As you read these words, the Formula 1 circus has arrived in Hockenheim, an unremarkable town in the upper Rhine valley, in the north-east quarter of the state of Baden-Württemberg, about 12 miles (20km) south of Mannheim and six miles (10km) west of Walldorf.
Were it not for the fact that a racetrack was built there in 1932, and unimaginatively but logically named the Hockenheimring, very few mclaren.com/formula1 readers would have heard of the place. After all, have you heard of Bietigheim-Bissingen or Donaueschingen or Remseck, all three of which are towns in Baden-Württemberg considerably larger than Hockenheim? No, I thought not.
Hockenheim (as the Hockenheimring soon became known, for short) first hosted the German Grand Prix in 1970, as a result of pressure applied by the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, whose members, led by Jackie Stewart, declared the daunting old Nürburgring, the regular venue for the race, unsafe.
Jackie, who has done more than anyone else in grand prix history to make our sport as safe as it is today (with a very respectful nod to Sid Watkins, the FIA medical delegate from 1978 to 2005, who carried on Jackie's work quite brilliantly), was vilified by the old guard for the 1970 Nürburgring boycott, and fans and media alike were consequently none too happy that the German Grand Prix would be held at Hockenheim that year. After all, we all regarded the Nürburgring as the greatest racetrack in the world, and rightly so in many ways, whereas the only thing any of us knew about Hockenheim was that the fastest driver ever to climb aboard a racing car, Jim Clark, had been killed there, in a humdrum Formula 2 race, in 1968, just two years previously; our grief, indeed our anger too, were fresh in our memories.
As a result, the 1970 German Grand Prix has not passed into racing legend, but in truth it should have done. No, it was not run on the ultra-daunting 14 miles (23km) of the old Nürburgring, but in its way Hockenheim was also a mighty racetrack in those days, massively fast thanks to its hugely long straights, and in 1970 it hosted a truly fantastic grand prix.
In qualifying the Ferrari 312Bs of Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni had shown themselves to be super-competitive - Jacky took the pole while Clay was third-quickest - and it was clear that their main challenger was going to be Jochen Rindt, who had qualified his Lotus 72C in second place.
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All at McLaren, of course, were still reeling from the loss of the team's founder, Bruce McLaren, who had been killed at Goodwood, in West Sussex, UK, just two months previously. As a result, the team was still in disarray. Denny Hulme qualified his McLaren M14A in P16, while his team-mate Peter Gethin fared worse still: P17. (The train-spotters amongst you may be interested to know that a third McLaren M14 was entered for the race, fitted with an Alfa Romeo engine and designated M14D; in the hands of Andrea de Adamich, it failed to qualify.)
Anyway, I digress. At the start of the race Jacky's Ferrari powered from pole position into the lead, Jochen's Lotus tucked in behind. Hockenheim's long straights were ideal for slipstreaming, and three other cars took advantage, attaching themselves to Jacky's Ferrari and Jochen's Lotus in a five-car high-speed 'train': Clay's Ferrari 312B, Jo Siffert's March 701 and Chris Amon's March 701.
For lap after lap the five cars circulated at the head of the field, always close to one another, but Jacky was looking truly masterful in the lead, and although Jochen was never far behind he could never get past.
Eventually, Jacky's and Jochen's pursuers dropped away - first Clay's engine blew, then Chris's also went pop, and finally Jo's did the same - and as the race entered its final phase the leading Ferrari and its ever-attendant Lotus, both being driven absolutely flat-out by their brilliant pilots, had carved out a gap of more than a minute over the pursuing pack.
On lap 48 out of 50, Jochen finally made his move, slipstreaming Jacky's Ferrari more closely than ever before and thrusting his Lotus into the lead under braking for one of the very few corners on the Hockenheim circuit at that time. Jacky fought back, but at flag-fall Jochen was still 0.7sec to the good.
In all the excitement, very few had noticed that Denny had also driven a fantastic race, dragging his McLaren from 16th at the start to third at the finish, as gritty as ever.
