Hockenheim used to be alongside Monza as one of the calendar’s true power circuits, where flat-out blasts through the forests were punctuated by chicanes and the superb stadium section at the end of the lap. A redesign in 2001 blunted the circuit’s character but it does generate good racing and is much more of a technical challenge for the drivers. The German fans create a noisy and boisterous atmosphere in the multi-tiered stadium section at the end of the lap, and while Schumacher-mania remains the order of the day, Sebastian Vettel’s recent successes mean he enjoys strong support from his home crowd.
Having only been absent from the World Championship calendar three times since 1950, the German Grand Prix has an enviable roll call of winning names. Schumacher, Ascari, Fangio, Stewart, Piquet, Senna, Surtees, Mansell, Prost, Berger, Alonso and Hamilton have all won in Germany on two or more occasions.
Tyre wear: 5/10
Hockenheim is something of an unknown for tyre manufacturer Pirelli, having not raced here since 1991. The track should not be particularly arduous on tyre wear given there are very few fast corners. What will cause problems is the number of low to high-speed acceleration zones, which will punish drivers who are not careful with the throttle. Pirelli are bringing the soft (yellow) and medium (white) compounds to this race, last seen in Valencia where two stops was the norm.
Previously a race where skinny wings were required, today’s revamped Hockenheim requires a more standard setup with medium settings to keep up maintain an all-round balance between the faster sections and slow corners. Going with lower downforce will increase overtaking opportunities into Turns 2 and 6, but comes at a cost through the stadium section at the end of the lap.
Average speed: 6/10
With three second-gear corners plus a tight hairpin at Turn Four and the twisty stadium section, Hockenheim is towards the middle of the range for average lap speed on the calendar.
Track difficulty: 7/10
Considered a more technical challenge than the previous layout, getting into a good rhythm is key. The stadium section is an area in which time can be won or lost, so hitting every apex will ensure a good laptime.
There are a number of places were overtaking manoeuvres were possible in the last race here, without DRS in 2010. Turns 2, 4, 6 and 9 are all reasonable opportunities and with the DRS zone expected to be on the Parabolika between Turns 3 and 4, there will be an even better chance of making a pass stick into the hairpin.
Comparable in some ways to Silverstone, from the perspective of its large, enthusiastic and patriotic crowd, Hockenheim is a popular venue for European fans thanks to its ease of access and historical prominence. A crowd of 1000,000+ should be present on race day, ensuring an atmospheric and colourful afternoon.
A combination of high speed corners, long full power distances and slower corners demanding good traction mean that variations in setup can produce very similar laptimes. Medium-range stresses on the engine, gearbox and brakes mean that drivers can go aggressive with the setup in order to maximise their chances of overtaking during the race. The track surface is generally quite smooth although some bumps exist in Turns 2, 6 and 17 and require slightly softer settings in order to minimise their impact. This race also has the highest starting fuel load of the season, which will create a greater shift in car balance as fuel burns off during the race. Having not been used for F1 for two years, the track will see a significant amount of evolution throughout, with laptimes at the business end of qualifying likely to be in the region of five to six seconds faster than the first laps in Friday free practice.
With 2011’s race held at the Nurburgring due to the rotation between the two German venues, Lewis Hamilton scored a much-needed win in a season which looked to be dominated by Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton beat polesitter Mark Webber off the line to hold the lead in the first stint, with Fernando Alonso beating Sebastian Vettel to third place through the first corner. Mistakes by Alonso on lap four and Vettel on lap 7 swapped their positions, while Webber got in position to use DRS to pass Hamilton starting lap 12, the McLaren man diving back inside at Turn One to retake the lead. Webber then undercut Lewis at the first stops to emerge in front, leading the second stint. Hamilton repeated the trick on Webber at the second stops, putting in a series of quick laps to retake the lead. With Alonso now second and a third and final series of stops needed, Hamilton came in first and dropped to third, but regained the lead when Alonso and Webber both stopped for the medium compound tyre.
Lap record: 1m 13.780s – Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren (2004)
2011 Winner: Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
Nurburgring Nordschleife: 1951-1954, 1956-1958, 1961-1969, 1971-1976
AVUS Berlin: 1959
Hockenheim: 1970, 1978-1984, 1986-2006, 2008, 2010
Nurburgring GP-Strecke: 1985, 2009, 2011
* only races held as part of the Formula One World Championship are included
In-depth stats (courtesy of Mercedes)