German Grand Prix

Ever since Michael Schumacher began to race the Formula One Championship, “Schumi mania” would hit the German Grand Prix, the grandstands full to the brim of Ferrari fans every midyear. The mania reached fever pitch whenever the German Grand Prix was held at Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg, which is close to Schumacher’s hometown. The race track is also known as Hockenheimring, or more fondly, Hockenheim, after the large town where the GP can be found when it is not held in Nürburg near Cologne.

Grand Prix Car
Photo Credit: Sean Lucas

The German Grand Prix was an official event in 1929, and was preceded by a national race that would begin in 1926 and the Kaiserpreis of 1907, but was a year late to the Formula 1 championship, joining only in 1951 because Germany was not allowed to participate in international events after World War II. The country did make up for it by regularly staging the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring and Hockenheimring, through the years, and even hosting the European Grand Prix at Nürburgring. That is, until 2007, when only the European Grand Prix was held, after which it was declared that Germany would only host one GP each year.

Still, that doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm crackling in the air in July, as it did not when the Hockenheim circuit was shortened, but without decreasing the size of the audience, in fact increasing the seating capacity by adding more grandstands, which remain jampacked with German Grand Prix ticket-holders.

When the Hockenheim was longer, the roads cut through the forests of the Rhine valley, running up to 8km in length, with four lengthy straights which allowed the drivers to zoom off like daredevils. The “Motodrom” stadium area was added when fans picked up interest in the grand prix. Chicanes were added on two occasions, when drivers Jim Clark and Patrick Depailler were killed in 1968 and 1980 respectively.

The circuit was deemed too dangerous and at the turn of the century, F1 officials demanded to have the track shortened. Renovated by Hermann Tilke, who also designed the Sepang, Bahrain, Istanbul, Singapore, Shanghai and Valencia circuits for the F1 competition, many tight corners were added to compensate for the loss of the long forest straights, with all the action concentrated in the stadium areas, where all the grandstands are found.

The German Grand Prix has drivers doing 67 laps around Hockenheim, with a circuit lap of 4.57 km, for a total of 306.46 km per race. Kimi Räikkönen holds the fastest lap record there in 2004, clocking in at 1:13.78.

Pre-Formula One, German auto racing legend Rudolf Caracciolla would win the German Grand Prix four times, and the national pre-GP racing event twice as well, but after his last win in 1939, no other German driver would win the German Grand Prix until Michael Schumacher in 1995. His brother Ralf Schumacher would also win in 2001, before Michael won the trophy another three times, in 2002, 2004 and 2006. In between, Colombia’s Juan Pablo Montoya and Spain’s Fernando Alonso won in 2003 and 2005.

Although a German Grand Prix was announced in 2007, the grand prix at Nürburgring was listed as the Großer Preis von Europa, or the European Grand Prix. The German Grand Prix returned to Hockenheim in 2008, while the European Grand Prix was slated for Valencia, Spain.

You can fly in to either the Frankfurt airport, which is 90 km from Hockenheim, or the Stuttgart airport, which is 102 km. Fans who already live in Germany usually take their own cars to the site of the track and set up camp in the forest. Internationally-based fans can hire rental cars, take coach services into the nearby towns of Mannheim or Heidelberg, or trains that go to Heidelberg or Schwetzingen and stay at the small hotels there, taking a 30-minute taxi ride to the Hockenheimring on racing days.

Or you can join the locals and set up camp in the forest as well, which resembles a small community with barbecues and drinking sprees where everyone is invited.

The Hockenheimring’s new grandstands tallies up a total seating area of 120,000. German Grand Prix tickets vary in cost according to location. The most expensive, yet most popular, seats are found in front of the start-finish line. Still most seats allow a great deal of the action, since the track is more compact and the flat surface allows more views of greater distances.

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