Despite the drama of the Rindt-Ickx battle at Hockenheim in 1970, in 1971 the German Grand Prix returned to the Nürburgring, its spiritual home, where indeed it had been staged every year since 1927, with the exception of 1970 and 1959, in which year it had been held at Avus, a flat-out five-mile (8km) proving ground that consisted of two huge straights linked by a hairpin at one end and a three-corner combo at the other.
(Here is another tidbit for all you train-spotters. Avus was ridiculously fast. As an example, Stirling Moss won the 1959 Italian Grand Prix, at Monza, before it contained any chicanes, in a Cooper-Climax, at an average speed of 124mph [200km/h]. That same year, Tony Brooks won the German Grand Prix, at Avus, in a Ferrari D246, at an average speed of 143mph [230km/h]. Go figure.)
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, 1971. Showing any fools who doubted it that, although he had considered the Nürburgring too perilous to race on the previous year, he remained a supreme Ring-meister, Jackie Stewart totally dominated the 1971 German Grand Prix, stroking his Tyrrell 003 from pole position to a victory margin of half a minute over his Tyrrell team-mate Francois Cevert.
Despite fielding four cars - an M19A each for Denny Hulme and Peter Gethin, plus an M7A each for Jo Bonnier and current Red Bull big cheese Helmut Marko - McLaren had a disastrous weekend. Helmut and Jo both failed to qualify, Denny retired with a fuel leak on lap three, and Peter crashed out on lap five.
So let us move on to 1972 - and to another disappointing weekend for McLaren. Denny qualified his M19C in 10th place, but his engine blew on lap nine the following day; his team-mate Brian Redman qualified his M19C back in 19th place, but the doughty Lancastrian worked his way up to fifth by the end of the race. Ferrari recorded an effortless Ickx-Regazzoni one-two.
Are you getting the impression that Jacky Ickx was pretty handy at the old Nürburging? You are? Good. You are right. In fact, I would say that, in his pomp - which in my opinion is to say in his Formula 1 days rather than in his sports car days - he was truly awesome there. That word - awesome - is often misused, but when attempting to describe Jacky's scintillating ability to lap the most daunting racetrack in the history of our sport, no other word will suffice.
So it was that, in 1973, chastened to have fared so poorly in German Grands Prix hitherto, McLaren made available a third car for, yes, you've guessed it, the one 'n' only Jacques Bernard Ickx.
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It worked. Jackie Stewart's and Francois Cevert's Tyrrell 006s were uncatchably rapid, finishing first and second, separated by just 1.5sec at the head of the field by flag-fall, but in third place, in his only outing for McLaren, was Jacky. His McLaren team-mates, Peter Revson and Denny Hulme, great drivers both, each of them in an M23 identical to Jacky's, could finish only ninth and 12th, respectively 90 seconds and 177 seconds behind their super-rapid Nürburgring-only team-mate.
The 1974 German Grand Prix was another terrible race for McLaren - despite the fact that the team won its first world championship that year - and another successful one for Ferrari, for whom Clay won the race by 50 seconds in his 312B3.
McLaren was by now being led by my fellow mclaren.com/formula1 blogger, the great Emerson Fittipaldi, and he had qualified his M23 well, in P3, behind the Ferraris of Regazzoni and Niki Lauda. On race day, however, Emerson crashed out on lap three, as a result of suspension failure. His McLaren team-mates, Denny Hulme and Mike Hailwood, fared even worse: Denny qualified seventh and shunted at the start; Mike qualified 12th and shunted on lap 13.
What about 1975, I hear you asking? Did the McLaren boys finally pull the Nürburgring rabbit out of the hat that year? No, they did not. The race was won by a 97-second margin by Carlos Reutemann, in one of the most beautiful race cars of all time - the Gordon Murray-designed Brabham BT44B - and McLaren had another nightmare. Emerson qualified eighth and retired with suspension failure on lap four; his team-mate Jochen Mass qualified sixth and retired at the start.
Everyone who has watched the movie 'Rush' knows that the 1976 German Grand Prix was the last to be held at the old Nürburgring, Niki Lauda's fiery accident, which almost cost him his life, persuading the powers-that-be that Formula 1 cars could never race there again.
By 1976 Emerson had left McLaren for his brother Wilson's all-Brazilian Copersucar-Fittipaldi team, and McLaren's two drivers were Jochen Mass... and one James Simon Wallis Hunt.
