Start your engines: Formula One at Hockenheimring
It happens one weekend a year. More than just a race, it’s three days of edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting action, with cars reaching speeds of 220 miles-per-hour and accelerating corners in excess of five Gs of force. Racing fans should get primed and ready to witness one of the fastest and most popular international racing events. It’s the Grosser Preis Santander von Deutschland, or German Grand Prix, a series of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship. The 2016 competition is scheduled July 29-31 at the Hockenheimring in Hockenheim.
A Grand Prix Formula One race is truly the racing experience. As the highest class of single-seat, open-wheel racing with the fastest circuit-racing cars in the world, Formula One is undeniably exciting for anyone to witness, no matter the age. The raw energy and sheer power can be physically felt by spectators. Designed with a mix of straightaways, hard corners and curves, most races are held on specially constructed tracks. Others, however, stay true to the origins of Grand Prix with races held on open roads through major city thoroughfares. Valencia, Singapore and most notably, Monaco still host open-road Grand Prix, with the Monaco Grand Prix dating back to 1927. The Formula One racing season runs from March through November, and twenty countries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, North and South America and Australia currently host Grand Prix events.
2012 commemorated 40 years of Grand Prix at Hockenheimring. FIA officials rotate the annual race between the Nürburgring and Hockenheimring, Redesigned in 2001, the circuit was made shorter and faster to stay competitive with other Formula One locations. The changes helped make Hockenheim’s Grand Prix one of the fastest races in the Formula One series.
Spectators may also take part in taxi rides and bus tours of the raceway circuit, live entertainment and lottery drawings for the chance to win special prizes. Hotels in surrounding cities offer package deals with rides to the event. Camping is also available (and traditionally a major party zone) in campgrounds surrounding the circuit. Interested parties should also inquire on available VIP, select hospitality packages that offer exclusive access to the Paddock Club, tours of the pit, fine dining, elegant amenities and a breathtaking vantage point to view the race.
The evolution of Grand Prix and organized auto racing is both exhilarating and spotted with tragedy. As soon as cars were invented, men started racing each other. In the 1890s in France, as auto makers developed more powerful, aerodynamic and supercharged gas-powered cars, the sport of rally and endurance racing from town to town exploded and the earliest form of Grand Prix racing was born. Held on open, public roads, the wildly popular races were a raging force as cars flew through towns, surpassing speeds of 100 miles-per-hour around curves lined with fans. Although exciting, the races were dangerous, with frequent crashes resulting in numerous driver and spectator deaths.
Tragedy does have a way of helping develop better safety measures in auto racing. One such example was the highly publicized 1903 Paris-to-Madrid endurance race. Later referred to by press as “the last great road race,” and “the race of death,” the event was organized by the Spanish Automobile Club and reluctantly by the Automobile Club de France, whose members were already considering the ban of open-road races after previous crashes. Participants included 170 race cars and 54 motorcycles, and hundreds of thousands of spectators crammed themselves along the streets to see what was promoted as the “biggest auto race since the car’s invention.” Not long after the race began, more than half of the drivers slammed into trees, each other and into crowds of fans, injuring at least 100 and killing at least three spectators and five drivers. The race was stopped in Bordeaux before participants could reach the Spanish border. Included in the death toll was Marcel Renault, beloved French auto racer and co-founder of the Renault Corporation. The race cemented France’s decision to ban all open-road races and circuit races were expanded.
Grand Prix circuit racing continued to gain momentum during the 20s and 30s, and became the true predecessor of Formula One racing. In the years leading up to World War II, the FIA, the regulating body of motor sports since 1904, had already considered revising racing regulations to create a world championship league of racing. As early as 1935, a Grand Prix championship was devised, and races ran in Europe each year until 1939 as WWII ceased international sports.
In 1946 after WWII ended, the FIA revisited their previous plans for a Grand Prix World Championship, and revised regulations for several racing classes called “formulas.” Grand Prix retained the highest class, originally called Formula A, which soon became Formula One. A few non-competitive Formula One Grand Prix races took place in 1946-49, and the first Formula One World Championship race was held at Silverstone, U.K. in 1950. Germany was allowed to join in Grand Prix racing again in 1951, and the first German Grand Prix Formula One World Championship took place that year at the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Formula One Grand Prix is not only the world’s most popular racing event, it continues to be a safer experience for drivers and spectators. Since the establishment of Formula One Grand Prix Racing in 1950, 47 drivers have lost their lives on the race track. No drivers have died since 1994, mainly due to FIA’s stringent monitoring of race cars and circuits. Over the years, several circuits have been abandoned or rebuilt to accommodate the ever-evolving, highly developed Formula One race car. With FIA’s continued diligence and the enduring support of fans, Formula One Grand Prix will remain a powerful frontrunner in the history of world racing.
For all things Formula One-- racing stats, driver bios and race coverage, check out www.formula1.com. For more information about the German Grand Prix and to purchase tickets, go to www.hockenheimring.de.