German Grand Prix 2014: 10 Key Facts About Hockenheim
This weekend's German Grand Prix will take place at the Hockenheimring in southwestern Germany. It is the 34th time that circuit has hosted the race.
Like many of the classic European tracks, Hockenheim is a shadow of its former self, but even the redesigned track regularly draws big, passionate crowds and produces exciting races.
To help get you ready for the weekend, here are 10 facts about the Hockenheimring:
The Hockenheimring is located just outside the town of Hockenheim, near the Rhine River in the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg. The largest nearby cities are Frankfurt, about 100 kilometres to the north, and Stuttgart, slightly further and to the southeast.
Hockenheim lies along the Bertha Benz Memorial Route, which follows the route taken by automobile inventor Karl Benz's wife on the first-ever long-distance road trip.
Redesigning a Classic
Originally built as a Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union test track, Hockenheim hosted its first German Grand Prix in 1970. At that time (and until 2001), the circuit was a series of long straights through a dense forest, connected by fast chicanes, starting and finishing in the familiar stadium section.
After the 2001 race, to increase safety and enhance the spectator experience, the track was significantly shortened. A long, fast curve was built to connect the first and last straights, cutting off the long forest section and reducing the circuit length from nearly seven kilometres to four and a half.
Hermann Tilke oversaw the redesign, telling the official F1 website that, "The original idea was just to broaden the existing track according to current safety regulations, and to keep the track to its original length."
When that proved impossible, "The task became to design something new, on the existing site, and make it more interesting and accessible for visitors, all without impacting upon the woodland."
A Motorsport Arena
The most famous and recognisable part of the Hockenheim circuit is the stadium section, where two massive grandstands embrace seven of the track's 17 corners, including the start-finish straight.
Before the circuit was shortened, these slower corners were very difficult, as the cars were usually run in low-downforce configurations to take advantage of the long forest straights. "You held on tightly because the car didn’t have any downforce," Jenson Button said in McLaren's race preview. "It seems like a different level of craziness compared with today, but it was a lot of fun."
But even if the stadium section no longer presents the same challenge to the drivers, it is still a special place. Former driver Alex Wurz told the official F1 website that, "The most memorable thing about Hockenheim is the stadium section because the huge grandstands create an amazing atmosphere. There are thousands of people, all making a lot of noise."
Circuit Characteristics and Tyre Choices
The circuit is 4.574 kilometres long and the race will last 67 laps (the last race under the old configuration had just 45 laps). Kimi Raikkonen set the lap record under the new configuration in 2004, at 1m 13.780s.
The Hockenheimring does not have an abrasive surface, nor many fast corners, so Pirelli is bringing soft and supersoft tyres to the race this year.
According to the tyre manufacturer's race preview, "The slow stadium section, with lots of acceleration out of slow corners, means that the drivers have to be careful to avoid wheelspin, which will heat up the surface of the compound."
As well, "The relatively low average temperatures and short corners make keeping the tyres within their ideal working range one of the biggest challenges at Hockenheim."
A Shared Grand Prix
From 1977 to 2006, the German Grand Prix was held almost exclusively at the Hockenheimring. The lone exception was 1985, when the race returned to the recently reconfigured Nurburgring.
Ten years later, in response to Michael Schumacher's growing popularity, a second grand prix was held in Germany, again at the Nurburgring. Called the European Grand Prix, this arrangement persisted (with a two-year interruption in 1997 and 1998) until 2006.
The following year, an ongoing arrangement was put in place to alternate one German race between the two circuits.
The Schumacher brothers are the only German drivers to win at Hockenheim, and they did it five times between 1995 and 2006. Michael won in 1995, 2002, 2004 and 2006, while Ralf won in 2001 after his teammate Juan Pablo Montoya's engine broke down.
Sebastian Vettel came close in 2010, qualifying on pole and finishing third, five seconds behind the winner, Fernando Alonso. And in 2008, Nick Heidfeld finished fourth, less than 10 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel finally won his first German Grand Prix last season, at the Nurburgring.
This season, there are four Germans on the grid: Nico Rosberg, Adrian Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg and Vettel. Rosberg will be one of the favourites this weekend, while Hulkenberg is one of only two drivers to score points in every race so far this year (Alonso is the other).
Importance of Qualifying
A good showing in qualifying seems essential to get a victory at Hockenheim.
In the eight races since the circuit's redesign, the pole sitter has won five times. Two winners came from the second position on the grid and, in 2005, Fernando Alonso came all the way from third to take the win.
Two F1 drivers have lost their lives at Hockenheim, although neither was during an F1 race.
Two-time world champion Jim Clark was killed during a Formula Two race in 1968. The first forest chicane was installed near the site of his fatal crash, where a memorial to the British driver also stands.
In 1980, Patrick Depailler suffered a fatal accident while testing an Alfa Romeo. He crashed at the Ostkurve, which was a high-speed right-hander at the time, but was soon converted to another chicane.
Most Successful Drivers
Home hero Michael Schumacher has the most victories at Hockenheim, with four. Next on the list are two Brazilians—Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna—with three. Fernando Alonso also has three wins, including the last two races at the Baden-Wurttemberg circuit.
Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Gerhard Berger and Lewis Hamilton have each won twice.
Hamilton and Alonso will be the only two drivers on the grid this Sunday to have won a race at Hockenheim.
Camping, but Not Sleeping
Like the last race, at Silverstone, the Hockenheimring is not located near a major city. Therefore, many fans choose to camp around the circuit.
The party atmosphere in the German campgrounds is legendary. "The camping area is the best option,” Michael Schumacher told the official F1 site for its destination guide. "You won’t sleep a minute because of the noise, but you will have lots of new friends by the end of the weekend!"
Sounds like the place to be this week!
Follow me on Twitter for updates when I publish a new article and for other (mostly) F1-related news and banter: