Friday’s news that neither Hockenheim nor the Nurburgring would stage the German GP in 2015 dismayed many – but not our Kate Walker.
Germany can boast one of the strongest economies in Europe, and Angela Merkel’s approach to money management throughout the recent years of global financial chaos has seen the country take on the role of the EU’s economic watchdog.
Despite this, the German Grand Prix has been removed from the F1 calendar for 2015, with neither Hockenheim nor the Nurburgring able to stump up the necessary funds to host the race this year, even with an offer of some financial support from Mercedes.
Is this event still a classic?
Much ink has been spilled bemoaning the loss of yet another classic European circuit, but – frankly speaking – how long has it been since either the Hockenheimring or the Nurburgring could lay claim to being classic racetracks?
Both venues share the names of real racers’ circuits, but the Grand Prix circuit in the Eifel Mountains is hardly the Nordschleife, the fearsome ‘Green Hell’ still spoken of in awed tones. As for Hockenheim, the track has been a shadow of its former self since the beginning of the millennium, when it was shortened by 2.3 kilometres.
While the on-going pursuit of safety in Formula One is admirable, it has had the unfortunate side effect of stripping the heart and soul out of those circuits traditionally viewed with rose-coloured glasses as being the venues which separated the men from the boys, safety be damned.
Safety should never be damned, of course, but improved standards have led to a situation where there is an outpouring of sentiment for places that no longer deliver much in the way of decent racing.
Despite seemingly endless German dominance this century, either through Michael Schumacher’s glory years at Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel’s string of titles for Red Bull, and the current period of Mercedes’ power unit supremacy, audiences at the German Grand Prix (either one…) have seen a period of steady decline since the Red Baron hung up his helmet for the first time.
A commercial disaster zone
The 2014 race at Hockenheim was a catastrophe. Despite a promotion giving ticket buyers a 11 euro discount for every goal scored by Germany in the FIFA World Cup semi-final against Brazil – a 77 euro discount after the Brazilian team’s humiliation – there were few takers. After the sell-out success that marked F1’s return to neighbouring Austria the previous month, it was a stark contrast indeed, with the bulk of the audience having elected to turn up at the Hockenheimring disguised as empty seats.
In the wake of the losses suffered that weekend, it is little surprise that the Hockenheim race organisers did not feel able to take on the additional financial commitment of an additional grand prix that it was not their turn to host. At the time of writing, there is nothing to suggest that the 2016 German Grand Prix will not take place at Hockenheim as scheduled.
The Nurburgring, meanwhile, has been embroiled in political and financial chaos for years, with EU investigations into funding irregularities, local government officials cancelling the lease held by NAG, and sale after sale falling through.
The current owners could not balance the books in a way that would see anything other than additional losses accrue as the result of hosting the race, and it would take a true optimist to predict a return to the Eifel mountains in the near future.
That Germany will not host a race this year despite laying claim to the defending constructors’ champions, 15 percent of the drivers on the current grid, and nine of the drivers’ titles secured since 2000 is certainly a reason for F1 to take a serious look at its current problems.
For a rich European country steeped in motorsport heritage, the loss of the grand prix is deeply symbolic and rather shocking.
But to lose dreary races on two neutered circuits that have long since lost their magic? Those tears spilled in ink are of the crocodile variety...