Round 10 at Germany’s Hockenheimring marks the halfway point of the thrilling and utterly unpredictable 2012 Formula One World Championship.
Hockenheim used to be the second fastest track on the calendar, after Monza, and its 6.8km had claimed the lives of many racers, including Lotus legend Jim Clark.
In 2002, the long and ominous runs into the forest were severed in the name of safety, completely changing the nature of the circuit and, with it, killing-off a lot of Hockenheim’s character. Nevertheless, the new layout has created some great modern races.
The first-gear hairpin is the scene of most manoeuvers, and getting the braking right here is critical, as is traction at the apex. An aerial camera manages to capture the action as it accelerates away from the corner in time with the cars.
The stadium section is electric, filled with thousands of klaxon-wielding fans. Turn 12, which is at the entry to this section, is a thrilling 205km/h fourth gear corner and an occasional passing place – but only for the most fearless.
Kimi Räikkönen has never won in Germany, neither at the Nürburgring nor here at Hockenheim. This year he’s out to break his duck. He’ll have to beat his team-mate, though. Kimi has taken more points from the last two rounds but Romain Grosjean has been blistering, hunting down a possible win in Valencia before his engine cut out and recovering from the back of the field at Silverstone to finish an impressive sixth.
Since handing the European Grand Prix to Valencia, Germany has seen their annual race alternate between the two venues and, after a 24 month absence, the roar of F1 returns to the Baden-Württemberg track.
After the British Grand Prix, Lotus were forced to change the gearbox on Grosjean’s car and this has resulted in a five-place grid penalty for the Frenchman. Still, we’ve seen his tyre management and overtaking skills in recent races so a strong result is still attainable.
Local start time: 14h00
Number of laps: 67
Circuit length: 4.574km
Race distance: 306.458km
Lap record: Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren, 2004), 1:13.780
Kimi Räikkönen : “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be fighting for another podium. I’ve always enjoyed driving in Germany, but the problem is that luck has never been on my side and something has always stopped me from winning. At Hockenheim the car can make all the difference, and luckily we’ve got a good one. You need good traction out of corners. Some hot weather would be good. Usually at Hockenheim it has been very hot, and that suits our car well as it’s not that hard on tyres. Let’s hope for some real summer weather.”
Romain Grosjean: “I like Hockenheim because I’ve raced there quite a few times. In fact, one of my first single seater races was there in Formula Renault 1.6 in 2003. Then in Formula 3, I did about eight races at the track because we went twice a year with the Euro F3 Series, so there are a few good memories and I’m looking forward to returning. Hopefully we’ll have some updates on the car, get pole position, a win and the fastest lap! The perfect weekend!”
The campsites will be full, the beer will be flowing, and the facial fuzz is sure to be epic. If you are planning on getting any sleep, best stay outside of Hockenheim in one of the surrounding towns, like Speyer or Heidelberg.
Because Hockenheim is in a remote location, many choose to drive from their European bases rather than take a plane. Accommodation in Hockenheim is in short supply, so people are spread out across a large area. However, even the smallest German town has a decent pub, and it should be lively on race weekend. Hockenheim is also quite close to the Black Forest, which is incredibly scenic and a worthwhile tourism excursion.
The best hotel nearby is the Hip Hotel in Heidelberg. Yes, the name does engender a degree of cynicism, but it really is cool. The 27 rooms take different international themes. So whether you wish you were in Amsterdam, Zermatt, Bali, Dakar, Tokyo or Katmandu, there’s a room furnished to suit. And there is a Heidelberg-themed room, in case you’re happy where you are.
Pubs are Heidelberg’s speciality. There’s Vetter, a brewhouse concocting some pretty powerful pints, including the Vetter 33 which, at 33 percent, could probably power an F1 car for a full race distance. It was actually listed in the 1994 Guinness Book of Records as the world’s strongest beer.
If you prefer your boozers Irish, try The Dubliner. Try the Stowford Press cider. You might not have heard of it, but Lotus’s truckies have been known to adopt a dreamy, faraway stare at its very mention.
Into planes as well as automobiles? The Technik Museum in nearby Speyer is pretty easy to find, as there’s a 747 welded to a big pole above the gate. Not a replica, an actual Jumbo Jet. They’ve got an Antonov-22, a U-boat, lots of fighter jets like the F-15 and the Phantom, and a genuine been-there-and-back Russian space shuttle.
Like your technology a bit more folksy? Then check out the world’s biggest cuckoo clock! Clock fetishists and bird watchers unite with this six-tonne ornithological timepiece, which has to be seen to be believed, and what better reason to indulge in a scenic two-hour drive through the forests to the village of Schonach? Five years in the making, this monstrous timepiece measures four metres across and is home to a cuckoo weighing 150kg. It pops out every hour on the hour, and scares the locals witless.