Brought to you by TJ13 Track Profile Specialist Alistair Hunter
After an exciting visit to Britain, the Formula One racing continues on the European mainland in Germany. The German Grand Prix has a long and proud history, including the recent addition of Sebastian Vettel to the top step of the podium at his home race for the first time in his career last year.
The odds are against him taking victory this year though, but Mercedes are almost guaranteed to put in a race-winning performance this weekend at their home Grand Prix, and possibly Nico Rosberg could extend his championship lead by being the driver to stand on the top step of the podium. After all, Germany does seem to be quite good at sport these days…
The origins of the Hockenheimring go back to 1932, where roads in the forest were used as a track for motorcycles. Later, they also became used for cars, and a test track for Mercedes Benz and Auto Union. The creation of the Autobahn A6 in the area affected the track, so a different configuration was made for 1965, and the track became well known for its mix of long straights, corners, and eventually chicanes after the introduction of newer safety measures.
It was redesigned in 2001 by Hermann Tilke – a circuit designer who really needs no introduction to the majority of F1 fans – which led to the circuit being a lot smaller, slower and more technical. This move was criticised due to the fact that it took away some of the circuit’s unique characteristics in favour of bringing in features that could be found at many tracks around the world at the time.
The Hockenheimring has been on the F1 calendar on various occasions since its introduction in 1970, after the drivers protested that the Nurburgring was too unsafe. After this, the Hockenheimring was only brought back into F1 action in 1977 after Niki Lauda’s horrific injuries at the Nurburgring, and it stayed at this track (with one exception in 1985) until 2006. After a year of absence from the calendar and no German Grand Prix in 2007 – a blow softened somewhat with the continuation of the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, which had plenty of entertainment – it currently alternates between the two circuits mentioned.
The modern track has a relatively fast first corner, before slowing into the second turn and exiting onto a long curve that allows drivers to get up to speed. This is followed by a signature Tilke tight hairpin that begins the quick drive past the Mercedes Benz grandstand through a series of corners, before curving inwards and then out again to go onto the final corner and build up speed on the start/finish straight.
Ultimately, this means that it does have varied types of corners, with slow, medium and fast corners all featuring to ensure that the correct balance of the car is tricky to find, especially with the cars reaching 300 km/h in some sections. The race has a medium impact on the majority of the parts of the car, such as the engines and the brakes, and the car is normally set up with high downforce in order to increase overtaking opportunities.
The lap record is held by Kimi Raikkonen and his 2004 Ferrari, with a time of 1:13.780 to drive the 4.574 kilometre long track. Michael Schumacher set the fastest lap the last time the race was held here in 2012 with an effort of 1:18.725, although as we have seen when comparing previous times to the ones set this year, they tend to vary even more than usual.
Hockenheimring with Lewis Hamilton
Hockenheimring and Pirelli
Formula One heads to the German Grand Prix this weekend, which alternates each year between the Nurburgring and Hockenheim. This year it is the turn of Hockenheim, last used in 2012: only Pirelli’s second year in Formula One. Hockenheim is really a circuit of two halves: a tight and twisty stadium section, which is quite technical, then a fast series of straights.
The P Zero Yellow soft tyre has been selected alongside the P Zero Red supersoft: a combination last used in Austria. Just like Austria and Silverstone, weather conditions in the upper Rhine valley can be unpredictable at this time of year, with a wide range of temperature variations possible.
Following the German Grand Prix, the teams will go straight to Hungary (where the soft and medium tyres are nominated): the first and only back-to-back race weekends in Europe this year.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “It’s a pleasure to go back to Hockenheim after two years away, but this increases the workload for ourselves and the teams as the only concrete F1 data we currently have is two years old – when the cars and the tyres were very different.
“So we expect the Friday free practice sessions to be extremely important, as the teams use the time to assimilate as much relevant information as they can. We’ve never been to Hockenheim with the supersoft before, but now that we have collected more data on the compounds this year, we think it should be well-suited to the varying demands of Hockenheim, which used to be one of the fastest circuits in the world, before it was modified in 2002.
“By Friday afternoon, we should have a clearer idea of how many pit stops we might expect. Germany has always been at the heart of not just Formula One but the automotive industry as a whole, so we’re looking forward once more to showcasing our products in front of the extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable German fans.”
Jean Alesi, Pirelli consultant: “The new Hockenheimring is a very nice track. It was also great a few years ago: in fact it was epic, with some flat-out straights that went on forever, together with the twisty Motodrom.
“Back then you used to have to go either one way or the other with the set-up: there was no room to meet in the middle. Now, with straights that are shorter, finding a compromise set-up is easier – and overtaking isn’t as difficult too.
“The track surface is very smooth, and the key to good tyre management is looking after the rears: there’s lots of acceleration out of slow corners, so keeping those rear tyres in good condition is absolutely crucial to a competitive performance. And let’s not forget the weather: we’ve seen both torrential rain and bright sunshine at Hockenheim in the past.
“That always introduces an element of unpredictability, both for qualifying and the race.”
