Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hockenheimring, 2019

Paddock Diary: German Grand Prix day four

2019 German Grand Prix

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Will F1 miss the German Grand Prix? What’s being built at turn 11? And how unwell was Lewis Hamilton? @DieterRencken brings his final report from the paddock.

7:30am

I venture out at 8:15 as I have a breakfast meeting scheduled for 9:30am and don’t wish to be late. The 15 kilometre trip to the media centre had previously taken around 45 minutes at later parts of the day, so this should be ample…

9:30am

‘The best laid plans’ and all that. No sooner do I hit the autobahn than I’m directed off and onto a back road that leads through Hockenheim’s industrial area, where police roadblocks stop every car to check their parking credentials. Net effect: at 9:45 I’m still 4km from the circuit.

Once clear of the blockage I’m parked up within 10 minutes. To illustrate the sheer incompetence of these obviously ‘imported’ coppers, I ask one of their number to direct me to the local fire station, where the F1 personnel car park is situated.

“I don’t know where that is,” he says pointing ahead, “so best go that way.”

The shuttle journey to the circuit is slow enough for me to read the roadside signs advertising Porsche’s (seventh) Experience Centre. This is the building under construction you may have spotted on the inside of turn 11 during the race weekend.

Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, Hockenheimring, 2019The project is great news for Hockenheim as it will generate additional revenues. This should help the circuit which was originally built in the 1930s as a test facility for nearby motor and motorcycle manufacturers.

One thing is clear, though: An encouraging crowd is expected for what is likely to be the last German Grand Prix for a while despite the optimism of the promoters, and Ferrari’s best attempts at scuppering the chances of its star German driver, Sebastian Vettel. Will the race be missed?

Best here that I echo the thoughts of a senior F1 source, who compared 2019 Hockenheim to 2009 Silverstone: “Ten years ago, had Silverstone dropped off the calendar, no one would have cared. Today, thanks to massive investment programmes and the efforts of new leadership, if Silverstone dropped off now there’d be an outcry.

“Same with Hockenheim: The place now look as tired as Silverstone did back then. They need to invest, build new facilities – the media centre springs to mind – sort the parking and traffic, and generally spruce up. Then we would miss it, but the way it is now, no.”

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10am

Having missed my breakfast appointment – a discussion about media issues, now postponed to 11am – I cadge coffee and pastries at McLaren before meeting up with a Kyalami delegation. They make clear the purpose of their trip is not F1, but that they’d attended the Spa 24 Hour race for discussions ahead of a Blancpain round scheduled for South Africa in November. They’d simply popped in for Sunday, they said…

Noon

My 11 o’clock meeting done, I head for the media centre to catch up. I bump into a Mercedes source, and ask about Lewis Hamilton’s health given Saturday’s flu scare, and am told it’s ‘the worst case of man flu imaginable’; said, though, in a slightly sarcastic tone. So I’m none the wiser.

Lunch at Pirelli with German media colleagues: After a starter salad I have Turkish mixed grill (steak, turkey and lamb) with spuds and mixed veg, followed a divine chilled banana mousse served in a pyramid of chocolate.

1pm

With the race start still two hours away and little to be done in the paddock, I squeeze in a quick visit head for the Hockenheim Museum. I’m surprised to see the lower floor is now given over a McLaren showroom (more revenues?), with most displays – mainly motorcycles – moved upstairs. I spy a green-and-gold bike I’d not seen before, and check it out.

Turns out it’s a Konig as raced by Kim Newcombe, who initiated the conversion of what was a marine two-stroke engine into a 500cc Moto GP winner. The New Zealander was killed at Stowe in Silverstone 1973 after unsuccessfully campaigning to have straw bales placed in front of the crash barriers, yet posthumously finished second ahead in that year’s championship.

A poignant four-part bio-documentary covering Newcombes’s life is available free-to-watch online.

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2:30pm

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hockenheimring, 2019Hit the grid, and for the first time this season I watch crews fettle their cars under threatening skies. Wet or dry, their methodical dedication remains highly impressive, and they, with the marshals, truly are the unsung heroes of our sport.

