Track data: Hockenheimring
|Lap length||4.574km (2.842 miles)|
|Grand prix distance||306.458km (190.424 miles)|
|Lap record (race)||1’13.780 (Kimi Raikkonen, 2004)|
|Fastest lap (any session)||1’13.306 (Michael Schumacher, 2004, )|
|Tyre compounds||See drivers’ choices|
It seems increasingly likely that in the second half of the season we will hear that Formula One has decided not to return to Monza. If that scenario comes to pass it will mean the end of F1 racing on true high-speed, low-downforce tracks.
Before Monza the last such course to vanish was the original Hockenheimring layout, which in 2002 was replaced with what we’ve come to recognise as a thorough conventional modern layout. A combination of commercial, environmental and safety factors lay behind the decision.
Today’s track is a hybrid of the narrow old sections of circuit, including the stadium-like Motodrom section, and the new, wide corners including a fast run to the Spitzkehre hairpin, a notable overtaking spot. The new configuration may lack the unique character of the old one, but it has usually proved one of the easier circuits for drivers to pass each other.
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A lap of the Hockenheimring
The recent changes to the Hockenheimring also introduced another modern problem: confining the drivers to track limits. The quick right-hander at turn one with its generous asphalt run-off on the outside is one of several points on the track where drivers can gain an advantage by running wide.
However earlier this year a Formula Three driver was launched into the air after going off at this point on the track. New ‘double negative kerbs’ have now been laid and the artificial grass replaced with concrete at this corner. There is also a new wide kerb at the exit.
Nonetheless Romain Grosjean considers this corner “the most exciting one” on the track. “It’s a very high-speed, right-hand side corner. Normally you brake just a little bit, just one gear downshift, and then you’re on a straight line.” The track widens considerably on the approach to the next corner.
Somewhat appropriately the corner where the track diverts from the classic course and onto the unloved modern layout is called “Bernie Ecclestone-Kurve”. It is actually a right-left sequence officially numbered as three separate corners.
Negotiating this sequence involves “tricky braking and certainly very tricky throttle application”, says Grosjean. “You’re turning from right to left to go on the main straight. You really want to go on the power as early as you can to get a good straight line.”
The flat-out ‘Parabolika’ which follows gives Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen a reminder of what the track was like when they first raced on it. At 1.2-kilometres it doesn’t quite recreate the screaming speeds of the four long straights on the old track, mainly because today the cars carry much more downforce because of the higher number of slow corners.
Nonetheless the arced run through turn five offers a decent opportunity for overtaking into the slowest corner on the track. With DRS available here and on the preceding straight a chasing driver gets two chances to make a move stick.
Drivers must be wary of not using the run-off at the exit of turn six to stay ahead if forced wide by a rival: Sebastian Vettel made that mistake in 2012 and was stripped of his podium finish after the race. However a new domed kerb has been added at the exit to discourage this.
After a brief straight the drivers flick right at turn seven (named after Mercedes) then enter another sequence of bends where position-swapping can often take place. The track bends left and right through turns eight, nine, ten and eleven. “Again, there’s a challenging throttle application there as you’re turning right straight after, just about flat,” says Grosjean. The final exit kerb also has a new domed part to discourage drivers from running wide.
On the next straight the cars approach the old Motodrom section. Here the track narrows sharply and borders a barrier close to the racing line on the left-hand-side – a detail which surprised some drivers when the ‘safer’ new configuration was first revealed.
A gravel trap awaits on the exit of turn 12 to punish any driver who tries to carry too much speed through the quick corner. Like turn one, the exit of the corner now has double negative kerbs and concrete instead of artificial grass.
The slow and steeply banked Sachskurve follows which, despite its narrowness, “is quite open, with a few lines through it” according to Grosjean. “Then you go to the last couple of corners – they’re quite famous. You try to carry as much speed as you can to the first one, and go as flat as you can for the second one to get a good lap time.”
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9 comments on “2016 German Grand Prix track preview”
27th July 2016, 12:21
Another great old euro track ruined…
27th July 2016, 12:58
I liked the old one because it was a bit longer than most and had those flat out blasts which seemed so remote in the forest. It was very fast but you needed to out on a little bit of wing for the chicanes and the Arena Corners.
How low would you go? The little bit of setup risk element that went hand in hand with old Hockenheim’s layout is a glaring omission from the generally cookie cutter F1 calender.
I always like to add while I miss the old layout the new one is still one of the better tracks. You get opportunities to pass and it only seems worse than it is because we lost an icon.
27th July 2016, 13:18
I also lament the loss of the old Hockenheim, but the new layout isn’t all that bad. The stadium section is still unique and has some good corners in it (turn 1, the entry into the stadium and the Sachskurve) and the new bits of the track all encourage good racing.
27th July 2016, 14:12
“The flat-out ‘Parabolika’ which follows gives Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen…”
27th July 2016, 16:22
I watched the whole 2000 race on Sky a couple of weeks ago to see if I’ve been wearing rose tinted glasses since 2002… no I haven’t, the old Hockenheimring really was as awesome as I remember it being. It helped that it was a cracking race the whole way through too. Tilke version is a damp squib in comparison, even though I’ve loved the battles heading down to the Spitzkehre in the last couple of visits here. Still bland and homogeneous in comparison though.
27th July 2016, 18:18
Straights, fast/medium/slow corners, elevation change. Only so much you can do with a circuit.
Both layouts work just fine. Although the older one would suit these engines better.
28th July 2016, 2:00
I often see ‘better for spectators’ as a positive argument for Hockenheim’s redesign banded about, but in the intervening years, the show has diminished in quality–did anyone happen to glimpse the half-full grandstands in 2014? I don’t believe Hockenheim’s spectators came for the amount of laps, or had value-for-money at the forefront of their minds when turning up on raceday. If they did, the stands wouldn’t have been packed out in the manner they were back then, year after year.
I think fans probably attended in their droves for the screaming V10s, the anticipation of the race leader returning from the deep forest and slithering around the stadium section with a bookshelf for a rear wing before rocketing back out into the wilderness, and because they felt that such a unique, scarce event on the F1 calendar was worth embracing. But maybe I’m wrong. Montoya bouncing over the kerbs when taking pole in 2001 provided a sense of the violence; the sheer ferocity of old Hockenheim. Panis slipstreaming Trulli and squabbling at the rudimentary chicanes a day later proves DRS is not the way forward–nor is overwrought circuit design.
Last weekend Rosberg cruised around over flat red and white things on the outside of apexes doing a speed I would’ve mistook for a warm-up lap if I hadn’t begrudgingly watched the last decade of F1. If this sport gets any safer and cotton-wooled, there really won’t be anything worth seeing. When shadows of formerly great circuits roll around, I always feel a little more bitter about the State of Things.
28th July 2016, 12:23
Can’t quite remember, but why was the track shortened back in 2002? Was it for safety reasons? To increase the lap count? Who’s bad idea was it? Thanks for any info…
GT Racer (@gt-racer)
28th July 2016, 13:39
@dangerpaws They wanted to run more laps & install more grandstands & felt a shorter layout solved both problems.
I think Jaques Villeneuve put it best when discussing the new layout in 2002 ‘The old track could be a bit boring to drive when you were on your own but it was unique & had real character; This new version has no character & is just like a number of other circuits we race at. If given a choice i’d have preferred to keep the old one because this new one is not really that interesting to look at or drive on.’
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