F1 flashback: 20 years since the crazy 1994 German Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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It’s been 20 years since one of the most bizarre German Grands Prix on record, the 1994 edition won by Gerhard Berger for Ferrari.

Held at the old Hockenheimring, prior to the shorter, chopped new version that came into being in 2002, the weekend saw the V12 Ferraris produce an utterly dominant weekend on the 4-plus mile circuit known for incredibly long straights, where horsepower was king.

Berger and Jean Alesi locked out the front row ahead of championship rivals Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher. Schumacher was racing on home soil with a controversy hanging over his head after his British Grand Prix moment where he’d passed Hill on the formation lap.

While the Ferraris got away cleanly off the start (go to 3:33), there was a diabolical mess behind them with 10 cars eliminated either at the start/finish line or into Turn 1. McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen got a one-race suspension for the accident and was replaced at the following GP in Hungary by Philippe Alliot.

Those 10 were eliminated there with Alesi retiring at the end of the first lap with electrical issues. A throttle issue for Ukyo Katayama’s Tyrrell made for another retirement.

On Lap 16, one of the few who’d survived the first lap fracas, Benetton’s Jos Verstappen, had what became his most memorable moment in Formula One history. The Dutchman was engulfed in a fireball after a refueling stop went awry; NBC Sports Group analyst Steve Matchett was actually involved in that pit stop, having been a Benetton mechanic at the time, and recalled the moment during a SPEED “Formula 1 Decade” rebroadcast of the 1994 German GP during the 2004 season (see below).

Verstappen’s retirement brought the field down to just 13 runners left after 26 had started, and more retirements were to come. David Coulthard’s Williams had an electrical issue; Martin Brundle’s McLaren-Peugeot and Schumacher’s Benetton-Ford both had engine failures.

The 10 remaining runners included of all cars, both Ligier-Renaults, Footwork-Fords, Larrousse-Fords and Simtek-Fords.

Berger continued up front untroubled en route to a popular victory, Ferrari’s first since Alain Prost’s at the 1990 Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, nearly four years earlier. International commentary is linked, but the V12 Ferrari is glorious.

Behind him it was a day for the underdogs, with Olivier Panis and Eric Bernard leading the way in scoring their first (and in Bernard’s case, only) career podiums for Ligier. Christian Fittipaldi and Gianni Morbidelli drove their Footworks to fourth and fifth, and Erik Comas brought the Larrousse home in sixth. Teammate Olivier Beretta recorded his best ever F1 finish of seventh, just shy of the points, with Hill eighth.

The dream of Simtek scoring points ended when David Brabham had a clutch failure and Jean-Marc Gounon an engine failure in the final 10 laps. They were retirements but Gounon (ninth) and Brabham (10th) were still among the top-10 at the end of the day.

For a modern-day comparison of what this kind of shock result would be like, it would be akin to… well… Ferrari winning the 2014 German Grand Prix with a down-on-performance chassis, say Lotus coming second and third with Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado, Sauber ending fourth and fifth with Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez, and Marussia bagging sixth and seventh with Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton.

Put simply, that ain’t gonna happen. And that’s why the 1994 German GP stands out so much, because it was such an odd, abnormal day of motor racing.

Alexander Rossi ‘fits like a glove’ with his new IndyCar teammates at Arrow McLaren Racing

Alexander Rossi McLaren
Nate Ryan
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – There are more than three dozen fresh faces on the Arrow McLaren Racing IndyCar team, but there was one that Felix Rosenqvist was particularly keen to know – Alexander Rossi.

The driver of the No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet is the most high-profile new hire for McLaren, which has expanded to a third car to pair with the No. 6 of Rosenqvist and No. 5 of Pato O’Ward.

And there is another layer than Rossi just being the new kid. McLaren marks only his second team in NTT IndyCar Series after seven seasons at Andretti Autosport, where he began with a victory in the 2016 Indy 500 and was a championship contender for several seasons.

Rossi is a mercurial talent, and when things go wrong, the red mist quickly descends (and sometimes has led to feuds with teammates). He went winless during two of his final seasons at Andretti and was out of contention more often than not, often bringing out the prickly side of his personality.

Yet there has been no trace of the dour Rossi since joining McLaren. The pragmatic Californian is quick to remind everyone he hasn’t worked with the team yet at a track (much less been in its car), and there surely will be times he gets frustrated.

But it’s clear that Rossi, who made five Formula One starts in 2015 after several years racing in Europe, already is meshing well with an organization whose England-based parent company has deep roots in F1.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Rosenqvist said Tuesday during IndyCar’s preseason media availabilities. “I think Alex kind of has that bad-guy role a little bit in IndyCar. He’s always been that guy, which is cool. I think we need those guys, as well.

