Brought to you by TJ13 Track Profile Specialist Alistair Hunter
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After a brief stop in Britain, the Formula One racing continues on the European mainland in Germany. The German Grand Prix has a long and proud history, despite only producing five victories for German drivers since it was included on the Formula One calendar in 1951. This weekend, there will be four homegrown drivers on the grid who will attempt to make that statistic look a little bit nicer.
Of those, Sebastian Vettel is the championship leader and will be looking to finish on the top step of the podium at his home race, something which has continued to elude him during his F1 career. However, Mercedes will also be looking to record a victory at their home race; although this is something more likely to come from the German-speaking country of Austria and Red Bull Racing.
The Nurburgring is etched into motorsport legend due to a long history of drivers attempting to conquer the original 28.265 kilometre track, regarded as a true test of bravery and skill. The venue has gone on to hold 39 World Championship Grands Prix under various guises, with the German Grand Prix, European Grand Prix and Luxembourg Grand Prix names all utilised in order to keep the track on the calendar on various occasions.Alas, the original configuration is not part of the Formula One calendar, although I admit that from a safety perspective this is probably the best decision.
Instead, the modern (and, from the view of several people, less fun) track has been in operation since 1984, attracting both compliments and complaints due to its focus on safety, in addition to constantly being compared to the older configurations of the track that existed. Niki Lauda’s crash in 1986 highlighted the issues with the previous track, and the distances for marshals and emergency services to go around the track ensured that some of these issues would not be easily fixed, so a smaller track was built nearby, and has hosted several Grands Prix since then.
The track currently shares the German Grand Prix with Hockenheim, an arrangement that commenced in 2007 which has resulted in alternating annually between the two. However, there were rumours that the Nurburgring would be unable to host the race this year due to financial difficulties which led Hockenheim to state that they were willing to host the race, but luckily the Nurburgring found a way to host it.
A lap of the Nurburgring consists of fifteen corners and eight main braking zones spread around the 5.148 kilometre circuit, which equates to 63% of the lap at full throttle, in comparison to 11% of the lap spent under braking. As mentioned later in this article, the circuit has a medium impact on brakes, and requires around 57 gear changes per lap.
The circuit combines several high speed corners such as the Schumacher-S with low speed corners such as the first one that the drivers will face once they accelerate away from the grid, ultimately meaning that the track benefits those cars set up for high downforce conditions. One of the main overtaking points comes from a slow chicane at turns 13 and 14, just before the drivers go back onto the start/finish straight or head into the pit lane.
Like the majority of circuits this year, the Nurburgring will feature two DRS zones. The first of which will feature an detection zone just after the Schumacher-S, and can be activated on the back straight after turn 11, where drivers will reach speeds of around 300 kilometres per hour as they go through the fast right hand corner and slow into turn 13. The other DRS zone will be located on the main straight where drivers can also reach over 300 kilometres per hour, with the detection point on the entry into the final corner.
Nurburgring and Pirelli:
The tyre nomination is the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft: a combination not seen since the Chinese Grand Prix in April. However, Pirelli will bring Kevlar-belted rear tyres for both the medium and soft compound to Germany, which have already been tested at the Friday practice sessions in Canada.
This moves comes after a series of tyre failures at last week’s British Grand Prix which, as Pirelli has now been able to establish, were caused by a combination of factors like the rear tyres mounted the wrong way around, low tyre pressures, extreme cambers and high kerbs.
Even though the 2013 specification of the Pirelli Formula One tyres are completely safe when used in the correct way, the company prefers to bring Kevlar-belted rear tyres to the Nurburgring, as it is a tyre easier to manage.
Pirelli Motorsport Director Paul Hembery: “Surprisingly, the Nurburgring is one of the circuits that we have the least experience of, having only raced there once before in Formula One, but we’re certain that we have chosen the correct compromise between performance and durability by bringing the medium and soft compounds. These were actually the same compounds that we chose for this track in 2011, but since then the tyres have got softer and faster, so we would expect a quicker race time with an average of three pit stops for most drivers. The Nurburgring is not on the whole an especially demanding circuit for tyres but there are still some distinctive aspects to look out for when it comes to tyre management, such as the kerbing on the chicanes.
We are expecting a performance gap of 0.8-1.0 second between the two nominated compounds, which should make the strategy options versatile. For this race only, we will bring Kevlar-belted rear tyres, following the incidents at the British Grand Prix.
