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Eifel Grand Prix - At the Nürburgring seven years on

Maranello 06 October 2020

Formula 1 returns to the Nürburgring after an absence of seven years as part of this unusual 2020 calendar. The Eifel Grand Prix is the eleventh round of the season, named after the mountainous region between Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, close to the Belgium-Luxembourg border. The Eifel is home to the track which hosted the German GP up to 1976 on the long version of the circuit. At almost 23 kilometres long, the hellish Nordschleife was abandoned after Niki Lauda’s accident on 1 August 1976 on lap 2 when his Ferrari 312 T2 hit an earth bank after Bergwerk corner. The Austrian was trapped in his car that then caught fire. The Austrian was saved by the prompt intervention of fellow drivers Guy Edwards, Harald Ertl, Brett Lunger and Arturo Merzario who braved the flames to pull the driver out of the cockpit and drag him to safety.

GP-Strecke. Racing returned to the Nürburgring in 1984, but at the new track known as GP-Strecke. It is definitely less spectacular than its predecessor and today it is 5.148 km long. It is popular with the drivers and has produced some very exciting racing. Scuderia Ferrari has won here six times, to add to the eight wins on the long track. The current layout features several medium speed turns and long straights which is why the aero level tends to be medium. The track rises and falls in several places, following the undulations of the Eifel region. For example, the first braking point is downhill with a very tight and difficult corner. The track continues downhill to turn 8 when it begins to climb back up, culminating at turn 12. From here it is downhill again for a long semicircular section where it is possible to use the DRS. It then climbs to a chicane before the final corner which has often seen some spectacular passing moves, with the other DRS zone being down the start-finish straight.

Temperature. Formula 1 has only raced at the Nürburgring in October twice before, in 1984 and 1995 and it is expected to be quite cold, with changeable conditions, an additional difficulty facing the teams and drivers as they strive to get the tyres and all the car systems to work at their best. 

Sebastian Vettel #5

“We are returning to the Nürburgring which is an unexpected pleasure given that this race was not on the original calendar. Obviously, I’m very happy to be able to race in Germany in front of my home crowd.

I have great memories of the last time we raced here in 2013 and apart from that, it’s an interesting track with a lot of low and medium speed corners, which put a premium on good traction.

Coming to the Eifel region in October, we can expect it to be pretty cold, so getting the tyres to work will be vitally important. I expect that, as usual this season, we will be fighting in the mid-field where every hundredth of a second can make a difference. We will have to take care of every little detail.”

Charles Leclerc #16

"At the start of the season, I would never have expected to be racing again at the Nürburgring. I have not driven a Formula 1 car there, so I’m keen to get out on track and see what its corners are like with the level of downforce these cars have.

One important consideration will be the weather. I remember from previous races there that the clouds are never far away in the Eifel region. Conditions can change from one moment to the next and doing a good job of managing the tyres will also be a key factor. Let’s see what we can make of it."

Ferrari stats

GP contested 1001

Seasons in F1 71

Debut Monaco 1950 (Alberto Ascari 2nd; Raymond Sommer 4th; Luigi Villoresi DNF)

Wins 238 (23.78%)

Pole positions 228 (22.78%)

Fastest laps 254 (25.37%)

Podiums 772 (77.12%)


GP entered 38

Debut 1951 (Alberto Ascari 1st; José Froilàn Gonzalez 3rd; Luigi Villoresi 4th; Piero Taruffi 5th; Rudolf Fischer 6th)

Wins 14 (36,84%)

Pole positions 13 (34.21%)

Fastest laps 15 (39.47%)

Podiums 41 (107,89%)

Focus: firing up a Formula 1 engine

Who fires up a Formula 1 engine? For years, we had grown accustomed to seeing the driver twirl a finger in the cockpit in a signal to a mechanic to insert the starter at the back of the car to turn the engine over. It’s no longer always done like that as some constructors including Ferrari, have a system that allows the driver to do it himself.