“Actually having gotten to know him, he’s been super nice, super kind. He fits like a glove in the team. I think it fills a role where Pato is kind of like the crazy guy, I’m somewhere in the middle, and Alex is the more engineering guy in the team. I think Alex has more experience, as well. He just feels like a guy who knows what he wants.

“Yeah, good addition to the team and great guy at the same time.”

There are many reasons why Rossi’s transition from Andretti to McLaren should be smoother than his abrupt move from F1 to IndyCar seven years ago. Namely, he no longer is the only newcomer to the team’s culture.

“It’s been kind of a good time to come in because everyone is finding a new role and position and kind of learning who’s who, finding everyone’s strengths and weaknesses,” he said.

But while Rossi might have questions about the team, he has none about the series. Unlike when he arrived at Andretti without any oval experience, Rossi joins McLaren with his IndyCar credentials secured as an established star with eight victories, seven poles and 28 podiums over 114 starts.

Even in his swan song with Andretti, Rossi still managed a farewell victory last July at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course that snapped a 49-race, three-year winless drought. It seems reasonable to believe he immediately could re-emerge in his 2017-19 title contender form.

“I know the series, and I know kind of everything that goes into American open-wheel racing vs. the European open-wheel racing, which is really the biggest transition,” Rossi said. “Certainly it’s the largest kind of team switch. I’ve obviously driven for different teams in the past in Europe, in sports cars, whatever, but never really in my full-time job. I’ve driven for the same organization for a very long time and have a lot of respect and fabulous memories with those people.

“So it has been a big kind of shift, trying to compare and contrast areas that I can bring kind of recommendations and experience to maybe help fill the gaps that exist at Arrow McLaren. Again, all of this is in theory, right? I don’t really know anything. We’ll have a much better idea and plan going into St. Pete (the March 5 season opener).”

He has gotten a good handle on how things work at its Indianapolis headquarters, though, and has been pleased by the leadership of new racing director Gavin Ward (who worked in F1 before a championship stint with Josef Newgarden at Team Penske). McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown also seems omnipresent on both sides of the Atlantic, making appearances at IndyCar races seemingly as much as in the F1 paddock.

“I think what’s very cool about Arrow McLaren is we do have the resources of the McLaren F1 team,” Rossi said. “They very much are being integrated in a lot of respects. It’s not two separate entities. McLaren Racing is one organization that has its people and resources and intellect in kind of everything. It’s been pretty cool to see how that can be an advantage to us in terms of people, resources, simulations, software, kind of everything. We’ve been able to kind of rely on that and use that as a tool that maybe other teams certainly don’t have.”

That will be helpful for Rossi with the methodologies and nuances of racing a Chevrolet for the first time after seven seasons with Honda.

And of course, there will be the relationship with O’Ward, who has been McLaren’s alpha star since 2020.

Rossi was in a similar role for Andretti, which raises questions about how McLaren will handle having two stars accustomed to being the face of the team. But O’Ward said IndyCar regulations should allow each driver to maintain their own style without being forced to adapt as in other series.

“At the end of the day, as much as teammates will help in order to gather data, it doesn’t mean they’re going to specifically help you in what you need because it’s a series where you can really tailor the car to what you want,” O’Ward said. “Rather than in Formula 1, (it’s) ‘This is the car, you need to learn how to drive this certain car.’ In IndyCar, it’s very different where you can customize it to what you want it to feel like or drive like.

“From past experience, I think Alex likes a car similar to what I do. I do think we have a very strong car in certain areas, but I definitely think he’s coming from a car where that other car has been stronger than us in other racetracks. I feel like if we can just find gains where we haven’t quite had a winning car, a podium car, that’s just going to help all of us.”

Though Thursday at The Thermal Club will mark the first time the trio works together at a track, Rosenqvist said he’s hung out a lot with Rossi (both are 31 years old) and deems his new teammate “well-integrated” in the simulator.

“I think the fit has been good with him, me and Pato,” Rosenqvist said. “On a trackside perspective, it’s obviously huge to have always a third opinion on things. Every driver’s opinion is valuable in its own way.”

Said O’Ward, 23: “It’s been great. (Rossi has) been great to have around. I think he needed a fresh start. I think he’s excited to really work with all of us, create the strongest package.”

Ever the realist, though, Rossi still is tempering some of his enthusiasm.

“Again, we haven’t really done anything yet other than some meetings and some team activities together,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done in IndyCar and also their prior careers. I think that we all bring something a little bit different to the table, which I think is really unique in terms of not only personalities but driving styles and experience levels.

“I think we have the ingredients to really be able to develop the team and continue to push the team forward to even a better level than what they’ve shown in the past. It’s been a really positive experience. Really I have nothing at all negative to say and can’t actually wait to get to work, get on track and start working together.”