Even though the 2013 high-performance steel-belted version is completely safe when used correctly, the Kevlar-belted version is easier to manage and as long as there is no system in place which allows us to enforce tyre related specifications, like tyre pressures or camber, the incorrect use of which were contributing factors of the tyre failures in Silverstone, we prefer to bring a less sophisticated tyre.
From the Hungarian Grand Prix onwards there will be a completely new range of tyres, combining the characteristics of our 2012 tyres with the increased performance of the 2013 specification.”
Jean Alesi: “The Nurburgring is a legendary name but personally I never found the modern circuit particularly involving, although it has changed a lot during the years. It’s a circuit that tends to be quite kind to tyres, so the question of tyre management isn’t a big one: you just drive as hard as you like.
There’s always been a good atmosphere though as the fans are very enthusiastic, and I am sure that is just the same now. You have quite a variety of different corners in the lap so it’s mostly a question of finding a good rhythm and stringing them together in the most efficient way.
I always thought of Nurburgring as a reasonably straightforward race: it’s not so much a big challenge but more a test of precision and not making any mistakes. If you start in a good grid position and have a clean race you should come away with a good result: you don’t often see big surprises. That’s unless it rains of course: then anything can happen…”
The circuit from a tyre point of view: Built next door to the legendary Nordschleife, the modern Nurburgring is a fast and flowing circuit that is mostly made up of medium speed corners, with a technical infield section as well. One of the big variables in the region will once more be the weather, so a versatile tyre selection is essential in order to cope with a potential wide range of temperatures.
There are a number of reasonably fast direction changes at the Nurburgring. This increases the amount of lateral energy going through the tyres and therefore heat build-up. That is the biggest reason for wear and degradation on the tyres at the Nurburgring rather traction and braking events, which are on the whole limited.
Technical tyre notes: The first corner is particularly challenging at the Nurburgring, particularly after the start where it is often the scene of accidents. Under acceleration out of it, the back of the car can step out, placing heavy demands on the rear tyres – as they need to guarantee a combination of grip and traction on one of the most technical parts of the circuit that is key to a fast lap time.
Turn seven is also particularly tricky: there is a deceleration of 5g heading into it and the front-left tyre has to do a lot of work here to compensate for the unusual camber of the circuit.
One of the keys to a quick lap is negotiating the kerbing correctly at the NGK Chicane. The drivers hit the kerbs hard, which puts a force equivalent to 800 kilogrammes through the tyre.
A Lap With Pirelli
Brembo and the Nurburgring
There are eight braking zones to contend with at the Nurburgring, as Italian brake manufacturer and supplier to several F1 teams Brembo have identified. They state that it is a medium difficulty track for the single-seater braking systems, as characterised by the medium difficulty breaking sections. The most critical aspect for the braking system has to do with the correct sizing of the air intakes that guarantee optimum operating temperature for the brakes (as identified by the teams going ‘old school’ and casually sticking some tape over them on occasion).
The first turn is considered as the most demanding for the braking system, seeing the cars decelerate from 305 kilometres per hour to 95, creating a maximum deceleration of 5.57 G during the 2.2 seconds to cover the 108 metre braking distance. The braking power is 2360 KW, which is apparently one kilowatt lower than the highest for that, found on the entrance to the NGK Shikane (or, for people who don’t want to add brands to everything, Turn 13).
1961 German Grand Prix – In the 100th race since the establishment of the Formula One World Championship in 1950, Stirling Moss took his final victory on the old Nurburgring while driving a Lotus 18/21 for the privateer Rob Walker Racing Team. Behind him was Wolfgang von Trips and Phil Hill on the podium.
1995 European Grand Prix – David Coulthard started on pole and despite having to use his spare car, he led into the first corner while Schumacher overtook Damon Hill for the next position in wet conditions. Excessive oversteer forced Coulthard to drop back, leading to a battle between Alesi and Schumacher for the victory, which the German eventually won, almost wrapping up his championship thanks to good driving.
1999 European Grand Prix – Heinz-Harald Frentzen led from pole position, but retired due to an electrical problem, while Coulthard’s tyre choice led to him going off while in the lead a few laps later. After Ralf Schumacher lost the lead to Fisichella, the Italian spun to hand the lead back, before the German suffered a puncture, letting Johnny Herbert inherit the victory as the Stewart Grand Prix team took their only win.
2005 European Grand Prix – Polesitter Heidfeld was overtaken by Raikkonen as the Finn took the lead into the first corner, and kept this lead after the first pit stops. Kimi lost the lead on lap 30, allowing Heidfeld to lead for a lap before he pitted, allowing the third-placed Alonso to take advantage and close the gap. Raikkonen suffered from a flat spot picked up earlier in the race, causing him to get major vibrations throughout the car, and eventually breaking the suspension, leading him to crash out at the beginning of the final lap, handing the victory to Alonso.
