After completing ten action-packed races on a bizarre 2020 calendar that was formed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are approaching the German Grand Prix-replacement that is being hosted at the infamous Nürburgring circuit. The 3.199 mile circuit was last used in Formula One in 2013, before being replaced by the currently-used Hockenheim circuit in more recent years.
The Nürburgring has multiple layouts that have been used over the years, with the Nordschleife being the most famous of them all. The Nordschleife is a 23-mile monster of a circuit that has claimed hundreds of lives during its public access, and was the layout of the Nürburgring that was used in F1 during the 1970s. Nikki Lauda suffered a life-changing accident during the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nordschleife, which prompted Formula One to stop racing at the circuit in future. The Austrian’s body burned in his destroyed car, but his recovery story makes his survival an even more impressive feat.
While the Nordschleife layout was still considered as the ‘Nürburgring’, Formula One adopted the shorter layout with only 15 turns (compared to the previous 180!); and alternated between the Nürburgring and Hockenheim circuits in the early 2010s. There were a few licensing issues with the Hockenheim circuit during the mid 2010s, which meant that there were some seasons that didn’t see races hosted in Germany; but Formula One has returned to Germany for the last two seasons with two dramatic races in the rain.
As I mentioned earlier, the last race to be held at the Nürburgring circuit was in 2013, and saw Red Bull prodigy Sebastian Vettel take victory in his fourth championship-winning season for Red Bull.
What’s so exciting about the Nürburgring?
The Nürburgring is a tricky track to master as it requires a setup that is suitable for the two long straights, but is also fast enough to navigate the twisty first sector of the lap. I expect the first lap of Sunday’s race is going to be absolute chaos as the pack head towards the Turn 1 hairpin on the first lap. Unlike the Hungaroring’s first corner, the right-hand hairpin at the Nürburgring is a much tighter corner, also on a declining hill. This means that the drivers need to brake a little earlier than they normally would for a hairpin as the momentum can force them wide. Since the 2020 specification of cars are a lot wider than the 2013 cars; I believe contact at the first corner is inevitable – unless the drivers are extremely cautious.
Another difficult set of corners would be the Turn 3 and 4 complex; a set of corners that requires perfect control of your car in order to carry the maximum amount of speed available to you. Turn 3 and 4 is a left-to-right sequence; but not to be mistaken with as chicane; due to the bigger stretch of road between the bends. These corners are very similar to Turn 8 and 9 on the Hungaroring circuit, as the driver must take the left-hand corner, but move their car as far left as possible in order to make the apex of the right-hander. This is unnatural, as a racing line doesn’t tend to work like this, making this corner really tough to perfect.
The second hairpin, located at Turn 7 is another difficult corner due to the odd line that is taken, as well as the need for a good exit. Drivers will find themselves going a lot deeper into the hairpin in order to maximise speed, but will be vulnerable to a dive down the inside by drivers such as Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo if they leave the door open for too long.
Turn 10 and 11 are both high-speed corners that have very little room for error as you approach the long back ‘straight’ (that technically has a bend in it) and into the heavy braking zone that is Turn 13 and Turn 14 chicane. With this chicane, the drivers can brake a lot later as they are also making use of gravity slowing them down – the opposite concept to that of Turn 1. Finally, the Turn 15 corner is a long right-hander that resembles that of the Hungaroring’s final corner, which requires delicate throttle application and a tight line to ensure for the best exit onto the DRS straight.
Who can we expect to do well this weekend?
The Mercedes, as usual, are going to be the team to beat this weekend at what is their home race, a race that didn’t quite go to plan for them at Hockenheim last year. I believe Red Bull are likely to have good pace and perhaps have better tyre-wear to that of the Mercedes W11 this weekend. McLaren also look like they are going to have a good weekend, as their cars are suited to mid-speed corners; although the same can’t be said for Ferrari, who may be in for another difficult weekend.
Although, the weather has been rather interesting this weekend, with FP1 and FP2 being cancelled due to bad weather and preventing Mick Schumacher and Callum Illot from making their F1 debuts. Bad weather can give teams such as McLaren, Renault and Racing Point an opportunity to score good points; and also give Williams the opportunity to score their first points of the season. Only time will tell!
Many are looking forward to seeing F1 return to the Nürburgring as we may find that the race is exciting enough to return to the Formula One calendar for good. With FP1 and FP2 being cancelled due to medical helicopters being unable to fly; teams are going to have a lot less data to run with, meaning an exciting race is likely! Oh, and one more thing – over half of the drivers on the current grid have never driven at the Nürburgring before – if that isn’t enough to convince you, I don’t know what will…