Germany is home to the parent company of the all-conquering Mercedes AMG F1 team plus 4-times World Champion Sebastian Vettel. It has two iconic tracks – the Hockenheimring and the Nurburgring, yet the future of the event is never too stable. The 2019 German Grand Prix takes place on 25-28 July.
Just three venues have hosted the event since its inception in 1926; 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. The Hockenheimring underwent a significant transformation ahead of the 2002 German Grand Prix at the hands of designer Hermann Tilke. The long forest sections of the circuit were removed, reducing the track length from 6.8km to 4.5km. Ron Dennis, McLaren boss at the time commented: “They have cut the heart out of something which was very special, very emotional, something which had its own spirit.”
In 2007, a race-sharing deal was put in place to alternate the German Grand Prix between the Hockenheimring and Nurburgring. This arrangement worked well until 2015, when the bankruptcy of the Nurburgring ruled the venue out of hosting the race. Poor attendances and financial losses sustained in recent races meant that the owners of the Hockenheimring were unwilling to step up at short notice to host the race annually. 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. 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 will never be. His retirement was 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.
An increase in ticket sales for 2018 along with backing from Mercedes, who will be the title sponsor of the race for 2019, means the German Grand Prix will remain on the calendar for now. This year will mark the first time since 2005 and 2006 that Hockenheim has hosted Grands Prix in consecutive seasons. As always, money will be the deciding factor in the long-term future of the event.