2007 European Grand Prix – As the Ferrari cars led into the first corner, rain started to pour, disadvantaging everyone except Spyker driver Markus Winkelhock, who had taken the gamble to switch to wet tyres in anticipation of the weather, allowing him the honour of leading his debut race. However, after five drivers spun off at the first corner and the subsequent red flag period finished, Winkelhock lost the lead to Massa and later retired. At the front, the Brazilian slowly pulled away from Alonso, but in the aftermath of a later downpour, the McLaren driver became more competitive and overtook Massa to win a dramatic race.
This year, Mercedes and Red Bull have been the dominant forces when it comes to qualifying, but four different drivers have tasted victory when it matters. The last four races have been shared between Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso, but despite the misfortune behind the last result at Silverstone, the championship table shows that it is Sebastian Vettel who has been victorious on more occasions this season than anyone else.
At the Nurburgring, the last five people to win have been Ralf Schumacher (2003), Michael Schumacher (2004, 2006 in addition to 1995, 2000 and 2001), Fernando Alonso (2005, 2007), Mark Webber (2009), and Lewis Hamilton (2011). In the last ten races at the circuit, wins have been split between Ferrari (5), McLaren (2), Williams (1), Renault (1) and Red Bull (1).
In the last five races designated as the German Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have each been victorious twice for McLaren and Ferrari respectively, with Mark Webber’s 2009 win for Red Bull making up the numbers. Of the drivers currently on the grid, Alonso is the most successful with three wins, while the most successful team of all time in this race is Ferrari with 21 Formula One World Championship victories there in addition to their non-championship win in 1950.
The most successful driver in terms of the World Championship is – obviously – Michael Schumacher. After winning several other series, he was introduced to Formula One at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix, replacing the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot, and qualified in seventh, the Jordan team’s joint-best qualifying result, before having to retire on the first lap.
I suspect you may have already heard of his story, so to sum it up I’ll simply mention that he went on to win seven world championships, retired for a bit, came back, wasn’t as successful, and finally left F1 last year when Lewis Hamilton stole his seat.
While the number of German drivers in the support races this weekend will actually be the same as the number in the main event itself, there are still talented local drivers out there. One of these is Daniel Abt, who is part of the Lotus GP team (now back in the ART Grand Prix brand) in the GP2 series.
After competing in the ADAC Kart Championship in 2007 with the backing of Deutsche Post, he spent two years competing in the ADAC Formula Masters series, finishing first in 2009 after scoring eight victories for the team that his father owned. He subsequently ventured into the German Formula Three series and finished second overall behind Tom Dillmann, who also currently competes in the GP2 series.
2011 saw him take four podium positions in the Formula 3 Euro Series on his way to finishing seventh in the championship (technically one was a fourth place behind Tom Dillmann, who was ineligible for points, but still…), while last year he came in second place in the GP3 season due to several good results including two victories in Belgium and Italy, and was therefore promoted.
Once again the series is joined by the GP2 series as it continues to meander through Europe, as it reaches the halfway point of its season. After the Nurburgring, you will see the GP2 drivers again in Hungary, Belgium, Italy, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. After last weekend, Stefano Coletti still leads the way despite not scoring points at Silverstone, but Felipe Nasr could not close up the gap by much after only getting a seventh place finish in the second race.
The GP3 series reaches its fourth round of the season, following on from visits to Barcelona, Valencia and Silverstone, and Cypriot driver Tio Ellinas – who you may recognise after his announcement as a participant in the Young Driver Test for Marussia – currently leads the series. His consistent finishes in the top six complimented by a victory in the first round of the season have allowed him to take advantage of no driver being able to record more than one victory this year.
The final support race to undergo the Formula One experience this weekend is the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup for the fourth race of nine this year. British driver Sean Edwards leads the championship due to two victories in the first two races, but the second placed driver is German driver and former Red Bull Racing test driver Michael Ammermuller, who has not finished outside the podium this year and will be looking to go one better than his Silverstone result in order to give the home fans something to smile about.
German Grand Prix Results
|2011||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren-Mercedes||Nürburgring GP-Strecke|
|2009||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||Nürburgring GP-Strecke|
|2007||Cancelled (replaced by 2007 European Grand Prix)|
|2003||Juan Pablo Montoya||Williams-BMW||Hockenheimring|