German Grand Prix: Can F1 really get rid of Hockenheim?

After 37 Grands Prix since 1970 and some absolute belters in recent years, there is still the almost inexplicable threat that Hockenheim may not be on the Formula One calendar next year.

A spectacular race on Sunday saw Lewis Hamilton crash and finish down in ninth, a podium for Daniil Kvyat in what is turning into a remarkable comeback, Sebastian Vettel finishing second having started from last at the track where it all went wrong for him in the 2018 season, and victory for Max Verstappen.

It was a day that encapsulated what F1 should be about: challenging conditions, hard racing, and drama, which was unrelenting during Sunday’s race.

It was not at all a glistening race for Mercedes, who celebrated their home race, 125 years of involvement in motorsport, and their 200th race last weekend. Hamilton hitting the Mercedes barrier right in front of Charles Leclerc’s stricken Ferrari acted as an agonising metaphor in what was a disastrous race for the German manufacturer. It was a race that they will, of course, come back from even stronger, having learned some invaluable lessons. Lessons of such magnitude must also be learned, to some degree, by Formula One.

2019 German Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Many brilliant circuits in the history of Formula One have seen themselves land on the wrong side of that history, with once prestigious circuits having become derelict, undervalued, and largely inconsequential to motorsport since falling off the equally prestigious F1 calendar. However, as race organisers begin to lose their patience with F1’s high prices and lack of appeal to a mass audience, the calendar begins to lose its appeal to anyone at all.

Tracks like Turkey, the Nurburgring, Malaysia, Imola, and more are left miles away from hosting an F1 race, while circuits like the Circuit de Catalunya, the Sochi Autodrome and Paul Ricard – none of which have succeeded in captivating a global audience on race day – remain, perhaps erroneously in Formula One today.

Hockenheim kept its place on this year’s calendar due to financial backing from Mercedes, who also sponsored this year’s race, but the fear is that this short-term investment provides no real answer to the long-term, and ever-increasingly daunting question: where can the German Grand Prix find a home? Worryingly still, will it have a home at all in years to come?

There is a clause in its contract this year, as there was last year, to keep Hockenheim on the calendar if it receives a certain amount of investment. But, it is uncertain whether Hockenheim can really sustain the financial costs required to keep the race there. That is on top of a potential plea from F1 management to change the asphalt that both Charles Leclerc and Nico Hulkenberg took issue with after their crashes at turn 16.

Whether this clause is activated depends on Mercedes, and also on what F1 can do differently. In fairness to Liberty Media, Formula One is now starting to attract younger and more energetic and enthusiastic viewers, while still retaining the same niche audience that made the sport so popular before.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

However, times are changing, and F1 as a sport needs to change quickly too. Many race organisers have spoken out against the costs of hosting a Formula One race and this, with an ever-growing movement developing, is something F1 itself needs to learn from this weekend.

After all, while demanding high prices from tracks may bring the sport revenue, there is just one thing that money cannot cover: passion. We saw it in abundance in Hockenheim, Silverstone and Austria.

Our passion for motorsport comes not from money or greed, but from watching with a pure and unbridled love for racing, and it is for this exact reason that the drivers and teams work so hard to find every tenth of a second out on track. This passion for racing is far more complex than those with solely business-related interests can comprehend, and we must surely ask that F1 values the love of on-track drama over profit margins that have been killing the sport over recent years.

So can F1 afford to lose Hockenheim?

In a word? No.

 

[Featured image – Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool]

German Grand Prix: Kvyat “readier than ever to fight” for podiums

Daniil Kvyat says he is “readier than ever to fight” for podiums after his P3 finish at last weekend’s chaotic German Grand Prix.

The Russian one of the first drivers to switch from intermediate to slick tyres when the track began to dry with 20-odd laps to go, and it was this decision that allowed him to leapfrog much of the grid and go from 12th to third when those around him pitted on the next lap.

It was his first podium in what Kvyat himself has dubbed his “second career”, with his last coming at the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix when he was still racing for Red Bull. It is also Toro Rosso’s first podium since Sebastian Vettel won the 2008 Italian Grand Prix.

Dan Mullan/Getty Images

“It’s incredible to be back on the podium in what could be called my ‘second career’,” Kvyat said. “I thought it would never happen again in my life, so I’m incredibly happy. There’s so many emotions, I still need some time to let it all sink in!

“This achievement is so great for us since it’s 11 years since Toro Rosso’s last podium with Sebastian in Monza. It was such an amazing day and I’m so happy. Thank-you to everyone in the team, it was just an incredible day.”

2019 marked Kvyat’s return to F1 after a year’s absence that saw him act as development driver for Ferrari. He had been unceremoniously dropped from Toro Rosso in the later stages of 2017 after a turbulent few years that saw him promoted to Red Bull for 2015, only to be pushed back to the junior team not even mid-way through 2016 after a series of incidents in the early rounds of that year.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

With the unwelcome nickname ‘Torpedo’ no doubt still ringing in his ears, Kvyat feels that he has matured significantly in recent times, and embraced the opportunity to once again prove his worth at a time when the security of Pierre Gasly’s position in Red Bull is more in doubt than ever.

“I was readier than ever to fight for this kind of position,” Kvyat said. “This year I feel more mature, my head is cooler, and I’m readier to fight on top, so I think I proved that today to myself and everyone around here. I hope this will become a habit soon!

“These kinds of races aren’t easy, it was a tough call to pit that lap earlier, but it’s a 50/50 call between the team and me, we win and lose together and today we won together.”

 

[Featured image – Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool]

2019 German Grand Prix: More Hockenheim horror for Vettel?

The eleventh race of 2019 and the penultimate round before the summer break sees F1 arrive in the beautiful town of Hockenheim for the German Grand Prix. Set against the gorgeous setting of the Nekar River Heidelberg Castle and lots and lots of trees, sits the four and a half-kilometre Hockenheimring track which, for the thirty-seventh time, hosts a world championship Grand Prix.

