German Grand Prix
The German Grand Prix has a long and rich history that spans over one hundred years. Various factors, both political and sporting, have affected the nomenclature of the event. This article focuses on the Grand Prix races that have taken place in Germany rather than just the official Formula One German Grand Prix races.
The German Grand Prix is famed in recent history for being the home of “Schumacher Mania”, a phenomenon which took over the sport of motor racing in the nineties and early part of this decade. The 2007 Grand Prix in Germany was the centre of great controversy regarding a conflict between Bernie Ecclestone and the Automobile Club of Germany (AvD).
Early History of the Competition
Just over a hundred years ago, the first large automobile race took place in Germany. In 1907 The Kaiserpreis races were held at the Taunus Circuit, with engine size limited to 8 litres. The following year, the Prinz-Heinrich-Fahrt races took place. This competition ran for 3 years.
The first race to be referred to as a Grand Prix in Germany took place in 1926. The race was held at the Automobil Verkehrs und Ubungs-Strabe (AVUS) course in South West Berlin in heavy rain. The harsh conditions contributed to the tragic accident that took the lives of three officials. Adolf Rosenberger lost control of his car and ploughed into one of the marshal’s posts.
Mercedes-Benz took the title with Rudolf Caracciola at the wheel. The following year, the German Grand Prix moved to the massive purpose built track at Nurburgring. The race only utilised 22.8km of the 28km track, referred to as the Nordschleife, meaning “North Loop”.
Financial and political pressures meant that the event only took place sporadically from then until the outbreak of the Second World War. Grand Prix cars still raced at the AVUS track, but these events did not contribute to the European Championship.
A new track was constructed in time for the 1940 German Grand Prix. It was called the Deutschlandring and located near Dresden. The event was called off, however, owing to the War.
After the Second World War
When the War had ended, Germany was banned from all international sporting competitions until 1951. This meant that although the German Grand Prix was taking place, it was not included in the opening 1950 Formula One Grand Prix season. The following year, the German Grand Prix was included but the German public began to lose interest in the sport over the next decade.
The event was downscaled in 1959 and moved back to the AVUS track. This did not remedy the problems that sport was enduring in Germany. The high speed track led to several serious accidents and the AvD was criticised for the move.
The following year, Formula Two cars had to be included in the Grand Prix, some of which did not make it to the event. The shortened 1960 German Grand Prix was not included in the Formula One World Championships.
During the 1960s the popularity of Grand Prix in Germany fluctuated drastically. Various World Championship events were held in addition to the Grand Prix proper. The large crowds that were paying to watch the sport fuelled hopes that the racing would move away from the Nordeschleife.
The 26 mile long track through treacherous mountain roads were steeped in dense forest. This made them incredibly dangerous. It saw countless fatalities, many of them being particularly grizzly with cars flipping off the tracks and catching fire, trapping the drivers who were left to burn to death in their vehicles.
After the high profile death of Niki Lauda in 1976, racing at the Nordschleife ceased. Formula One declared the track too dangerous and the then modified Hokkenheimring became the competition’s full time home.
A new layout was introduced at the Nurburgring 1984 where the European Grand Prix had been taking place for almost ten years. The modification of the track was called the “Grand Prix Strecke”.
More recently the German Grand Prix is intended to alternate between the Nurburgring and the Hockenheimring. A dispute regarding the names meant that a “German Grand Prix” can not officially be held at the Nurburgring because the name is registered to the Hockenheimring track. The result was that the event at the Nurburgring in 2007 was listed as the European Grand Prix and no German Grand Prix actually took place.
2007 European Grand Prix
In 2006 it was established that from 2007 onwards, only one Grand Prix would be held in Germany. It was then revealed that the event in 2007 would be named the European Grand Prix, to the dismay of the German public.
Talks were held to settle the dispute over the naming, which the AvD declared belonged to the Hockenheimring track. Bernie Ecclestone, who set up the television rights to Formula One racing, announced that the problem lay with the AvD’s stubbornness. It was the first year since 1955 that a German Grand Prix had not taken place.
Lewis Hamilton was leading the Formula One Championship by 12 points at the start of the race. He crashed in the third session of qualifying and finished to go into the main race in 10th place. Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa qualified in first and third places respectively for Ferrari. Fernando Alonso was second for McLaren-Mercedes.
Before the race, the weather looked as if it may hold. As the race got under way the rain was predicted to fall a few minutes into the race. The first lap saw Hamilton sneak into 6th place before a puncture put him back. The race saw countless cars spin off or take to the pit to change tyres. Markus Winkelhock was the only driver to have changed his tyres for wet weather ones before the race, which put him 33 seconds in front early on. Unfortunately for him, however, the race was stopped after 90 seconds and he eventually retired after 15 laps owing to a car failure.
Ralf Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen retired, leaving the Ferraris to lead the race comfortably. This lead continued until rain forced all cars to take to the pit to change tyres. In the 56th lap Alonso overtook and won the race by 8.155 seconds. Massa finished second, with Mark Webber for Red Bull-Renault taking third place one minute and 5.674 seconds behind the winner.
Tickets and Travel
The 2008 German Grand Prix is set to take place on the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st of July. Three day passes cost up to £420 for main Grand Stand entrance. One day passes for the Sunday cost up to £250. Cheaper tickets are available in the uncovered area of the Grandstand. The different available viewing areas are as follows:
- Main Grandstand – This area is opposite the pit line, has good views for the start and finish of the race and there is a video wall on which to view the rest of the race.
- General Admission Spitzkehre 1 – The area overlooking the Spitzkehre corner also has a video wall on which to view the rest of the race.
- General Admission Parakolika – This area overlooks the Parabolika corner, which is a long left turn.
- Mercedes-Benz Oberrang – The area is located next to the Spitzkehre area of the track. The view is of the straight out of the Parabolika and towards the Spitzkehre. This stretch includes a right turn followed by a short straight that leads into a left opening S bend. There is also a video wall. The grandstand is divided into three sections. The front 3 rows offer excellent views of the immediate track but a limited view over the whole track. Rows 2-24 offer excellent views over the immediate track and its turns and straight. The view over the rest of the track is reasonable. The upper grandstand has an excellent view over the entire track, although you are less close to the action.
- Grandstand “Sud A” – Offers views from the Mercedes stand to the Motodrom area. The track from the Motodrom area to the last corner before the finish line is visible.
- Grandstand “Sud D” – The area is on the final corner before the finish line and has particularly good views of the infield track.
- Grandstand “Sud F” – This has a similar view to “Sud D” but with the benefit of the view of the entrance to the pit lane and the first set of pits.
- Grandstand “Nord A” – The grandstand overlooks the pit lane and the finishing straight.
- Grandstand “Nord B” – The grandstand overlooks the opening corner, the start and finish line and the exit of the pit lane.
- Grandstand “Innen C” – This is possibly the least exciting aspect to view the race from, and is hence the cheapest. You can see the cars as the enter the Motordrom.
All grandstands have the benefit of a large video wall which shows the entire race.
The nearest airport is Frankfurt which is 56 miles away from Hockenheim. Hockenheim is situated around 16 miles to the West of Heidelberg, 68 miles north of Stuttgart.