How time flies! This year’s German Grand Prix will mark the halfway point of a championship season that will go down as one of the most unpredictable in Formula 1’s history.
The last time the F1 circus visited Hockenheim was when Ferrari made a 1-2 finish out of a 2-1 (more on that later). While we’re hopefully not going to be witness to those antics again, this weekend’s racing looks set to give us another exciting chapter in the 2012 season.
Let’s take a look at the RichardsF1.com German Grand Prix Preview…
FORMULA 1 GROSSER PREIS SANTANDER VON DEUTSCHLAND 2012
|Date:||20-22 July 2012|
|Race Lap Record:||1:13.780, Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren MP4-19) – 2004|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:00-11:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 14:00-15:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 11:00-12:00|
|Race (52 laps, 306.198km)||Sun 14:00-16:00|
|Past Winners:||Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes MP4-26)||2011*|
|Fernando Alonso (Ferrari F10)||2010|
|Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing Renault RB5)||2009*|
|Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes MP4-23)||2008|
|Michael Schumacher (Ferrari 248)||2006|
|Fernando Alonso (Renault R25)||2005|
|Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004)||2004|
|Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams BMW FW25)||2003|
|Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2002)||2002|
|Ralf Schumacher (Williams BMW FW23)||2002|
* Denotes event held at the Nürburgring
The original Hockenheim was a banana-shaped circuit that essentially was a series of massively long straights interrupted by bumpy, clumsy chicanes. A stern test on engines and aerodynamic efficiency, the cars handled terribly in low-downforce trim at the chicanes and through the twisty stadium section, which was always chock-a-block full of flag-waving German fans.
In a bid to give trackside spectators more opportunities to see their heroes whiz by their grandstands, the circuit’s traditional long straights were cut and the forest section was turfed in favour of a new Hermann Tilke designed infield loop.
While this completely ruined a classic circuit in many senses, it was saved by the fact that its new layout – a feature atypical of most Tilkedromes – was actually conducive to overtaking.
Check out our Hockenheim Circuit Guide right here:
The History Bit
The addition of the Hockenheim circuit to the F1 calendar was initially not a popular move.
Then known as the location where the seemingly invincible Jim Clark lost his life in a curious little Formula 2 race in 1968, the high-speed circuit offered little in the way of resemblance or driver challenge of the might Nurburgring Nordschleife, which the Hockenheim succeeded as the host of the German Grand Prix after the former was declared too dangerous for further F1 competition.
The circuit has continued to hold a reputation for tragedy, with Patrick Depailler being killed in a testing accident in 1980, and Didier Pironi suffering career-ending injuries in 1982 in a wet-weather practice accident.
Over time, however, the F1 circus grew to enjoy the circuit – as the F1 circuits became more similarly-appearing autodromes, the four-mile blast through the pine forests in Germany stood out as more of a unique challenge distinct from the other events on the calendar.
The rise of Schumacher’s popularity in the mid-1990s saw a second German circuit added to the F1 calendar under the banner of the ‘European’ Grand Prix, held at a heavily truncated Nürburgring circuit.
Indeed, Schumacher has four times at the Hockenheim, once on the old configuration, and three times on the new layout since it was introduced in 2002.
In recent Grand Prix seasons, the venue for the German Grand Prix has alternated between the Hockenheimring and the Nürburgring, in the interests of both venues’ financial longevity.
But with such a host of German drivers in the field, perhaps the atmosphere this year will be even more electric, even if the circuit hardly gets pulses racing.
Rewind to 2010
Formula 1’s last visit to Hockenheim was perhaps its most controversial, with the spectre of team orders raising its head.
While Ferrari claimed a crucial 1-2 to keep itself in the championship hunt, it was the manner of Fernando Alonso’s win that had fans’ blood boiling. His victory was clouded by team orders – rather than actual skill on his part – as team-mate Felipe Massa backing off to allow the double World Champion through to take a lead he wouldn’t lose.
The Brazilian took the lead at the start and held it through the pit stop sequences, but a non-too-subtle message from his frustrated engineer Rob Smedley – “Fernando is faster than you” – saw the little Paulista allow his Spanish team-mate through to the lead.
The incident was made all the more bitter by it being exactly a year on from Massa’s major accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix which saw him out of action for the remainder of the 2009 season. Fans walked away from the race feeling rightly cheated of a deserved and popular comeback victory. To watch the Ferrari drivers try and BS their way through a strained press conference was all the more laughable.
Behind them, pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel finished third for Red Bull on home turf, followed home by the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, with team-mate Mark Webber rounding out the top-six.
Hockenheim Talking Points
So what do the RichardsF1.com readers and contributors think will happen this weekend?
The Form Guide
Mark Webber’s outstanding win last time out at the British Grand Prix has seen the championship battle tighten up once more, with Fernando Alonso finding his 20-point lead in the Drivers’ standings reduced to just 13 following Webber’s victory.
Webber is looking like Red Bull’s form man at this stage, and if he can keep the momentum going, then the chasing quintet of Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Räikkönen, Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean might find it too hard to play catch-up over the remaining ten races.
It’s the headlines off the circuit that have been one of the major talking points as we head into this weekend, with word that the Nürburgring – which hosts the German Grand Prix in the odd-numbered years – is on the verge of bankruptcy. You can read more about the store here, but suffice to say, this puts the future of one of Formula 1’s most popular races in serious trouble.
Success this weekend will again be all about who can get their upgrades to work here, and who can master temperatures and conditions to get Pirelli’s hard and soft tyre compounds to work best. Weather conditions have been varied here over the years, with downpours and scorchers being the end of the extremes.
If it’s hot, then the likes of Lotus and Mercedes should be up there, but the front-running McLaren, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari teams cannot be discounted.
The midfield battle will again be extremely tight, and the fight for the minor points between Williams, Force India and Sauber will be interesting to watch once again.
Don’t forget to enter your F1 Predictions!
The tenth round of the 2012 RichardsF1.com F1 Predictions Competition is now open, and you can enter your predictions for the race right here to be in the running for some great prizes throughout the season and at the end of the year!
The cut-off to submit your predictions is no later than five minutes before qualifying starts, so make sure you’re in it to win it!
You can view the latest Predictions Competition ranking right here.
Despite a major reshuffle on the leader board following the British Grand Prix round, this is still anyone’s to claim, and we’ll be awarding a prize to this weekend’s highest points-scorer (before ‘double up). Will it be you?
To enter your predictions, click here.
As always, RichardsF1.com will be bringing you the best of the on- and off-track action this weekend, so make sure we’re your first port of call for your German Grand Prix fix!