Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

Remembering Hockenheim - The best and worst moments from the German track's history

Published by Turkey Machine

Formula One has some old stalwarts in the field who will remember the good old days of Hockenheim when it had mile long straights and demanded the very best from the engines and as low a downforce configuration as you could get away with.

Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello are the only people in the field today to have won a race on the old circuit, both once (1995 and 2000 respectively). But a good word (alright, a few good words) about the current layout before we reminisce about Hockenheim of old.


Piquet on the podium in Germany.
Piquet on the podium in Germany.Credit: Steven Tee/LAT Photographic

2008 was the last F1 race held at the circuit. Due to the sharing agreement held with the Nürburgring races alternate between there and here each year. That last race was looking like a fairly standard one by all accounts, Lewis Hamilton leading with Felipe Massa in second position and a procession through the field with little overtaking. Then about halfway through the race, Timo Glock's Toyota decided it had had enough of Hockenheim and broke its rear suspension on the final corner, sending Timo backwards into the pit wall at high velocity (the last corner is an acceleration zone for F1 cars) and causing the safety car to be deployed.

Cue mild panic as teams tried to work out what to do with their driver's strategies. Most pitted, some stacked, Hamilton stayed out. Cue the delight from Renault as Nelson Piquet Jr found himself in second place. Thus much joy was to be had in the Piquet side of the garage as Renault's first podium of 2008 was on the cards. McLaren decided not to pit Hamilton under the safety car, so he led on the restart and had to gap Piquet to make the coming pitstop work for him. That didn't happen and Hamilton rejoined in 3rd place behind Massa and the now-leading Piquet. Brazilian drivers held the first two spots in a race for the first time since Senna and Piquet Sr went wall-to-wall all those years ago.

Hamilton quickly dispatched with Massa to move up to second. With potential first championships at stake for both men they weren't going to risk a collision, and Hamilton with fresh tyres and the desire to win wanted to get to the front. It didn't take him long to reel in Piquet, and to his credit he put up more of a fight than his compatriot did. Hamilton now led, an overtake happened on the racetrack for the lead for the first time in absolutely ages, and the positions stayed pretty much that way for the rest of the race. Piquet's Renault career went downhill from there and his last good memorable race was Singapore 2008 (I'm only joking Nelson, I remember Japan too).


Step forward Patrick Tambay to pick up the pieces for the disjointed Ferrari team

Of the old races on the circuit, a few stick out in my mind as truly great races. 1982 was both a terrible and fantastic race in equal measure. Didier Pironi was in hospital with the prospect of losing both his legs after an horrific shunt in wet practice when he ran up the back of Alain Prost's Renault and flew through the sky dismantling his Ferrari. Step forward Patrick Tambay to pick up the pieces for the disjointed Ferrari team and guide them to a much needed and well deserved victory. The next one to stick in my mind was 1986 for the fuel antics on the last lap. Piquet emerged as the winner, Senna stopped early on the last lap, Mansell spluttered across the line and Prost ran out of fuel in the last corner and got out to push his car. Good times.


1994's race was a barnstormer for 4 reasons: Mika Häkkinen being a total newbie and wiping out seven cars at the first corner (three more behind him thought best to end their races early on the grid by colliding with each other), Schumacher having a rare Ford engine failure, Gerhard Berger being utterly dominant to take victory, and Benetton's fuel rig "malfunctioning" on Jos Verstappen's car with fiery consequences.


1996 and 1997 were almost mirrored in strategy decisions in the race. In 1996 Berger was on a one-stop race in the Benetton and looking almost certain for victory with Hill not being able to pass him. That was until 3 laps from home when his Renault engine left a large chunk of itself in the forest. Hill went through to win the only German Grand Prix of his career after the near miss of 1993 with a blown tyre.


This year's race had Berger starting from pole position and on a two-stop fuel and tyre strategy. Giancarlo Fisichella alongside him was on a one-stop race. Berger after his 2nd stop rejoined just behind Fisi and immediately started putting the Jordan driver under a lot of pressure. That pressure buckled and he lost the lead to Berger, who then went on to win his second German Grand Prix and the last for Benetton.

Michael Schumacher waves to his home crowd at Hockenheim, 1997.
Michael Schumacher waves to his home crowd at Hockenheim, 1997.Credit: Creative Commons / Cord Rodefeld


Eddie Irvine admitted afterwards that Mika Salo had bested him all weekend

1999 saw a very eventful German Grand Prix. Häkkinen was stuttering in his bid to win the title and had been soundly beaten all by a fellow countryman called Mika Salo. Actual team leader Eddie Irvine was shadowing the Finn and waiting to take over as things progressed. Häkkinen had a rear tyre failure which sent him off the track at the end of the last straight and into the tyre barriers. The Ferraris led 1-2 with Salo up front, and he eventually relinquished the lead to Irvine to maximise the Irishman's chances of winning the title. Eddie admitted afterward that Salo had bested him all weekend and fully deserved to win his maiden Grand Prix.


The 2000 German Grand Prix will mostly be remembered for a disgruntled Mercedes employee who put on a raincoat and walked along the side of the track. This brought out a safety car and promptly ruined McLaren Mercedes' chances of winning. Häkkinen and Coulthard came in for wet tyres. Barrichello (starting 18th on the grid) stayed on dries, and went on to win the race.

I hope the 2010 race is a good one. The weather forecast is inclement for the race itself and most of the weekend, so British weather can migrate elsewhere then! McLaren have a good chance of winning here as they have always been strong at new Hockenheim. Mark Webber will be keen to put one over team mate Sebastian Vettel for the second year running.

Schumacher will no doubt do his best to get on the podium this time, and attempt to beat his German team mate Nico Rosberg to win the race for the fifth time in his career, and Sutil will probably crash in trying to overtake somebody who doesn't want to be overtaken! Any other Germans I've forgotten?

Oh yes. Timooo!