￼The circuit from a tyre point of view
Traction and braking are the two key aspects of Hockenheim, with the tyres subjected to deceleration forces of almost 5g. 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.
The supersoft tyre is a low working range compound, capable of achieving optimal performance even at a wide range of low temperatures. The soft tyre is a high working range compound, suitable for higher temperatures and more strenuous track conditions. At Hockenheim, an ample variety of weather is possible, with early indications suggesting some showers over the weekend.
The relatively low average temperatures and short corners make keeping the tyres within their ideal working range one of the biggest challenges at Hockenheim. This is essential to generate optimal grip on the smooth asphalt, which generally does not take a lot of energy out of the tyres. Turn 5, however, which is almost a straight line, puts a lot of energy on the right-hand side.
The winning strategy in 2012 was two stops, with the soft and medium tyres allocated. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso controlled the race from pole, only losing the lead during his pit stops, which he regained as the result of his strategy.
Pirelli Track Experience
Brembo and the Hockenheimring
This is a medium difficulty track for the single-seater cars’ braking system characterised by medium difficulty braking zones. The most critical aspect for the braking system is associated to the correct sizing of the air intakes which ensure optimum operating temperature for the brakes.
1970 – The first Formula One world championship race at the Hockenheimring saw polesitter Jacky Ickx take off into the lead, while battling with a pack of four other drivers consisting of Jochen Rindt, Jo Siffert, Clay Regazzoni, and Chris Amon. The latter three fell away due to various problems, but Rindt kept hanging on until finally taking the chance to get the race lead with two laps to go, eventually winning by 0.7 seconds.
1982 – Didier Pironi set the fastest time in practice to claim pole position, but due to injuries from this he never raced in F1 again. Nelson Piquet led from the start, but collided with Eliseo Salazar while attempting to lap him at the new Ostkurve chicane, leading to both drivers retiring from the race in addition to a fight on track between the two. Pironi’s teammate Patrick Tambay won the race from Rene Arnoux and Keke Rosberg.
2000 – David Coulthard was on pole position but Mika Hakkinen had a better start to take the race lead, while Michael Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella went out at the first corner. Rubens Barrichello and Heinz-Harald Frentzen made progress from their starting positions of 18th and 17th to drag themselves into contention for a result based on their strategies. However, a former Mercedes employee ran onto the track, forcing the safety car to come out and ruin the McLaren strategy for their drivers leading the race, and while more chaos followed, Barrichello came out on top for his first race victory.
2008 – Lewis Hamilton dominated the early stages of the Grand Prix by opening up a great lead until his first pit stop on lap 18. When Timo Glock crashed later on in the race, McLaren gambled by not getting Hamilton in for more fuel, forcing him to have to stop again later. However, this paid off as the British driver slotted back into fifth position, where he would then gain a place due to Heidfeld completing a pit stop in a similar scenario, and then overtake Kovalainen, Massa, and Piquet Jr. in order to win the race.
2010 – “Fernando is faster than you”. Race leader Felipe Massa, exactly one year on from his injury at the Hungaroring, was informed by his race engineer that his teammate was going faster, and the Brazilian put up little resistance to Fernando Alonso overtaking him for what would be the race victory.
This season has seen Mercedes dominate the constructors’ championship, with only Nico Rosberg’s misfortune in Canada preventing them from winning every race so far. At their home Grand Prix, it would take a very brave person to bet against them, and while Lewis Hamilton has some momentum in the championship right now, Rosberg will know that this weekend could be his best chance of winning a Formula One race in Germany.
In the last two F1 races at Hockenheim, Ferrari have emerged victorious, with Alonso winning both times. The only other driver on the grid to have won at this track is Lewis Hamilton in 2008, while historically Ferrari and Williams have been the most successful teams at the track. However, all these things are in the past, and certainly are not a good enough reason to bet against either Hamilton or Rosberg.
The GP2 series has had six different winners spread across its first ten races, so despite not winning a race since Monaco, Jolyon Palmer still leads the championship with a healthy 38 point margin over the driver who has won the most races over the course of the season so far, Felipe Nasr. Daniel Abt has the honour of being the only German driver to be in the field this weekend, but lies in 21st place with one point, so isn’t likely to give the home fans something to cheer about.
As usual, the GP3 series also takes place this weekend for the fourth round of its season. Alex Lynn leads the championship, with the winners in the British races – Jimmy Eriksson and Richie Stanaway – in second and third place respectively behind him, the former having an eight point deficit while the other is a further ten points behind. Two German drivers have taken part in the championship so far this year, with Marvin Kirchhofer in fifth place with a best finish of third, and Sebastian Balthasar, who competed in the last two races and finished one, albeit in 22nd place.
Finally, the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup continues to provide entertainment on Formula 1 weekends, with Polish driver Kuba Giermaziak leading the drivers’ standings. Earl Bamber and Ben Barker lie second and third, while Sven Muller is the most successful homegrown driver in the championship out of the four Germans that have taken part so far.
German Grand Prix Results
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||Nurburgring GP-Strecke|
|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)|