This time 12 months ago, Sebastian Vettel arrived in Hockenheim for his home race keen to extend his impressive run of form and his championship lead. However, while leading the race in slippery conditions, Vettel aquaplaned into the wall, with the rain that day ultimately washing away his, and Ferrari’s, title hopes last year.

This year, Ferrari and Vettel look to Hockenheim as a source of inspiration, as Vettel attempts to bounce back from a disappointing last few race weekends.

As things stand, he is currently fourth in the championship and ahead of young team-mate Charles Leclerc, but this does not change the precarious predicament Ferrari find themselves in.

Ferrari Media

They have barely kept pace with Mercedes so far this season, and have instead found themselves in a battle for second best with Red Bull. Last time out at Silverstone, Vettel made what can only be described as a rookie error, hitting the back of Max Verstappen and subsequently finishing outside the points. It was a mistake that further highlighted Vettel’s discomfort under the increasing pressure he is facing at Ferrari.

Vettel’s home Grand Prix must run smoothly for a team that, ever since the excitement of the pre-season test in Barcelona, has been left stunned by the pace of Red Bull and the flat-out dominance by Mercedes.

Speaking of Mercedes, this is of course also their home race. The team scored a remarkable one-two in Germany last year after Lewis Hamilton came back from fourteenth on the grid to win.

The German manufacturer is celebrating 125 years of motorsport this weekend, an achievement which was also celebrated at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Mercedes, of course, have not only contributed to F1 as a team, but also as an engine manufacturer. They supplied engines for Lewis Hamilton at McLaren and Jenson Button at Brawn during their championship wins in 2008 and 2009 respectively, and also currently provide engines for Racing Point and Williams on the current grid. This will be a momentous occasion for Mercedes, providing extra incentive this weekend.

2019 German Grand Prix, Thursday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

But who’s more likely to win? Power is needed in the first sector, but that need is balanced by tricky turns one and two, which have proven to be technically difficult to perfect.

After the hairpin of turn six comes the flat out right of turn seven, before some more technical corners follow in the extremely difficult and testing final sector.

Ultimately, we should expect Mercedes to have the edge, but never count out the quickly-developing Red Bull, who proved slightly quicker than Ferrari at the British Grand Prix – this is a track that should suit their car better than the Silverstone, so one or both eyes will have to be cast in their direction when talking about contenders for the race win.

Further back, Haas will have another go at reverting one of their cars to the Australia spec to see where they went wrong developmentally and what they can change to improve their race pace. This is an experiment they tried at Silverstone, but Grosjean and Magnussen crashed on the first lap of the race, depriving the team of the chance to score points and to learn anything from the change in spec.

Also at his home race is Nico Hulkenberg, who was left frustrated by his Renault team’s strategy at the British Grand Prix. He and Renault are another team seeking improvements following a hit-and-miss first half of the 2019 season.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault F1 Team.
German Grand Prix, Friday 26th July 2019. Hockenheim, Germany.

This will hopefully not be the last time wee see an F1 race at Hockenheim. Themselves and Formula One have a clause in place which allows the circuit to continue hosting the race, but the extension into 2020 still needs to be improved by Formula One’s management.

This is a momentous weekend for many teams and drivers, and with Lewis Hamilton leading the championship by 39 points, the 2019 German Grand Prix could have major implications for the title. So what drama, if any, awaits us this time?

 

[Featured image – Ferrari Media]

Chadwick takes maiden W Series victory at Hockenheim

20-year-old Brit Jamie Chadwick started from pole position in the first ever W Series race this afternoon in Hockenheim.

The 18 female drivers took to the grid in their mechanically identical Formula 3 race cars to begin the 30-minute race.

Chadwick made a good start going into turn one, but she outbraked herself at the hairpin, going wide and giving the lead to Sarah Moore.

Canadian driver Megan Gilkes and Emma Kimilainen from Finland made contact going down the straight into the hairpin, bringing the safety car out and forcing the duo to retire from the race. Fortunately, both were okay.

Credit: W Series

As the safety car period ended, three Brits led the field: Moore, Chadwick and Alice Powell in third.

Sarah Moore went wide at turn one at the restart which gave Chadwick back her lead. Spaniard Marta Garcia made some brave moves and moved up to third position while Moore fell down to P6.

Dutch racer Beitske Visser and Fabienne Wohlwend from Liechtenstein were fighting it out for P4 as Powell went on a charge for the lead, gaining quickly on Jamie Chadwick.

Credit: W Series

The middle of the pack were bunched up for much of the race. Japanese driver Miki Koyama was doing a superb job, progressing up to 9th from her starting position of 17th with ten minutes of the race remaining. She fought hard with Esmee Hawkey, Vicky Piria and Australian Caitlin Wood for the final points in the top ten.

With less than five minutes to go, Chadwick pulled out a comfortable gap in the lead, as Powell began to defend 2nd position from 18-year-old Garcia, the youngest driver on the grid.

Italy’s Vicky Piria dropped to P15 after having a spin and picking up a marker board in sector two before rejoining the pack.

Credit: W Series

After a difficult start, Jamie Chadwick claimed her maiden victory in the W Series, winning the maximum of 25 points and making motorsport history. Fellow Brit Alice Powell and Spain’s Marta Garcia joined her on the podium in 2nd and 3rd.

Visser finished in 4th, followed by Moore, Wohlwend, Koyama, Pepper, Rdest and Wood rounding out the top ten.

It was a thrilling first race in Hockenheim for the W Series, and hopefully, one of many more. Round two of this new and exciting series will take place on the 18th May in Zolder, Belgium.