Formula 1 returns to the Nürburgring for the 2020 Eifel Grand Prix after a 7-year absence. Here are six milestone moments from the legendary German circuit.
1964: First race for Honda
Four years after producing their first road car, Japanese manufacturer Honda made their Formula 1 debut at the 1964 German Grand Prix. Development of their F1 machinery had begun two years previously, and it was Ronnie Bucknum who would be the team’s first driver at the Nürburgring. After qualifying over a minute slower than polesitter John Surtees on the 23km track, Bucknum spun out towards the end of the Grand Prix. Honda’s fortunes would improve over the next year, and Richie Ginther took the manufacturer’s first victory at the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix – the same race in which Bucknum scored his only F1 points.
1985: First time an onboard camera was used in a race
The 1985 German Grand Prix saw Michele Alboreto record the final victory of his Formula 1 career, as well as the final outing for Manfred Winkelhock before his death in a sportscar crash the following week. The race was also notable for featuring the first car equipped with an onboard camera. Renault entered three cars for the event, with their usual drivers Patrick Tambay and Derek Warwick joined by François Hesnault. The Frenchman had been hired by Brabham for 1985 but was dropped after four races due to uncompetitive performances. He made a one-off return with Renault at the Nürburgring driving a car equipped with an onboard camera. His entry was not eligible to score points, and this marks the last time that a team entered three cars into a Grand Prix. Hesnault’s race did not last too long – he was out on Lap 8 with clutch troubles – but viewers were treated to some cool onboard shots from the Renault. Such was the infancy of onboard camera technology in F1, Hesnault had to manually tear off clingfilm strips from the camera to keep the lens clear!
2007: Last race for Scott Speed
Scott Speed’s Formula 1 career came to an unceremonious end at the Nürburgring in 2007 as he spun into a gravel trap. Speed was the first American driver to race in F1 for thirteen years when he joined Toro Rosso in 2006, but he didn’t quite live up to his name, failing to score any points in his 28 appearances. At the time, some eyewitnesses reported a physical altercation taking place between Speed and Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost after the race, though Tost has denied that was the case. Speed then went on to tell journalists that Toro Rosso wanted to sack both him and team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi as soon as possible. As it turned out, Speed would be sacked before the next race and replaced by rising star Sebastian Vettel.
1963: Only time Jim Clark finished second in Formula 1
Jim Clark finished on the podium on 32 occasions during his Formula 1 career but the 1963 German Grand Prix was the only time that he finished in second place. Clark had qualified on pole for Lotus, but the race win would escape him. That was due to a misfiring engine, which left him unable to challenge John Surtees and Richie Ginther. The American would later suffer problems of his own, and a gearbox issue saw him finish third. Surtees was unchallenged and took his maiden Grand Prix victory, while Clark’s issues became so severe that he was forced to cruise around the circuit. He finished over a minute behind Surtees. Clark is one of 36 drivers to have a single second place finish to his name – a club of which Carlos Sainz is the most recent member after finishing second in the 2020 Italian Grand Prix.
1967: Only all Australasian podium
New Zealander Denny Hulme took victory in the 1967 German Grand Prix; his second win on his way to winning that year’s Drivers’ Championship. He was followed home by Jack Brabham and Chris Amon, making this the only all-Australasian podium in F1 history. In fact, it has been thirty years since the last podium to not feature a European driver. That was at the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix, when Nelson Piquet, Robert Moreno and Aguri Suzuki shared the top three positions.
2007: Markus Winkelhock’s only Formula 1 start
At the circuit which his father made his final F1 appearance 22 years earlier, Markus Winkelhock made his one and only Formula 1 outing at the 2007 European Grand Prix. The race started under dark clouds, and at the end of the formation lap, Winkelhock’s Spyker team made the wise decision to call the German into the pits. The only driver to start on wet tyres, Winkelhock took the lead of the race at the conclusion of the second lap. The Spyker driver extended his lead to over thirty seconds in the challenging conditions, despite having never driven a Formula 1 car in the wet before. However, his lead was cut down when the Safety Car was called out and eventually the Red Flag was shown after a series of drivers aquaplaned off the track. Another gamble to stay on wet tyres at the restart didn’t pay off, and Winkelhock ultimately retired from the race with a hydraulic failure. Nevertheless, Winkelhock’s only appearance remains one of F1’s unlikeliest stories, and he remains the only driver to have led a lap in every Formula 1 Grand Prix which they have started.