03 April 2019 12:45
Germany is synonymous with motor-racing. An array of iconic World Champions, global manufacturers, and a host of legendary circuits makes it a mecca for car and motorsport fans, as Motorsport Live explains.
The presence of motorsport in Germany was crucial in the early 1950s as the country re-integrated itself into the global sphere in the wake of the Second World War. Just six years after fighting ceased Formula 1 rolled into the breath-taking 22km-long Nurburgring Nordschleife, a fearsome venue nestled within the Eifel Mountains that features well in excess of 100 terrifying corners.
It soon became regarded as the ultimate test of man and machine, with drivers disappearing off into the countryside for a staggering nine minutes, threading their way through the undulating countryside, just an armful of oversteer away from a date with the barriers and trees. Sir Jackie Stewart’s dominant victory at the rain-drenched 1968 Grand Prix is regarded as one of the greatest performances of all time and he dubbed the venue ‘The Green Hell’ a moniker that has remained through to this day.
But as safety evolved and standards were raised Nurburgring’s Nordschleife was gradually regarded as an ancient relic from a distant era. It came to a head in 1976. Niki Lauda’s fiery near-fatal accident proved the final straw and for the next year the German Grand Prix was moved to Hockenheim. Nurburgring did return in the 1980s, albeit on a truncated version called GP-Strecke, and regularly took on the European Grand Prix moniker as Hockenheim became the host of Germany’s national Grand Prix.
Hockenheim soon established itself as an outlier on the Formula 1 calendar through. Its quirky circuit layout, with long full throttle blasts between the forests broke with three distinctive chicanes and contrasted with a twisty ‘stadium’ section, gave teams a set-up headache between low- and high-downforce, while the local weather systems often threw a spanner into the works. Hockenheim’s rise reached its peak with the emergence of national hero Michael Schumacher in the 1990s, with the event becoming one of the best-attended on the Formula 1 calendar.
Amid pressure from local councillors Hockenheim was shortened in the early 2000s but the racing remained superb, even if some character had undoubtedly been lost from the venue. The departure of Schumacher resulted in some purse-tightening and from 2008 Hockenheim and Nurburgring biennially alternated hosting duties, until the latter was unable to stick to its side of the contract, meaning the German Grand Prix dropped from the calendar in odd-numbered years. Hockenheim kept to its side of the bargain and was rewarded with some scintillating Grands Prix, none more so than in 2018 when a brief rain shower irreversibly altered the outcome of the World Championship, as local favourite Sebastian Vettel agonisingly threw away victory when he slithered off the circuit and into the barriers, handing the win to title opponent Lewis Hamilton.
As the home of Vettel, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and the reigning World Champions Mercedes, the German Grand Prix remains a centrepiece of the Formula 1 calendar. Can Vettel make amends after his 2018 disaster or will the Silver Arrows make it four on the bounce in front of their hierarchy and supports, having triumphed in 2014, 2016 and 2018. Last year Hulkenberg emerged as Germany’s top dog in the Grand Prix in the wake of Vettel’s mistake – could he go even better this time around and mount the podium?
Hockenheim itself offers plenty of fantastic vantage points; the main grandstand wraps itself around the first and last corners, providing a view of the pits straight, while from the stadium section you can watch the cars blasting into view within the tight confines of the final sector – the exact area of track at which Vettel’s 2018 title aspirations were dealt a substantial blow. There’s also the Mercedes Tribune, located on the outside of Turn 8, which gives a view of the long run to the hairpin and an area of track where drivers regularly scrap side-by-side for several corners. Who can forget the 2014 race in which Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo diced for supremacy through the complex?
Hockenheim is certainly one for the hardcore fans – the atmosphere is one of a Formula 1 festival, with a plethora of campsites where the sausages are cooking and the beers flowing 24/7, whatever the weather. You won’t want to miss out.