Hockenheimring is a famous racing circuit in Germany, near the town of Hockenheim in Baden-Württemberg. It is one of three circuits which hosted the Formula One German Grand Prix races since the Formula One championship was established.
The first German Grand Prix race was held at Hockenheimring in 1970. Since then, 34 F1 Grand Prix races took part in the Rhine valley. The record holder is Michael Schumacher with four victories.
The original Hockenheimring was built in 1932
The Hockenheimring was built in 1932 as a 12.045-km long circuit through the forests near the Hockenheim, with one part of the track entering the town. The circuit was opened in May 1932 and it was mostly used for motorcycle racing. Since 1936, Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union started to use the track as a testing field.
Shortened Kurpfalzring since 1938
In 1938, the track was shortened to 7.692-km and renamed to Kurpfalzring. It featured two long straights, fast Ostkurve, and slower Stadtkurve. That oval-shaped layout was used for the next 63 years, until 2001, when the modern Hockenheimring was built.
After the World War II, former race car driver Wilhelm Herz and other motorsports fans from the region successfully promoted the track and brought the motorcycle Grand Prix races to it. The first German Motorcycle Grand Prix was held at Hockenheim in 1957.
The first major reconstruction was done in 1966
In the early 1960s, the construction of the Autobahn A6 (Mannheim – Walldorf) was planned and it forced the circuit owners to make changes. The reconstruction began in spring 1964 and until 1966 the job was done. In May 1966, the German Motorcycle Grand Prix returned to the new Hockenheimring, which had a new stadium-shaped Motodrome section and it was 6.769-km long.
Jim Clark lost his life at Hockenheimring
The significant change was also a direction of racing because the races were run in a clockwise direction for the first time. The next change on the track followed after the death of Jim Clark, who was killed in April 1968 in a Formula 2 race. Two chicanes were added and the new crash barriers were built.
Jochen Rindt won first German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring
The milestone day of the circuit was the first Formula One German Grand Prix which was held on August 2nd, 1970. The Formula One racers came to the Hockenheimring because of safety concerns about the old Nürburgring Nordschleife. The winner of the first ever German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring was Jochen Rindt in the Cosworth-powered Lotus 72C, ahead of Jacky Ickx and Denny Hulme.
Formula One returned in 1977 to stay for a long time
The next year German Grand Prix returned to the modernized Nürburgring Nordschleife. The last ever F1 Grand Prix at Nordschleife was held in 1976 and after that Formula One came again to the Hockenheimring in 1977. Between 1977 and 2006 Hockenheim was the host of the German Grand Prix, with the only exception in 1985, when the race was held on the Nürburgring GP Circuit.
Depailler’s death caused more reconstructions
The first winner in the F1 Grand Prix era at Hockenheimring was Niki Lauda, ahead od Jody Scheckter and Hans-Joachim Stuck. The next winners were Mario Andretti, Alan Jones and Jacques Laffite. The 1980 Grand Prix race was marked by the death of Patrick Depailler, who was killed in a pre-event testing accident with Alfa Romeo 179.
That caused one more slight reconstruction of the track in 1982, with a chicane inserted at Ostkurve, near the spot where Depailler crashed. The chicane was reconstructed one more time ten years later.
Pironi had a last race at Hockenheimring
Between 1981 and 1984, the winners at Hockenheimring were Nelson Piquet, Patrick Tambay, Rene Arnoux and Alain Prost. The 1982 event was marked by an accident of Didier Pironi, who crashed into Alain Prost’s car during qualifying and because of bad injuries, he has never raced again.
Brazilian domination in the late 1980s
In 1985, the German Grand Prix was held on brand-new Nürburgring GP Circuit, but Formula One cars were again at the Hockenheimring in 1986. The Brazilian domination started that year, with two consecutive wins of Nelson Piquet and three wins of Ayrton Senna. Two wins of Nigel Mansell followed in 1991 and 1992, and then Alain Prost scored his second victory in 1993.
Spectators missed most of the action
Other winners at Hockenheimring during the 1990s were Gerhard Berger (two times), Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, Mika Hakkinen and Eddie Irvine. During the 2000 races, won by Rubens Barrichello, Jean Alesi seriously crashed in the forest section. After that accident, the criticism of the track raised, not only because of the safety but also because of layout, which wasn’t spectator friendly. The most of the action happened in the forest and spectators in the Motodrome area didn’t see a lot.
Hermann Tilke designed a new track
So, the major reconstruction was ordered. In 2001, Ralf Schumacher was the last winner on the old 6.825-km long track. Hermann Tilke designed the new track and the multimillion building project started in February 2002. The renovation was financed with public money, so the official name of the circuit was changed to the Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg.
Michael Schumacher’s victory opened a new era
The stadium section of the new circuit remained mostly unchanged while the forest section was eliminated. The track was shortened to 4574 metres and get the big grandstands with a capacity of 120,000 spectators. The reconstruction was over on the record time and 2002 German Grand Prix was held on for the first time at the new circuit on July 28th. Michael Schumacher started from pole and scored his second victory at Hockenheimring.
Schumacher is only with four wins
Later he won two more times (in 2004 to 2006) to became the only driver with four victories. The other winner in the modern era of Hockenheimring were Juan Pablo Montoya in 2003 and Fernando Alonso in 2005. In 2007, the German Grand Prix wasn’t held, neither at Hockenheim or Nürburgring, there were only the European Grand Prix at Nürburgring.
Bi-annual hosting agreement with Nürburgring
Financial problems of both circuits caused the agreement for the bi-annual hosting of the German Grand Prix, so the Hockenheim was the host in 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014. The winners were Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso (twice) and Nico Rosberg.
Both Hockenheim and Nürburgring failed to complete the agreement with Bernie Ecclestone for the 2015 German Grand Prix and the race was skipped from the F1 calendar. In 2016, the German Grand Prix is returning to the Hockenheimring.
The most important venue in the DTM calendar
Besides Formula One, Hockenheimring always had a full schedule of races in all disciplines of motorsport, from single-seaters, GT cars and touring cars to the rallycross cars. It was the main venue on the DTM calendar, with season-opening and season closing races holding at Hockenheimring.
World RX Supercars came in 2015
In 2015, the FIA World Rallycross Championship visited Hockenheim for the first time, on the temporary track inside the stadium section. Eventual world champion Petter Solberg won the inaugural rallycross event at Hockenheimring. Rallycross drivers are returning to Hockenheim in season 2016.
Video: Lap around Hockenheimring with DTM car
Address: Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg, Am Motodrom, 68766 Hockenheim, Germany
Phone: +49 6205 9500
Official website: www.hockenheimring.de