Holland’s only F1 hopeful no doubt helped, as did his innovative self-marketing campaign which included taking out a full-page ad in De Telegraaf advertising his serivces.
Friday’s practice session threw up some surprises, chief among them was that Teo Fabi topped the timing sheets in his Toleman, a full second ahead of Stefan Johansson. Prost was third, Rosberg fourth and Senna fifth (after only managing a single fast lap) with Piquet alongside. When it rained heavily throughout Saturday’s session, these timings became the grid; Teo Fabi scored his career first pole position, also the first for Toleman, and for Hart Engines, and the first for Pirelli tyres since 1957 with Stuart Lewis-Evans and Vanwall. Hesnault’s Renault camera car was 23rd, so FISA allowed a 27-car grid since the third Renault was experimental and ineligible for points – Martini was the beneficiary, miles adrift as usual.
Sunday was dry, but heavy cloud held the threat of rain later in the race. The parade lap was clean, but Fabi and Johansson, both inexperienced at the front, got too far ahead and had to wait on the grid while the rest formed up. When the lights went green, both got away badly, with Fabi’s clutch slipping and putting him down to 8th, while Johansson banged wheels with Alboreto and got a puncture. It was Senna, though, that got into the lead at the first corner with a great start from fifth, to lead from Rosberg, Alboreto, de Angelis, Prost and Piquet, while the two Ligiers came together in the first corner, punting the unfortunate de Cesaris into the gravel. Senna lost the lead again early in the lap as Rosberg muscled past in the Williams, and the pair began pulling away from the chasing pack, while Alboreto, de Angelis and Prost (incidentally the top three in the championship) fought amongst themselves over third place. Johansson had come in for new tyres and rejoined just ahead of Rosberg, but instead of being lapped by the Williams, the Ferrari began to pull away.
Rosberg led Senna until lap 15, when the Brazilian got past at the hairpin, by which point Palmer’s Zakspeed, both RAMs, Patrese’s Alfa Romeo, Surer’s Brabham and Hesnault’s camera car had all pulled off – though the footage from the third Renault was of good quality and was an excellent proof of concept. The two main Renaults were soon joining Hesnault in retirement; Tambay spun out at the first corner on lap 19, and Warwick came in with electrical problems a few laps later, by which time Piquet had also dropped out with a broken turbo. There were just 17 runners left already, and the race began to stagnate into a survival run. Even the three-way battle over third place had stabilised.
Senna was the next major retirement – his dreadful luck continuing with a broken universal joint – leaving Rosberg leading again, and incidentally promoting Fabi back into the points. At least until the Toleman’s transmission gave out on lap 41, just after de Angelis had gone off with a blown engine. Alboreto and Prost were still going strong, though, and the pair had caught Rosberg by lap 45 thanks to a minor problem with the Williams’ brakes. Alboreto muscled past at the last corner, and Prost followed through as Rosberg ran wide, and the Finn began dropping back rapidly as his brakes got worse. Almost everyone had some sort of problem now – Alboreto’s Ferrari was intermittently smoking, Prost was also having brake issues and Rosberg came in for new tyres and rejoined in 5th, but it didn’t help and he ended up dropping out entirely. Mansell now held third but began having brake issues in turn and lost the place to Laffite, then lost fourth to Boutsen and fifth to Lauda.
Alboreto thus survived to take the win, with Prost a relatively distant second after a late spin, and Laffite again taking advantage of others’ misfortune to stand on the podium. Boutsen, Lauda and Mansell completed the points scorers, Berger and Bellof following close behind and Johansson and the sole non-turbo runner, Brundle, bringing up the rear.
|3||Elio de Angelis||26|
|=||Andrea de Cesaris||3|