The Nurburgring is one of the most iconic Formula 1 race tracks of all time. It is right up there alongside Monza and Monaco. It also has been immortalised in many documentaries and movies, most recently in the Christ Hemsworth starting Rush which dramatised the 1976 world championship duel between Niki Lauda and James Hunt. The Nurburgring has been classified as one of the most dangerous race tracks in the world as noted in the Netflix documentary Apex. Niki Lauda’s horrific accident at the track in his Ferrari has amplified its legend. The accident was the reason for the deformation on the legendary driver’s face which remained till he died last year.
The track itself has gone through many changes. Originally, its Nordschleife layout was used till 1984 when the modern race track was unveiled which was used till 2013. Sir Jackie Stewart has nicknamed the race track “Green Hell” paying homage the challenge it represents to the drivers and the fact that it is situated near a medieval castle and village in the Eifel Mountains in Nurburg, Germany. This also the reason why the race this weekend is being called the Eifel GP.
In the 60s and 70s, the original Nordschleife layout was notorious for being very dangerous as rainstorms and fog were common. Over the course of its history, the track has been home to fatal accidents that have caused the deaths of over 200 people, including race drivers, officials and spectators.
This year the race will happen on October 4 which is an unusual time the track even though the first race in the modern circuit happened on October 7. Since it is situated in the mountain area, the track will be very slippery and the conditions will be very cold.
In the 90s when Michael Schumacher started to dominate Formula 1, the Nurburgring became home to the second Grand Prix in Germany which was dubbed the European GP. The German GP happened at Hockenheim. In 1997 and 1998, it was home to the Luxembourg GP.
Because of the licensing fee that Formula 1 was charging the track for hosting the race which resulted in high ticket prices, both the German races had started losing money. From 2007, both the Nurburgring and Hockenheim started taking alternating turns for the German GP. This also coincided with Michael Schumacher’s first retirement at the end of the 2006 season who at the time was basically the face of F1 for the world and the main catalyst behind having two races in Germany.
By 2013 it has become unviable that’s why F1 stopped happening at the track and it wouldn’t have returned had it not been for the pandemic which has erased the American and Japanese leg of the season.
Many legendary F1 drivers have found great success at the track. Predictably, the most successful F1 driver of all time Michael Schumacher has won this race the most times. It was not only his home race but played into his strengths as the variable conditions at the track gave him a bigger advantage over his rivals. He won here 5 times. Schumacher first won in 1995 with Benneton and then won again in 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2006 with Ferrari. Schumacher’s team Ferrari which is also the most successful team in the history of F1 is also the most successful team at the track.
The last man to win a F1 race at the Nurburgring thankfully is still on the grid — though he is the unlikely to win the race. It is Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel who won the race in his Red Bull world championship winning car. Current world champion, Lewis Hamilton who is hoping to equal Michael Schumacher’s all time record of 91 race wins won here in 2011 with his McLaren Mercedes. Former two time world champion Fernando Alonso won the race in the Ferrari in 2012.
This weekend Michael Schumacher’s son Mick will be part of the weekend as drives the Ferrari powered Alfa Romeo in FP1. October 4 marks a return to one of the classic F1 tracks of all time.