Hockenheimring, 2019

Steiner and Hulkenberg at odds over value of German GP return

2023 F1 season

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Formula 1 has not raced in Germany since 2020 and, post-pandemic, the nation’s run of world championship titles has come to an end too.

Either a German driver or constructor was champion every year from 2010 to 2021, with Mercedes-Benz engines powering the two drivers’ champions prior to that. There was also a run of five successive titles for a German driver – Michael Schumacher – from 2000 to 2004.

Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg has not contributed to that title haul for his nation, and has not even stood on the podium since debuting in 2010, but is the 24th most experienced F1 driver of all time by grands prix starts. He is not just the only German driver on the grid this season but may well be also likely to be for several years – should he retain his seat – as there are few promising Germans in junior single-seaters.

At the most recent F1 race, in the neighbouring country of Belgium, Hulkenberg was asked about the perceived decreased popularity of F1 in his home nation, but said he was “not concerned” by it.

“It’s a fact that F1 is not so popular, so booming right now,” Hulkenberg admitted. “Definitely, it had times where it was much more present in Germany, much more well perceived. It’s a true observation, and I share it.”

Last year marked the first time since the world championship’s creation that F1 had gone more than a full season without a race in Germany. The Haas driver said he “wouldn’t be against” the country returning to the calendar in 2025 or beyond.

“It wouldn’t make a difference for me, and I don’t expect it to happen”, he said. “I’m not behind the scenes there [at the German Motor Sport Federation]. I don’t know, maybe some people are trying to pull some strings [to make a race].”

Hulkenberg also pointed out that environmental concerns have hurt F1’s popularity.

“I think in Germany the perception of, in general, the automotive industry – it’s like responsible for climate change, it’s not sustainable. And I think that rubs off onto motorsport, and that’s why I think there’s a perception and what politics tell the people is that this is bad and somehow has a negative impact on racing and F1 too.”

In contrast to Hulkenberg is his American-Italian team boss Guenther Steiner, who likes the idea of not only having a home race for his German driver but also one for his Danish team-mate Kevin Magnussen.

“With the popularity of F1 right now, I think we could race everywhere and sell out the venue,” Steiner said.

“Obviously, there are contracts in place and Formula One Management is managing this, but I think a race in Germany would be appropriate in my opinion. It’s a big ‘car’ country, there’s a German driver and there’s a lot of history within F1.

“At the moment, it’s the only market that is a bit in decline, everywhere else is growing, so of course a race would help, and it would give millions of fans in Germany a chance to see a race in their home country.

“Denmark’s also got a lot of history in F1, now having Kevin here is what they want and there was a plan to have a race in Copenhagen which would’ve been fantastic. It’s a fantastic city and I think they would’ve been ready, but I think the politicians couldn’t agree, so therefore it was decided not to have it for now but hopefully, that idea comes back.”

There were plans for a Copenhagen-based F1 grand prix in 2018, but they collapsed when the city was not willing to fund the race. However the streets are still used for racing in the annual Copenhagen Historic Grand Prix which features modern touring cars as well as historic single-seaters.

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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19 comments on “Steiner and Hulkenberg at odds over value of German GP return”

  1. I mean, lets be honest, without a German superstar driver the success of a German GP would be mild at best for the home crowd. It’s like how the Tour de France (or cycling in general) was nothing in Germany until Jan Ullrich appeared on the scene and suddenly it was red hot. F1 was similar in that Schumacher put butts in those seat but ever since numbers just dropped and dropped.

    That said. A German GP, like the Belgian GP, would probably still fill the stands with orange-clad fans, so it’s probably viable.

    1. it would be a success it will be fully orange.

    2. Coventry CLimax
      22nd August 2023, 12:48

      Maybe the FIA should mandate all teams to be orange?
      The color expresses support for two teams already, currently.

      (Yes, teams: team Verstappen and team McLaren)

    3. Crowd as mild as the one in Qatar perhaps? There are at least 10 races I’d rather see go than German GP, but here we are.

  2. Coventry Climax
    22nd August 2023, 13:11

    F1 is supposed to be two world championships; driver and constructor.

    Not taking a stance on any of it, but
    given there’s a 195 countries in the world right now,
    given we race in an awkward amount of countries that have, to express it mildly, a doubtful rights situation,
    given there’s just a handful of nationalities behind the wheel,
    given there’s just a handful of homebase countries for the teams,
    given drivers of certain nationalities are excluded (and rightfully so, in my opionion),
    given how F1 keeps the door shut to newcomers, making it difficult for new drivers and next to impossible to new teams,
    given how new technology is not allowed to compete until a next round of regulations sets things fixed again for a period of 5 years or so,

    you could well argue about those two titles, and you could well argue over F1’s priorities.

    I would, personally, welcome a race in Germany, especially if it were Nurburgring and especially if they’d ditch some boring desert track in exchange, but I doubt a race there would change F1’s popularity in Germany, let alone change any of the above.

    But F1 just goes where the money is, nowhere else.