5pm

Race done, I head for the mixed interview zone, where the talk is of the extremely tricky conditions. Any number of drivers were heading for the podium – which makes a pleasant change – yet even those who finished outside the top three could pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

Daniil Kvyat, who on Saturday had impressed us with his knowledge of the dynamics of rainfall at the circuit, grins as he strolls past, then points to the sky: “It’s all about evaporation, you see…”

Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, Hockenheimring, 2019He’s doubly happy: his partner Kelly Piquet has just given birth to their daughter, and I’m pleased life is again sweet for the Russian.

7pm

Race director Michael Masi gives us a lengthy debrief after what he calls a “very intense afternoon”. After that I head for the car and home. It’s a 450-kilometre journey, and my GPS quotes four hours. In the event, despite deviations, constant slow-moving traffic and regular drizzle, I make it as per schedule and am tucked up by midnight.

But I’ll be on the road again soon for the last race before the August break: This weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

2019 German Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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16 comments on “Paddock Diary: German Grand Prix day four”

  1. the thoughts of a senior F1 source, who compared 2019 Hockenheim to 2009 Silverstone: “Ten years ago, had Silverstone dropped off the calendar, no one would have cared. Today, thanks to massive investment programmes and the efforts of new leadership, if Silverstone dropped off now there’d be an outcry.
    “Same with Hockenheim: The place now look as tired as Silverstone did back then. They need to invest, build new facilities – the media centre springs to mind – sort the parking and traffic, and generally spruce up. Then we would miss it, but the way it is now, no.”

    Very insightful opinion.

    1. I thought Silverstone *did* drop off the calendar for 2010, and only came back because Donnington wasn’t race-worthy?

      And I remember a bit of complaining. :)

  2. It’s a 450-kilometre journey, and my GPS quotes four hours. […]despite deviations, constant slow-moving traffic and regular drizzle, I make it as per schedule

    As an Indian, I am jealous.

  3. Darran Donald
    29th July 2019, 17:25

    These articles are up with Teds notebook as my favourite post race coverage. That Pirelli lunch sounds incredible!

  4. Nobody cares what you had for breakfast, tell us about the people we actually care about, ie how sick Lewis really was.

    1. I, for one, find it a lovely, personal touch to hear about the little extra bits to Dieter’s day, food and all.

      And do you HONESTLY think that if Dieter had acquired any more information about Lewis’ health he would simply omit that from this article?

      C’mon, it’s clear he said everything that those in the know would divulge…

      (Unless, of course, @dieterrencken found out so much about this topic that he’s saving it for its own article? :P)

      1. Lewis ate the fish?

        1. @budchekov
          Ah, yes… I can imagine the headline now: “Tainted Tuna Spoils Hamilton’s chance at Victory in Germany.”

        2. That’ll teach him to let Vettel and LeClerc buy him dinner…..

    2. The meal information and behind the scenes snippets are what set this apart from other reports. You can’t change that!

      1. +1,@glynh,@oople, and -1@xcm.

      2. @glynh, Joe Sawards Little Green Notebook would like to say hi from oh, ten years ago…

        1. yup, and a thumbs up for his appearance’s on missed apex too.

    3. I cadge coffee and pastries at McLaren

      That’s a pretty good flex though. Beats my samosa from Sainsbury’s deli.

    4. I think the meal updates are an absolute must. I can’t imagine the diary without them and it would be a sadder world without such quirks. also, it harks back to my first contact with the sport, F1 News magazine, which had a regular column on the catering crew each team brought to the races – as it is here, it was a great insight into the human side of the sport, with a bunch of generally hilarious or hair raising stories that would otherwise be lost in the serious reportage.

    5. I’m throwing my vote in on the side of the minutiae as well – the food, the journey to/from the venue, etc. It’s like attending the GP on the cheap ;)

      I wouldn’t complain if Dieter made each day’s diary longer, to be honest.

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