For the past few years, the Maranello PU can be fired up by the driver using energy from the MGU-K, both in the pit garage and out on track. In a way, the driver is doing the same as any motorist does with their road car, turning a key or more commonly now, pressing a remote. In truth the racing drivers complete a sequence of tasks, but the method is substantially the same.

It’s a small point but an important one. This was seen during qualifying for the Russian GP a fortnight ago, in the exciting closing moments of Q2. After the red flag caused by Sebastian Vettel going off track, there was just 2 minutes and 14 seconds remaining to squeeze in one last run and at Sochi, a normal out lap takes between 1 minute 50 and 2 minutes 20. It was enough for some drivers but not for all 14 that were still in the running. At this point, position in the pit lane exit became very important as explains Iñaki Rueda, Head of Race Strategy.

“Most of the teams had decided to send their drivers out to the end of the pit lane, quite a while before knowing when the session would restart, because they knew that track position was important. That’s what we did with Charles. Once he was in the queue, he was able to switch off the PU and wait for the restart procedure to begin, being able to fire up the engine again on his own, without external help. Other cars also queued up but they had to keep the motor running as the driver did not have the means to fire it up. The wait went on for a while and the operating temperatures got perilously high, some had to return to the garage and give up on improving their lap time. Others even chose to stay in the garage until the restart time was announced and then tried to make up the time on track. A driver being able to fire up the engine on his own can also be useful in other situations. For example, if a driver goes off the track and the engine stalls, he can start it up again, as happened to Charles in Spain. It also means that you no longer have to take the starters onto the grid before the start, which means you operate more efficiently, given the limit on personnel numbers. This feature can not only save time, it can also save your race!” Ferrari began working on this system back in 2017 and it took plenty of work in terms of refining the hardware, especially in terms of how much torque was required to do the fire up and therefore how strong to make the MGU-K and the starter motor gears, which would be subjected to unexpected stress and a moment of high vibration. The software also had to be adapted to manage the procedure correctly and most important, reliably. It is now a standard feature and its usefulness has been proven yet again.

Russian GP Facts & Figures

6. The versions of the Nürburgring track that Formula 1 has raced on since 1951. The first Nordschleife was 22.810 kilometres long, but in 1967 the final part of the track was changed. After the Galgenkopf corner the drivers accelerated flat out for over four kilometres and crossed the finish line at frightening speeds. To slow the cars near the pits, the Hohenrain chicane was introduced, extending the length to 22.835 kilometres. In 1984 came the new GP-Strecke, 4.524 kilometres in length, then 4.556 in 1995. In 2002, the new Mercedes Arena zone was added taking it to 5.146 kilometres, while the following year it was established at 5.148.

7. The current drivers who have raced in Formula 1 at the Nürburgring before. Kimi Räikkönen has competed nine times, his best result being a second place the last time it was on the calendar, back in 2013. Lewis Hamilton has raced four times, with one win in 2011. Sebastian Vettel won in 2013, was second in 2009 and fourth in 2011. Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez have both raced here twice in 2011 and 2013 and finally, Valtteri Bottas and Romain Grosjean, just the once in 2013.

9.2 degrees Celsius being the average temperature around the Nürburgring for the second week in October. Data going back to 1981 for the village of Nürburg has a temperature range from 5.9 to 12.5 degrees. The coldest and hottest temperatures recorded in this period over the past forty years are -5.3 and 25.2 degrees.

47. The German drivers who have taken part in at least one Formula 1 Grand Prix. Four of those have also raced for Scuderia Ferrari, including the most successful of all, Michael Schumacher with his seven world titles and 91 victories, 72 of them with the Maranello team. Then comes Sebastian Vettel, on 14 out of 53 wins with the Scuderia and the team’s third most successful driver after Schumacher and Niki Lauda. Then there’s Wolfgang von Trips, a two-time winner with Ferrari who died at Monza in 1961, while he was battling team-mate Phil Hill for the world title. Finally, there was Kurt Adolff who took part in his only Formula 1 Grand Prix actually at the Nürburgring in a Ferrari 166 entered by Ecurie Espadon, retiring with transmission failure after three laps.

