Following the drama-filled Russian Grand Prix, the field moves back to Europe for the Eifel Grand Prix, Round 11 of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship.
The original calendar for the 2020 season did not feature a race in Germany, but the coronavirus-induced revision to the schedule has made it possible for the country to join this year’s championship. This weekend’s round will be the 19th Formula One race to be held on the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit. In 1984, 1995-96 and 1999-2007, the circuit hosted the European Grand Prix. It hosted the German Grand Prix in 1985, 2009, 2011 and 2013, and the Luxembourg Grand Prix in 1997 and 1998.
The German Grand Prix was included as part of the new Formula One championship in its second season. However, its history dates back to 1926 when the first ever German Grand Prix took place at Berlin’s AVUS circuit. The inaugural race was won by Mercedes driver Rudolf Caracciola. The next year saw the event move to the Nürburgring Gesamtstrecke. While Mercedes continued to dominate in the first two years, Louis Chiron won in 1929 for Bugatti.
The next years saw the Nürburgring host the German Grand Prix with Mercedes, Alfa Romeo and the Auto Union dominating the races. The World War I put an end to the event in 1940 with the first post-war German Grand Prix being staged in 1950. That event was a non-championship Formula 2 race at the Nürburgring Nordschleife where Alberto Ascari won with his Ferrari.
The race was not held in 1955 while the 1959 event took place at Berlin’s AVUS circuit. The Hockenheimring hosted its first ever German Grand Prix in 1970, starting a period in which the two circuit started to host the race alternately in different periods. Formula 1 last raced at the Nürburgring in 2013.
The famous Nürburgring has different layouts with the Nordschleife representing the most renowned and daunting version. The Grand Prix layout where the field is set to contest this weekend is 5.148km long. The first part of the track features technical, low-speed corners followed by faster turns later in the lap.
The relatively long start-finish straight ends in a downhill section where it is usually a difficult task to pick the right braking spot. Using every inch of the outer kerbs, drivers focus on trying to find the right line for Turn 2 which requires perfect front-end grip. Drivers use the kerbs once again to gain momentum for another slow corner, Turn 3. It is vital to have an excellent exit out of the next bend to carry a good speed on to the following full-throttle section.
Turn 5 opens the middle sector of the track followed by the medium-speed, elongated Turn 6. Following the next curved full-throttle section, drivers have to master the 180-degree Turn 7 where they need to put all their focus on a perfect exit. The road then leads towards a fast chicane, named after Michael Schumacher. The narrow nature of this combination of Turns 8 and 9 means that there is usually only one racing line to pick and a too ambitions approach to the exit of this section can see drivers end up in the gravel trap.
Turn 10 represents another slow 90-degree corner where drivers try to use the outer kerb to maintain a high cornering speed. The next bend is once again all about a good exiting speed as drivers head towards the back straight. In fact, it is a curved section, but it represents the second longest full-throttle section of the circuit.
The NGK chicane, composed of Turns 13 and 14, is a tricky section as drivers are always keen to brake as late as they can following the long full-throttle section, but they also need to keep in mind the high kerbs in the chicane only allow a single racing line, meaning that missing it leads to a significant time loss.
Turn 15 poses the last challenge to the driver by representing the last corner of the track. It is an elongated corner where patience is key to stay attached to the apex and be able to pick up the throttle as early as possible.
With a wide range of corners and no recent information about Formula 1 cars on this track at this time of year, Pirelli has opted to bring tyres that cover the middle ground, to deal with a wide variety of circumstances. It means that the Italian tyre supplier has allocated tyres from the middle of the range this weekend with a C2 Hard tyre, C3 Medium tyre and C4 Soft tyre provided.
Pirelli’s Head of F1 and car racing Mario Isola stressed that the Milan-based company wanted to make sure their tyres can cope with the challenges of the Nurburgring that holds a few unknowns.
“The Nürburgring is practically an all-new venue for us, so we'll be treating it as if we are coming there for the first time in Formula 1, although of course we remember it well and we have raced there many times in other championships. In order to ensure we have everything covered, we’re bringing the three tyres in the middle of our range, which are also well-suited to the varied demands of this track. The frequent rain in the Eifel region also means that the track surface is often ‘green’ and slippery, as any rubber that gets laid down is often washed away.
The weather is set to play a key role over the weekend at the Nürburgring with rain showers expected to hit the circuit on all three days. Unusually cold conditions can be an even bigger issue with the temperatures expected not to exceed 8 Celsius degrees.
„Probably the biggest factor will be the weather, with low temperatures and rain quite likely at this time of year. As a result, the teams might have to deal with some quite unusual circumstances, on a track that they aren’t particularly familiar with. So this is a race that is likely to favour drivers and teams who are able to get to grips with new situations quickly. I think it’s fair to say that we’re set for a race with many variables, where we may even see all five types of tyre that we bring to the grand prix used over the course of the weekend,” Isola concluded.