German GP - Hockenheim: fast and furious Although the famous Hockenheimring has undergone a lot of speed reduction modifications over recent years, the 6,825 kms track (4.24 miles) is still amongst the quickest of the calendar...
German GP - Hockenheim: fast and furious Although the famous Hockenheimring has undergone a lot of speed reduction modifications over recent years, the 6,825 kms track (4.24 miles) is still amongst the quickest of the calendar with top speeds running over 330 kph and average lap speed expected to be close to 250 kph in qualifying. The track is renowned for its demands on the engines, which remain on full power longer than any other track in the Championship. Most engine manufacturers use the Hockenheim circuit as the basis of race simulation on the dynamometer on the grounds that if it can survive a race at Hockenheim it can survive anywhere! From a driving standpoint the Hockenheim track has little to offer in the way of a challenge, but the high-speed slipstreaming and last meter braking into the chicanes and the infield stadium section gives its own special thrill. The all-important need for speed has to be traded for infield grip and braking performance for a quick lap and most of practice is usually spent finding that delicate balance that works for the tyres and race strategy.
The short pit straight/start line section leads into a fast 90 degree right with a blind exit which is one of the main overtaking points and usually a source of excitement at the start as the cars filter into a single line with only the brave trying to make it a two lane exit. At racing speed, the Nord Kurve corner demands a well balanced car for fear of running wide at the exit and spinning on the grass as the car loses grip off the kerbing.
From the North Kurve the track plunges between the thick pine forest and a long elongated loop slowed by three chicanes; Jim Clark Kurve, at the spot where he was killed in 1968, the Ost Kurve, at the far end of the track and the Ayrton Senna Kurve on the return stretch in memory of another great driver. Each chicane and the fast right-hand corner (Agip Kurve) entering the stadium section represents maximum braking effort and a slim overtaking opportunity if a slipstreaming maneuver has been successful down the straights. Like an amphitheatre, the high grandstand lined infield section is followed by a tight banked hairpin (Sachs Kurve) that opens out into a fast left-right flick with a tricky downhill exit before climbing again into the final corner which is actually two right-hand corners that flow into one long sweep (Sud Kurve) leading onto the pit straight.
It's not as busy for a driver as most circuits and the high average speed means the race usually lasts around 1h 20 mins, unless it rains. Although well drained with most of the corners slightly sloped, the high speeds and straights sheltered by the dense forests can create serious problems with the spray during a wet race. With little wind the 'fog' hangs in the air and with little sun reaching much of the track, it takes a long time to dry in some areas.