July 16t, 2014 (F1plus/Katie Grimmett).- The Hockenheimring last played host to a Formula 1 round back in 2012 when Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso secured back-to-back victories. Sharing duties with the Nurburgring, it now returns to the calendar for the German Grand Prix.
The historic German circuit has been a regular fixture since its Grand Prix début in 1970. Its introduction to the F1 circus began under a cloud of controversy after the drivers threatened to boycott the Nurburgring, a track they deemed to be unsafe. Even though crash barriers were introduced following the death of Jim Clark in a Formula 2 event four years earlier, it was not enough to prevent Patrick Depailler’s own demise in 1980.
Now, spectators who flock to the German Grand Prix this week will enjoy the 2.8 mile track, witnessing more action than in the last century. Williams’ Ralf Schumacher was the last victor on the old circuit in 2001.
Since its new design in 2001, Ferrari has won the battle at Hockenheim five times, securing three victories with their legendary racer Michael Schumacher. After Pedro Diniz’s Sauber spun uncontrollably the year previous, the Brazilian suffered three days of dizziness. Subsequently, the track was altered to improve driver safety and fan viewing each year.
Although not the most popular circuit amongst the drivers, the Hockenheimring has created some unforgettable racing highlights suggesting that this weekend’s German GP could still produce some great action this weekend.
Fans of Alain Prost will recall his 1986 campaign with McLaren as he attempted to remain within title contention.
1986 was part of the ‘turbo era’, a time when fuel was restricted and the tiniest of mistakes meant an adequate sample could not be given post-race. Prost and his fellow twenty-five drivers were, that year, limited to a mere 195 litres of fuel, adding yet another challenge for the championship hopefuls.
At the 1986 German Grand Prix, held in Hockenheim, Prost’s car ran out of fuel on the last lap. Remarkably enough, the Frenchman was still classified sixth; one lap ahead of seventh placed man Derek Warwick. Much to the joy of the packed crowd, the McLaren driver attempted to push his car to the finish line but to no avail.
So what is the significance of this Grand Prix?
Well, Prost’s one crucial point was enough to secure him his second successive world championship, ahead of Williams-Honda’s Nigel Mansell who was just two points adrift. Not only was the result vital for the championship but for the fans, it provided a unique thrill to their race weekend and, best of all, it showed the true out-and-out competitiveness of every driver.
Prost, ever the mathematical mind, knew exactly where his position would leave him in the championship hunt and his insistence on finishing the race was testament to his willingness to succeed.
Another memorable driver in Hockenheimring’s history is Nelson Piquet but perhaps for all the wrong reasons.
Sometimes a forgotten racer of his era, the Brazilian’s 1982 retirement was a a further showing of just how competitive and spirited drivers can be each weekend. Piquet was leading the race, taking first place after an injured Didier Pironi was unable to settle to his front row grid slot. Whilst lapping the ATS-Ford of Eliseo Salazar, the two collided causing them both to retire.
There is nothing particularly unusual here however the reaction immediately after their incident is certain extraordinary to those who witnessed the drivers in action. A clearly frustrated Piquet, filled with rage and anger, kicked his Chilean opponent, seemingly blaming him for the racing incident. Their dramatic fallout continued for some time, taking attention away from Patrick Tambay who secured the first of two career victories.
Of the 2014 incumbent, Fernando Alonso is the most successful driver on the German tarmac with three wins at Hockenheim dating back from 2005. Of course, his 2010 victory is well known to Formula 1 fans who heard the dulcet tones of Rob Smedly utter those infamous words - “Fernando is faster than you” – on the radio to a disgruntled Felipe Massa. Despite this incident occurring back when team orders were banned in Formula 1, the Brazilian gave up his placing, allowing Ferrari’s star driver to take another Hockenheim victory.
Who can forget that infamous moment?
Massa’s Williams has greater pace than his former team mate’s Ferrari F14T which is not a championship contender this year. Whilst Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have succeeded at the Nurburgring at its last two outings, Alonso is the most dominant force at the Hockenheimring.
Whilst a repeat of such Grands Prix is rare, the German Grand Prix could produce some surprises along the way as the Mercedes duo fight it out for 2014 glory.
Old Hockenehim configuration. (Google Earth)