As we all travelled to Germany for the 10th grand prix of the 1976 season, it was already clear that only James and McLaren could possibly challenge Niki and Ferrari for world championship honours that year. Having said that, of the previous nine grands prix, Niki had won five (including the previous race, the British Grand Prix, controversially, since James had crossed the line first and should by rights have been declared the winner) and James had won two. Niki therefore had 61 world championship points, James 24. So James's chances looked pretty slim.
Moreover, James had never finished a grand prix at the Nürburgring before - he had retired in his two previous German Grand Prix outings, in 1974 and 1975, both for Hesketh - and, as I have already laboriously explained, McLaren's German Grand Prix track record was also damnably bad.
Worse still, James absolutely loathed the Nürburgring. He was a brilliant race driver, talented and brave and as quick as they come, but he willingly admitted that the Nürburgring was very much not his cup of tea. In fact, as he chatted to groups of journalists in the paddock that German Grand Prix weekend in the legendary summer of 1976, he vociferously argued that the race should be abandoned. "It's just too dangerous," he said.
So where did he qualify? Pole, that's where. That was what James was like.
Race day dawned dry, but clouds were gathering. Soon it began to rain - on some parts of the circuit at least. At other parts it was dry. In the end almost all the drivers elected to start on wet tyres. There was an uncomfortable feeling in the air: many of the drivers regarded the circuit as insufficiently safe, and now they had tricky wet-dry conditions to battle in addition to all the other challenges facing them.
There is little point in my describing the early stages of the 1976 German Grand Prix, because, as you know, on lap two Niki had an almighty shunt at Bergwerk, a tight right-hander around a blind bank at the northern end of the circuit, causing his Ferrari to burst into flames.
Things were different in those days. Seeing the inferno, realising that the accident was a big one, and knowing that the wretch at the centre of the conflagration would require help, the drivers who were running immediately behind Niki's Ferrari stopped and ran to the scene.
Brett Lunger (Surtees), Arturo Merzario (Williams), Guy Edwards (Hesketh) and Harald Ertl (Hesketh also) selflessly waded into the flames, reaching into the Ferrari's fiery cockpit to try to release Niki's harness and pull him out.
The bravery of those four drivers - none of whom was an ace - cannot be under-estimated and must never be forgotten.
They eventually succeeded, but by the time they had got Niki out he was very badly burned. Eye witnesses report that, when he was first hauled out of his car, he was conscious, and initially he walked away from the flaming wreck without assistance. Then he collapsed.
By that time a few other drivers had also stopped at the scene, one of them Emerson Fittipaldi (Copersucar-Fittipaldi). As they awaited an ambulance, Emerson and Brett ran their hands down opposite sides of Niki's charred body, feeling for broken bones.
When the ambulance had taken Niki away, they returned to the pits, and all of them - Emerson, Brett, Arturo, Guy and Harald - had smears of Niki's blood on their race suits.
As I say, things were different in those days.
As Niki was being driven to a local accident and emergency department, arrangements were being made for the race restart. We all felt dreadful, aware as we were that we might never see Niki again, the drivers more so than any of the rest of us. One of the most badly affected was James, for two reasons: first, because he hated and feared the Nürburgring, and, second, and perhaps more important, because Niki was his friend.
Did James therefore falter? Did he therefore fail to give of his best? Did he therefore bottle it? No, he did not. He made a blinding start, led every lap, and won the race by 28 seconds. That was what James was like.
Was it a great day? At the time, we thought it was not, for all of us were upset, fearful for Niki's life. But, now, 38 long years later, with 65-year-old Niki in charge of a Mercedes-Benz team that looks certain to win this year's world championship, yes, I think it is fair to say that we can now regard August 1st 1976 as a great day.
Above all, it was a day on which Formula 1 drivers showed themselves to be not only athletes but also heroes. James Hunt, who won despite not wanting to race, breaking McLaren's German Grand Prix jinx as he did so, but also Emerson Fittipaldi, Brett Lunger, Arturo Merzario, Guy Edwards and Harald Ertl that day proved themselves to be made of the right stuff.
I hereby salute them all. You do too, don't you?