One race at the Nürburgring every two years isn’t enough. Like Spa and Monza, history hangs heavy and even though the modern GP circuit is a tabby compared to the tiger that is the Nordschleife, it’s still produced some thrilling races – though that’s because it tends to be wetter than holding a grand prix in the Mariana Trench… here’s six of the best performances from F1 drivers on the new and the old.
Jackie Stewart 1968
Possibly the most dominant grand prix victory of all time, in possibly the most atrocious grand prix weather of all time. Jackie Stewart’s first of three Nürburgring victories (as a driver) took place on a day when the Green Hell was more like the Grey Hell. Fog and rain made visibility so bad there was some debate about whether the race would start at all. Jackie’s Matra was sixth on the grid, but he soon took the lead and vanished into the distance, winning by four minutes. “You sort out the men from the boys in the wet,” Jackie told us with more than a little twinkle in his eye. “The fog made it tough in 1968: on the straights visibility was less than 100m, and you had to be prepared for anything.” The boys in this case were double world champion Graham Hill (second), future world champion Jochen Rindt (third), future two-time Nürburgring winner Jacky Ickx and three-time world champion Jack Brabham (fifth).
Jacky Ickx 1969
Between them Jack(y)ies Stewart and Ickx alternated winning at the Nürburgring between 1968 and 1973, and 1969 was one for the Belgian. Having started on pole, Ickx had a poor get away in his Brabham and slipped down the order, before dragging himself back up to Stewart, hounding the leading Scot for a quarter of the race and then finally making a pass. Stewart then suffered with a sticky gearbox, but Ickx was already in the clear. It was a busy summer for Jacky. Having left Ferrari because they didn’t have a competitive sports car programme in 1969, he also won Le Mans driving a Ford GT40.
Johnny Herbert 1999
Some people inherit great wealth, others get a novelty elephant’s foot umbrella stand. Johnny Herbert inherited the 1999 European Grand Prix when everybody in front of him decided they didn’t want it. Heinz-Harald Frentzen led for Jordan, but stopped with electrical problems; then David Coulthard took up the lead but spun out in the wet, Ralf Schumacher looked good but picked up a puncture and then Giancarlo Fisichella led but spun into the wall. That left Johnny to pick his way through the carnage to pick up his third Grand Prix victory and Stewart’s only win.
- The race is also famous for Pedro Diniz’s famous lawn-dart impression when his roll-hoop failed and Ferrari’s odd decision hamper Eddie Irvine’s championship bid by giving him a tricycle instead of a Formula One car.
Fernando Alonso 2007
The management of the Nürburgring insist the region enjoys a micro-climate and like to call it the 'Mediterranean of the Eifel mountains'. They lie. And not just a little. In 2007 the race was run in conditions where a paddle would have been more use than a driveshaft. There was Kimi Räikkönen sliding out of the pitlane and back onto the racetrack, Lewis Hamilton having his car rescued by a friendly tractor, Tonio Liuzzi hitting the tractor, Jenson Button passing about 14 cars on the opening lap before sliding off through a lake that hadn’t been there a lap earlier and Markus Winklehock having a debut (and so far only F1 appearance) to remember, taking the restart from pole position. But most of all there was Fernando Alonso majestically hounding Felipe Massa into submission during the closing laps.
Mark Webber 2009
OK, maybe we’re a little biased here, but Mark’s win in 2009 is right up there with the best the new Grand Prix circuit has ever seen. It had been 28 years since an F1 podium ceremony last included Advance Australia Fair, but Mark started the hot favourite after taking his first pole position but had a pinball start, bouncing off Rubens Barrichello and clipping Lewis Hamilton. He got a drive-through penalty for the former, and had to drive a committed sequence of qualifying-pace laps to make up the deficit. He finished the race at a cruise, but it was won earlier in the piece. Check out the video – below is what a very happy Mark Webber looks like and this is what a very happy Mark Webber sounds like.
Ayrton Senna 1984
The sharp-eyed among you may notice this isn’t actually an F1 race, but it is a race of F1 drivers, celebrating the opening of the GP-Strecke with a spec saloon race in Mercedes 190Es. Rookie Ayrton Senna only got asked to play because a more famous name pulled out, and while he already wore the tag of Next Big Thing, this inconsequential saloon car race helped seal that reputation. He sets about what should have been a lighthearted event like he was being chased by the devil.