    1. In usa you can be worldchampion by winning the local league in a few sports. At least f1 Actually travels the world.

      1. Coventry Climax
        22nd August 2023, 15:36

        Actually, it’s not where the world championships are held, as long as anyone, from any place in the world, can come to compete, at equal terms, with all being notified of the event the same amount of time in advance. Probably missed a condition, but this comes pretty close I think.

        1. That may be the case for some of the US “World Championships” @maxv is referring to, but in the FIA sphere a racing series has to have events (or qualifying events for a one-off event) on a minimum of three continents within a single season to be eligible for the title World Championship.

    2. I don’t consider F1 a world championship for another reason. F1 is a separate sport, or at least a category. There are no two F1 championships in the whole world, thus there’s no need to rank championships. F1 is the highest tier, but also the lowest (we can’t count F2 or F3 as the same sport, since rules are different, and there’s no way of progression between them based on success). Since there’s no progression and meritocracy, no one can prove that drivers and teams in F1 are the best the world has to offer, since they don’t even allow others to compete against them. It’s a closed, private league and nothing more. You can’t call yourself the best driver in the world if you’re the best in F1 (you can’t even prove to be the best in F1 though), since most F1 drivers wouldn’t even survive a serious rally event, and there’s no reason to believe they would be the best in other kinds of motorsport too. Well, most of them wouldn’t shine in carting against the current best carting drivers, and carting is considered the lowest, and F1 the highest form of open-wheel racing.

  3. I don’t get why nobody is stating the obvious, even Hülkenberg might not be aware of that: You cannot watch F1 live on German TV without a dedicated SKY subscription. And this is simply not common here, most people do have an Amazon Prime, Netflix or Disney+ subscription, SKY is comparatively rare and expensive.

    And even F1TV Pro is NOT available, you can only book F1TV without the live coverage. It’s SKY or nothing.

    In my opinion, that’s the reason, not the lack of a successful German driver or team or environmental discussions. For most people it’s just no happening as it’s not on free TV anymore.

    1. Indeed Tim, this is a huge thing. But, didn’t RTL abandon F1 because of low viewership in the first place?
      I remember the last decade of the GP at Hockenheim and oddly empty stands. I’m quite sure Germans abandoned F1 long before their TV abandoned F1.

      1. asd, in terms of viewing figures, it seems that RTL’s figures had been holding at a reasonably steady average of 4 million viewers per race for several years – whilst down on the peaks they’d had in the early 2000s, RTL seemed to think the figures were still reasonable.

        By comparison, Sky Deutschland pulls in far fewer viewers than RTL does – it was averaging around 450,000 when it took over the exclusive rights for Germany, and even though the figures are up since then, the peak figures that Sky Deutschland has achieved (about 1.4 million) is still significantly lower than RTL’s peak figures.

        However, when RTL announced that they were going to drop Formula 1 broadcasts, they referred to “competitors in the game who are prepared to offer double as much as you can” and suggested that there was an “overheated market” for the broadcast rights. It seems, therefore, that Sky Deutschland is probably paying over the odds for the TV rights in Germany as part of a strategy of forcing other broadcasters out of the market.

      2. Coventry Climax
        22nd August 2023, 21:13

        I have been forced, so to say, to watch the RTL coverage a couple of times, a couple of years back.
        Commentators that focus almost solely on backmarkers, only because they’re german and beer commercials so abundant they’re likely to also hit the the most awkward of moments, that about sums it up.
        Seen other coverages too, RTL was the worst, by lightyears. Maybe that has something to do with it as well?

        1. During all commercials the actual view was presented in a small window. Picture in picture.

        2. Yeah, RTL coverage was notoriously bad. But at least it was a constant “sunday afternoon happening” for a lot of families/fathers, which is just not happening anymore.

          As a German, I am forced to buy a F1TV Pro subscription through a friend living in Austria so I can watch races live. But not many will go through these troubles to watch a race. And so it’s simply out of peoples’ mind, it’s just not happening.

  4. Germany seemed to lose interest post Schumacher, even when Vettel was winning championships their viewing figures were on decline and they were struggling to keep a circuit on the calender swapping back and forth between Hockenheim and Nurburgring.

    I don’t know the reasons for why Germany doesn’t seem interest in F1 right now, but I’m sure it’s not to do with a lack of a German world champion on the grid.

  5. Generally germany brought good races, sometimes with some rain too, and I consider germany 2019, an intermediate-wet race, one of the best of the last decade, so would prefer if they kept racing there, just like spa.

  6. I’d take a German GP over several other European events in a heartbeat – Monaco, Spa, Hungary, Barcelona, Zandvoort, Imola, Monza – none of these deliver the quantity or quality of (racing) points of interest like either of Germany’s Grade 1 circuits do, particularly Hockenheim.

    Sadly, F1 has priced Germany’s F1 support out of the market, exactly as has happened in many other places too.
    You’d think Mercedes would be more keen on supporting it…

  7. I’d ditch Jeddah or Miami for Nurburgring without hesitation, Hockenheim too.

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