There have been 63 German Grands Prix since the first in 1951. It has been held at three venues: Hockenheimring 36 times, Nurburgring 26 and Berlin just the once. That single visit took place at AVUS, Automobil Verkehrs und Übungs-Straße, which was a proving ground for cars and traffic.
It was 8.3 kilometres long and is considered to be the first ever European motorway, opened to the public in 1921. F1 turned up forty years later with the 1959 German Grand Prix and it was used for racing up until 1998.
But let’s get back to Hockenheim, today synonymous with F1 in Germany, and which hosts the 2019 race. It staged its first Grand Prix in 1970 and has since been the scene of many great races. Surprisingly, local hero Schumacher won the race only four times, but more recently Nico Rosberg triumphed at his home race in 2014 with Mercedes.
The original Hockenheim circuit was built in 1939 as a high-speed test track for Mercedes-Benz, who needed a venue to test for the Tripoli Grand Prix. When war broke out the construction was halted and in the post-war years the Nurburgring became the venue for Formula One racing in Germany, with Hockenheim hosting a few smaller events.
When a plan to build an autobahn through the circuit was approved, the government supplied Hockenheim with a large sum by way of compensation. This money was used to build a new track, the now famous Hockenheim circuit, which cut through the forest before looping into the wonderful stadium section around which large grandstands were erected.
In 1968 Hockenheim hit the headlines when Jim Clark was killed there in an F2 race. Nevertheless, with the Nurburgring quickly becoming outdated, Formula One racing came to the track in 1970. Once the Nurburgring had been modernised, however, the sport returned there, leaving Hockenheim with national and F2 events.
But after Niki Lauda suffered horrific burns at the Nurburgring in 1976, Hockenheim became the home of the German Grand Prix. It too, however, was not without dangers. In 1980 Patrick Depailler was killed in testing at the track, and a chicane was put in to break up the fast Ostkurve, while in a 1982 crash Ferrari’s Didier Pironi suffered terrible injuries to his legs.
In 2002 the long runs through the forest were done away with and the layout of the track was heavily modified. Despite arguments that it had lost some of its character, the first race at the new circuit was deemed a great success and the venue has remained a regular feature on the F1 calendar ever since.
And with the success in recent years of local heroes Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel – and, of course, the Mercedes team – the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim has become one of the most atmospheric races of the season, with the noise from fans in the stadium section being almost deafening at times.
The 2018 German GP ended in a one-two for the Silver Arrows, Lewis Hamilton leading home Valtteri Bottas. Local hero Sebastian Vettel ended his race in the gravel, having led up to that point: it was a crucial moment in the 2018 F1 World Championship.
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