Full throttle at historic Nurburgring

Full throttle at historic Nurburgring

The Nürburgring circuit, near Nürburg Village in Western Germany by the Belgian border, is the location of one of the most famous race tracks in the world, the Nordschleife. The circuit comprised of this incredible 14 miles long 'North Loop' and...

The N?rburgring circuit, near N?rburg Village in Western Germany by the Belgian border, is the location of one of the most famous race tracks in the world, the Nordschleife. The circuit comprised of this incredible 14 miles long 'North Loop' and the shorter Sudschleife (South Loop) of just under five miles.

Nurburg castle.
Photo by ITR e.V..
The two could be combined to make one huge 172-corner circuit, or could be used separately. It was opened in 1927 and hosted the German Grand Prix shortly afterwards. All in all, the Nordschleife hosted 22 championship F1 races between 1951 and 1976. While the long history of the track saw some glories, it also became notorious for terrible accidents.

As time progressed, the sheer size of it made headaches for television broadcasters and the safety issues became a major worry. In the seventies alterations endeavored to improve the safety problems but in 1976 Niki Lauda crashed, being badly burned, and the Nordschleife disappeared from the F1 calendar.

The European Grand Prix had a brief and erratic start in the Formula One championship. In 1983 the event was held at Brands Hatch in the UK, then moved to a newly revised track at the N?rburgring the following year. In 1985 the race was back at Brands Hatch but after that it was absent from the calendar until the early nineties.

In 1993 the European GP was reintroduced at Donington Park in the UK, then moved to Jerez, Spain, in 1994. The race finally returned to the N?rburgring in 1995 along with the rise of local boy Michael Schumacher. In 1997 and 1998 the event was renamed the Luxembourg GP but reverted to being the European GP in 1999.

Previous winners in the earlier history of the circuit were the likes of Tazio Nuvolari, Juan-Manuel Fangio and Jackie Stewart. In the modern era, Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve have won at the N?rburgring twice and Rubens Barrichello was victorious in 2002.

The track was again revised at the start of the new century, then also in 2002 and there have been further alterations for this year. Changes to the final chicane and the exit of the Arena mean the length is now just over five kilometres and will be run over 60 laps. The newer circuit has none of the unique character of the Nordschleife but it is gaining some popularity.

The modern circuit is a mixture of long straights and corners and requires maximum downforce with a compromise to not create too much drag. The two best overtaking places are the first corner after the pit straight and under braking into the back chicane. Traction and braking are important with the variety of corners, as is a strong engine, as 70% of the race is at full throttle.

The smooth surface is less abrasive than some tracks and tyres tend to wear equally at back and front. The degradation is not too harsh so compounds from the softer end of the scale can be used. The weather is an unpredictable factor at the N?rburgring and temperatures can fluctuate considerably. The altitude means a drop in engine power by about 5%.

Rubens Barrichello took victory at the N?rburgring last year in a Ferrari formation finish with Michael Schumacher second. Come the final laps, everyone waited to see if Ferrari would let Barrichello win or if team orders would be employed again. The backlash of criticism after the same scenario in Austria obviously gave the team pause for thought and Barrichello happily achieved his win.

The Juan Pablo Montoya and David Coulthard accident.
Photo by DaimlerChrysler.
The two Jordans collided at the first corner and McLaren's David Coutlhard and Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya came to grief later in the race. An early fight between Ferrari, Williams, McLaren and Renault, which saw Ralf Schumacher lead initially, saw the familiar 2002 Ferrari one-two triumph by the end.

Schumacher's win at the last race in Canada was not a walk in the park for the German and qualifying was none too spectacular for Ferrari with Michael and Barrichello third and fifth. However, despite Williams' front row lock-out, it was Schumacher who made it count in the race.

Renault's Fernando Alonso drove a blinder and the team should be on form in Europe. Although N?rburgring requires a lot of engine work, Renault certainly didn't suffer too much from its slight lack of grunt in Canada. McLaren will be looking to make amends for its small consolation of two points from Kimi Raikkonen.

With only three points separating Schumacher and Raikkonen in the Driver's championship, all eyes will be on the pair in qualifying. Overtaking is not impossible at the N?rburgring, but not easy. Ferrari's pit stop strategy tends to work out rather well most of the time, while Raikkonen is not unknown to have a banzai charge at someone given half the chance.

With five drivers in the race for third in the standings, and McLaren with a chance of beating Ferrari to the top of the Constructors', things will be heated at the front.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Williams , Jordan