Does the German Grand Prix have a long-term future?

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This year marks the eighth successive year that the French Grand Prix will be absent from the Formula 1 calendar, and there’s no sign of its imminent return. Now another iconic European event is facing an uncertain future. What next for the German Grand Prix?

Germany is home to the all conquering Mercedes AMG F1 team plus four current drivers, including 4-times World Champion Sebastian Vettel and current Championship points leader Nico Rosberg. It has two iconic tracks – the Hockenheimring and the Nurburgring – and a wealthy population of 80 million. Yet last year, the race was absent from the F1 calendar for the first time since 1955.

History

Just three venues have hosted the German Grand Prix since its inception in 1926; the Nurburgring, Hockenheimring and AVUS Berlin. In the early years of the modern Formula 1 World Championship, the race was held on the legendary 22.8km Nurburgring Nordschleife (North Loop) in the Eifel mountains. The Hockenheimring, a flat circuit in the upper Rhine Valley, first hosted the race in 1970, before establishing itself as the main venue for the event between 1977-2006.

Race Sharing

In 2007, a race-sharing deal was put in place to alternate the German Grand Prix between the Hockenheimring and Nurburgring. This arrangement worked until last year, when the bankruptcy of the Nurburgring ruled the venue out of hosting the race. The losses sustained in recent races meant that the Hockenheimring owners were unwilling to step up at short notice to host the 2015 race.

Poor Attendance in 2014

There was plenty of head scratching in the F1 paddock after the poorly attended 2014 German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring. The stands were pretty much empty on Friday and barely half full on race day (an estimated 50,000 fans attended). On the same day at the Nurburgring, around 100,000 fans attended a truck-racing event. The return of the Austrian Grand Prix, which was a sell out in 2014, also took at least 5,000-10,000 fans away from Hockenheim. At the time, Niki Lauda blamed the low attendance on F1’s reluctance to embrace new media.

Why are German fans not supporting their home race?

Michael Schumacher was a ‘man of the people’ and extraordinarily popular in Germany in the way that Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg will never be. His retirement is one of the biggest reasons for the decline in local support. High ticket prices don’t help, but Germany is actually one of the calendar’s cheapest destinations when the price of a ticket is compared to the average monthly salary (more here). Another issue is competition from other sports. In 2014, Germany’s attention was on the football World Cup in Brazil. This year, perhaps German sports fans would rather spend their hard earned Euros on a trip to France for Euro2016 rather than the Hockenheimring?

The Future

Time will tell, but the reality is that this year will be a big test for the future of the German Grand Prix. If the Hockenheimring organizers can fill more seats – or at least not deliver an unmitigated financial disaster – then there is a chance of negotiating a long-term deal with Bernie Ecclestone on favorable terms to keep this important race on the calendar. Mercedes could also step up and support its local race. With a massive factory just down the road in Stuttgart, how about providing free or subsidized tickets for its factory employees to fill the grandstands?

Travel Basics

We are waiting for some clarity over the future of the German Grand Prix before producing our detailed fan’s travel guide to the race. In the meantime, here’s some basic information if you are planning a trip to Hockenheim this year. The 2016 German Grand Prix takes place on July 29-31.

> Getting There

The Hockenheimring is around 100km south of Frankfurt airport (FRA), one of the largest and busiest in Europe. It’s the main hub for the German flag carrier Lufthansa and serves short-haul European routes (some operated by discount carriers) and long-haul flights to the USA and Asia. Alternatively, the circuit is 120km northwest of Stuttgart airport (STR), which is a major hub for Air Berlin and Eurowings.

> Accommodation

The town of Hockenheim has a population of just over 20,000 residents, meaning limited accommodation choice and high prices on Grand Prix weekend. If you are on a budget, then trackside camping is the way to go. Another option would be to hire a car and stay in either Frankfurt or Stuttgart.

> Buying Tickets

Hockenheim is one of the few races on the current calendar not to sell General Admission tickets. There are also only a handful of grandstands, but the pricing is a little complicated, with three categories of ticket in each. (Click here for seating map.) Most seats are located in the vast grandstand that covers the final corner, pit straight and opening corner, which is divided into three sections – South, Main and North. With less than 2 months till the race, most of the cheapest seat categories (3-day tickets priced from €150-200) are already sold out.

Click here to buy tickets to the 2016 German Grand Prix.

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About the Author ()

Andrew Balfour is the Founder and Editor of F1Destinations.com. He originally hails from Adelaide, where he went to his first F1 race way back in 1987. He’s been resident in Europe for almost 15 years and travels regularly to F1 races around the world.

Comments (2)

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  1. Leon says:

    Looks like German Grand Prix has a much bigger crowd in 2016. A couple of weeks ago I tried to order tickets for raceday, the budgettickets (innertribune) and many tickets from the orange zones were already sold. Good news because we don’t wanna lose other european venues.

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