1925. The year building of the Nürburgring began. Its architect, Gustav Eichler took his inspiration from the Targa Florio track to create a circuit that, because of its difficulty, would favour the greatest drivers and the strongest, fastest cars. The ground was broken in September and the inauguration took place in the spring of 1927 with the ADAC Eifelrennen on 18 June. It was a motorcycle race won by Toni Ulmen who also raced in Formula 1. Then on 19 June, Rudolf Caracciola was the first racing driver to win at the Nürburgring. 

This week in our history

6/10. In 1918, the Belgian Theodore Andre Pilette was born in Paris, France. He was a versatile driver who finished sixth in the 1956 Belgian Grand Prix driving a Ferrari. He also won several endurance races, the highlight being a second place in the 1960 Le Mans 24 Hours, partnered with Mexican Ricardo Rodriguez at the wheel of a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa entered by NART, the North American Racing Team. Pilette died on 27 December 1993 at Etterbeek at the age of 75.

7/10. The 2007 Chinese Grand Prix was held at the Shanghai Circuit with Kimi Räikkönen winning for Ferrari. He profited from a mistake from his title rival Lewis Hamilton who went off on the wet track at the entrance to the pit lane, with his McLaren ending up stuck in the gravel. It put Kimi back in the title race, with Hamilton still leading on 107 points, from Fernando Alonso on 103 and the Finn on 100. The final round, a crazy Brazilian Grand Prix saw Kimi stage a remarkable comeback to be crowned champion.

8/10. In 2000, Suzuka staged the penultimate round of the season, the Japanese GP. It delivered a fantastic duel between Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari and Finland’s Mika Hakkinen in the McLaren, who went into the lead at the start. The positions remained unchanged even after the first pit stops and on lap 37, the McLaren made its second refuelling and tyre stop. Schumacher had enough fuel to stay out three laps longer and banged in incredible lap times that saw him emerge from the pit lane ahead of his rival. The Finn tailed the German to the line but never posed a threat. For Schumacher it was his third world title, his first with the Scuderia, the first time the team had won since Jody Scheckter did it in 1979. It was only seven in the morning in Italy, but it seemed like rush hour in Maranello. All the fans were out celebrating and the church bells rang, as a red dawn, a Ferrari dawn greeted the day.

9/10. In Canada in 1977, Scuderia Ferrari entered three cars in a Grand Prix for the very last time. A 312 T2 number 11 for Niki Lauda, the champion elect, the number 12 for Carlos Reutemann and then the 21 for the youngster Gilles Villeneuve on his debut with the team, who had previously only taken part in one race, the British GP with McLaren. However, only two cars would appear on track as Lauda had fallen out with the Scuderia and had concerns about safety.

10/10. In 1930, Eugenio Castellotti was born in Lodi, Italy. He was very quick and particularly outstanding in endurance racing. At just 21 years of age, in 1952, he won the Coppa d’Oro in Sicily in a Ferrari 225 S, while in 1956 he triumphed along with Juan Manuel Fangio in the Sebring 12 Hours in an 860 Monza and then in the Mille Miglia with a 290 MM. In January 1957 Castellotti also won the Buenos Aires 1000 Kms. He also drove in 14 Formula 1 Grands Prix, 11 in a Ferrari, including finishing third in the 1955 Italian GP and second in France in 1956. He died on 14 March 1957 during a test at the Modena track.

11/10. The Marquis Alfonso de Portago was born in London in 1928. He was the first Spaniard to stand on a Formula 1 podium, finishing second in the 1956 British GP at the wheel of a Ferrari. De Portago was known as an endurance racing expert, winning the Circuit of Porto in a Ferrari 857 Monza in 1956 and the Tour de France Auto in a 250 GT, which he also used to win the Coupe de Vitesse at Montlhery in 1957. His name is inevitably linked to the accident that same year at Guidizzolo, near Mantua which put an end to the Mille Miglia, after which the Italian government banned all racing that did not take place at a circuit. In the crash at Corte Colomba, caused when a tyre failed, the driver and co-driver Edmund Nelson were killed along with nine others, including five children.