As the 2012 Formula 1 season hits its mid-point, round 10 of the championship sees the teams head for the German Grand Prix and the Hockenheimring, which returns to the calendar after its now traditional year off.
It’s been 10 years since a redesign saw the circuit change from a flat-out blast down two massive linked straights to a circuit offering perhaps a more complex challenge, although possibly a less viscerally exciting one.
Modern Hockenheim is a tricky race to set-up for. While the forest straights are gone, it’s still a relatively fast circuit and drivers will be on full throttle for upwards of 64 percent of the lap. The high-speed early part of the track, particular from turns two to six should call for a medium to lower downforce set-up but the circuit also features a tight stadium section where high downforce is needed, so a balancing act is required. Given the quick changes of direction encountered in the stadium section and through turns three and four, a stable car is also important.
For F1 tyre supplier Pirelli, this is something of a trip into the unknown. The only recent experience it has of the track is from a GP3 race in 2010 and that weekend was often wet. As such the tyre company is bringing its medium and soft tyres, believing that the adaptable medium will cover most bases on a track defined by compromise.
Five German drivers will start this weekend: Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, Timo Glock and Nico Hulkenberg. Of the five, only Schumacher has won here before (in 1995, 2002, 2004 and 2006). All will be keen to put in good performances on home soil, though for Vettel, who has 100 drivers’ championship points, this weekend may be particularly important in his efforts to keep pace with championship leader Fernando Alonso (129 points) and second-placed Red Bull teammate Mark Webber (116 points).
Length of lap: 4.574km
Lap record: 1:13.780 (Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren, 2004)
Start line/finish line offset: 0.000km
Total number of race laps: 67
Total race distance: 306.458km
Pitlane speed limits: 60km/h during practice, 100km/h during qualifying and race
CHANGES TO THE CIRCUIT SINCE 2010
►The drag strip around the outside of turn 16 will have all the rubber removed before the Grand Prix.
►Better quality artificial grass will be used on the exit of turn 1, it will be three metres in width and extended to ensure drivers have to cross it to get back on the track.
►An additional conveyor belt will be fitted after two rows on all six row barriers, these barriers will then comprise, conveyor, two rows, conveyor, four rows and then wall.
► This will be the 33rd time the German Grand Prix has been held at Hockenheim. It first staged the event in 1970, when Jochen Rindt took his final Grand Prix win before his tragic death at Monza the following month. Hockenheim was next used in 1977, after Niki Lauda’s crash at the Nurburgring spelled the end of that track’s hosting of the race until the current event-sharing programme was instituted in 2009.
► Aside from Hockenheim and the Nurburgring, just one other track has hosted the round, which has been on the F1 calendar since 1951. That was Berlin’s AVUS circuit, which hosted the 1959 event. Ferrari’s Tony Brooks won the race, which was divided into two heats, with aggregate placings being used to determine the victor.
► This year marks the 10th anniversary of the last major redesign of the Hockenheimring. The somewhat controversial changes made for the 2002 race included the abandonment of the long, forested straights of the circuit, the shortening of the track and the construction of the new Mercedes Tribune.
► The old Hockenheim, with its long, punishing straights was always a car breaker, but never more so than in 1994. 11 of the 26 starters went out in a series of unrelated accidents on lap one. A further seven cars fell by the wayside during the race until at the end Gerhard Berger led home just eight finishers. One of the most notable retirements was that of Jos Verstappen whose Benetton was enveloped in a fireball when fuel sprayed over his car during a pit stop.
► The 2000 race will go down as one of the most memorable German GPs at Hockenheim. In an incident-packed race, Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello took his first Grand Prix win, despite starting from 18th, having to cope with rain and also a safety car intervention, due to a disgruntled former Mercedes employee invading the track.
► Michael Schumacher has the most German Grand Prix wins, with four, achieved in 1995, 2002, 2004 and 2006. All were scored at Hockenheim. Michael and brother Ralf are the only German drivers to have won their home event. Ralf won here in 2001 for BMW-Williams.
► That means that the German GP is just one of three currently raced circuits that defending champion Sebastian Vettel has yet to win. His best result at a German GP remains second place at the Nurburgring in 2009. The other GP victories that continue to elude him are Canada and the next race up, Hungary.
► The German GP has been run at Hockenheim seven times since the circuit redesign and in that time the man on pole has gone on to win four times (2002, 2003, 2004 and 2008). On two other occasions it’s been the second-placed starter who has taken victory (2006 and 2010). Only once has a driver started from off the front row and won. That honour goes to Fernando Alonso, who started from third and won in 2005.
RACE STEWARD BIOGRAPHIES
PRESIDENT OF THE FIA HILL CLIMB COMMISSION, BOARD MEMBER AND PRESIDENT OF AUTO SPORT SUISSE SARL
Paul Gutjahr started racing in the late 1960
s with Alfa Romeo
, then March in Formula 3. In the early ‘70s he became President of the Automobile Club Berne and organised numerous events. He acted as President of the organising committee of the Swiss GP at Dijon
-82. From 1980-2005 he acted as President of the Commission Sportive Nationale de l’Automobile Club de Suisse and in 2005 he became President and board member of the Auto Sport Suisse motorsports club. Gutjahr is President of the Alliance of European Hill Climb Organisers and has been steward at various high-level international competitions. He was the Formula 3000 Sporting Commissioner and has been a Formula 1 steward since 1995.
FIA ALTERNATE DELEGATE TO THE USA, FIA STEWARD
As the son of former McLaren team principal Teddy Mayer, Tim Mayer, 46, has motorsport in his blood. Mayer organised IndyCar races internationally from 1992- 98, helped with the construction of several circuits, and produced international TV for multiple series. In 1998 he became CART’s Senior VP for Racing Operations. He also became VP of ACCUS, the US ASN. In 2003, Mayer became COO of IMSA, operating multiple series at all levels, and also took on the role of COO and Race Director of the American Le Mans Series. He was elected an independent Director of ACCUS and FIA US Alternate Delegate, responsible for US World Championship events. Most recently he has been appointed General Manager of the Baltimore GP in the US.
FORMER FORMULA 1 DRIVER AND WORLD SPORTSCAR CHAMPION
Derek Warwick makes his fifth appearance as an FIA driver steward here in Germany, having previously fulfilled this role at the Spanish and Hungarian Grands Prix in 2010 and at last year’s rounds in Turkey and Abu Dhabi. Warwick raced in 146 grands prix, from 1981 to 1993, for Toleman, Renault, Brabham, Arrows and Lotus. He scored 71 points and achieved four podium finishes, with two fastest laps. He was World Sportscar Champion in 1992, driving for Peugeot. He also won Le Mans in the same year. Warwick raced Jaguar sportscars in 1986 and 1991. Warwick competed in the British Touring Car Championship in 1995, 1997 and 1998, as well as making one more appearance at the Le Mans in 1996, driving for the Courage Competition team.