‘We wanted to keep old Hockenheimring’ – Tilke

2014 German Grand Prix

Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams, Hockenheimring, 2001Ahead of this weekend’s race at the Hockenheimring, Formula One circuit designer Hermann Tilke has given rare insight into why the circuit was drastically altered in 2002.

The original Hockenheim included two long, flat-out sections leading into and out of a forest. Its high-speed nature was retained despite the addition of chicanes on safety grounds following accidents which claimed the lives of drivers including Jim Clark (1968) and Patrick Depailler (1980).

However in 2002 the track was shortened to two-thirds of its previous length and its long straights largely replaced with slow corners – a move which proved unpopular with some drivers and fans at the time.

In an interview for the official F1 website, Tilke described the reluctance to replace the old Hockenheimring layout.

“There was something very special about it, about how rare its layout was, so we wanted therefore to keep as much as possible of the old track,” he said.

“The original idea was just to broaden the existing track according to current safety regulations, and to keep the track to its original length. At that time the restrictions and possibilities the site offered were not clear however and the idea eventually proved unfeasible.”

A chief obstacle to retaining the old track was the need to avoid cutting down trees and even to “merge the enclosed section of trees with the adjacent forest”.

Start, Hockenheimring, 2002This coupled with the time pressures involved in altering the new circuit between consecutive races in 2001 and 2002 meant efforts to preserve the old track were abandoned. The eventual 4.5-kilometre circuit used little of the original track bar the twisty ‘Motodrom’ section at the end of the lap.

“The new shape followed the obligation of sparing the existing woodland and reducing the area used, while creating a fantastic track popular with drivers and also visitors,” said Tilke.

Another disadvantage of the original layout which the circuit owners wished to address was the high costs of maintaining such a large area of land compared to the limited revenue from spectator admissions. This was also addressed by the revised track.

“With the new layout, we built a new grandstand where one can oversee 90 percent of the new section, with fantastic views of the Parabolika, hairpin and chicane,” said Tilke. “In comparison to the original design, there is an increase in capacity of 37,000 now.”

Read more: Changing tracks: Hockenheimring

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80 comments on ‘We wanted to keep old Hockenheimring’ – Tilke

  1. Evren (@evrenu) said on 15th July 2014, 15:16

    I swear to God if he touches Monza…..

  2. Jon said on 15th July 2014, 16:35

    However much Tilke tries to justify the redesign of Hockenheim the fact remains that the old track was totally unique.there was norhing else quite like it anywhere and that reason alone should have been enough to warrant keeping the layout as it was.Unfortunately the allmighty dollar won out over tradition and history as always happens in F1.I personally believe that he should be publicly flogged at the entrance to the circuit every morning as a warning to others to leave motor racing history alone.

  3. xivizmath (@xivizmath) said on 15th July 2014, 18:17

    It’s still a castrated track, isn’t it.

    It’s a really saddening state of affairs when we have to compromise the pure thoughts of sport, competition and racing with outside matters, such as viewers attendance. Because of that, we have to settle for less and less as the time goes. I know about the innumerable factors that go with the change, such as safety, but at the same time, I feel that manipulating around a special, unique thing should be done the way so that thing resembles the original as much as possible. Sudden change, such as the one that Hockenheim underwent, will just rip the heart out of the whole thing. We wouldn’t want Suzuka to stop being an 8-track, right? I guess you could say I’m an F1 conservative.

  4. Matt (@hamiltonfan1705) said on 15th July 2014, 18:35

    I really hope someday, the old Hockenheim layout is rebuilt and used again for F1 GPs, built to the current safety regulations, because with the modern hockenheim, since I started watching f1 in 2005, apart from 2008, it hasn’t produced very exciting racing.

  5. mfreire said on 15th July 2014, 18:37

    Unfortunately most of the European road tracks that still exist aren’t as great as they used to be. There are still some really good ones- Spa, Monaco, Le Mans, Paul Ricard, Monza, and Imola, to name a few. Over here in North America, however, almost all of the road circuits have basically been unchanged since they were last built in the 1950′s to 1970′s (ex. Watkins Glen, Road America, Mosport, Laguna Seca, Road Atlanta, VIR, Infineon)

    Hockenheim in particular I personally liked because it was very different from all the other GP circuits other than perhaps Monza. Yes, the layout was rather boring and it wasn’t much of a driver’s track- but that’s the point. The one thing F1 needs as a whole is variety, particuarly when it comes to circuits. Hockenheim was a real car breaker- more of a circuit where the team’s effort mattered more than the driver’s. They had to make sure that the car, particularly the drivetrain- would finish the race. It was also hard for teams to set the cars up for that track, as they had to sacrifice grip in the stadium section to go as fast as possible down the straights. No other F1 circuit, really, offered that kind of a challenge to the drivers and teams. Also, there are hardly any low-downforce circuits still used today- only Monza, really.. It was very fast, and thanks to the long straights, it often did produce good racing, often races of atritton- which are usually very interesting and exciting races.

    • mfreire said on 15th July 2014, 18:40

      Also, I believe the old Hockenheim was ditched because the spectator facilities around the track were not good enough, particularly on the far side of the circuit. Apparently, there weren’t any bathrooms at the Ost Kurve or even any facility-exclusive access roads to get back to the main section.

  6. adrianwason said on 15th July 2014, 20:17

    I think that the old circuit always through a spanner in the works.
    I think these comments by Tilke are faintly ridiculous.
    Of course everyone wanted the old circuit, of course everyone wanted the the old nurgburgring.
    I think Tilkes’s comments are made for the public, but we have kept bits of the old spa why not Hockenheim, from a construction point of view I can understand timescales but once again too little too late from Tilke

  7. montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 15th July 2014, 20:20

    “The new shape followed the obligation of sparing the existing woodland and reducing the area used, while creating a fantastic track popular with drivers and also visitors,” said Tilke.

    And I say to Tilke: stop talking rubbish. The new track is the very opposite of fantastic and unpopular with the majority of fans in every poll ever made about the issue of the old vs new Hockenheim

    Just say the truth: the tree huggers have a very strong political influence in that part of Germany so we had to give in to their demands in order to keep some of the track operational. THAT I can understand, even if I will forever hate the new track layout

  8. Nick (@npf1) said on 15th July 2014, 22:26

    While I rationally understand why they had to build the new section and Tilke does come off as having looked into options that were less drastic, I really do miss the old track. The races I saw there weren’t all that (but then, few were between 1998 and 2001) but I really miss having a unique track on there. I personally feel it’s different to Monza because of the chicanes and the stadium section, while Silverstone had even more corners and wasn’t really a low downforce track in my eyes.

    Having to re-plant trees reminds me of the situation at Zandvoort, where the 1999 track actually had a lot of costs going into the re-placement of dunes. Basically every scoop of sand/earth they moved had to be put somewhere else. This is also believed to be the reason they haven’t invested in a new pitlane, because there isn’t any money to remodel the Hugenholz/Hunserug part of the track.

    My head gets it, but my heart surely doesn’t!

  9. The Hock today feels more like an overblown go cart track or an industrial site were there happens to be some asphalt to drive around on. No personality at all. And the short Nurburgring is just as boring.

  10. Schlawiner (@bebilou) said on 16th July 2014, 8:59

    One big issue (among others) with Tilke is that he can’t build a real fast track. Every track is a mix-up between slow, medium and fast corners. Too many slow ones, not enough fast ones.
    He could build something like the old Silverstone (the one used until 1990): 90% ultra fast corners. He could have done that in Bahrain for example, with all the room they had for run-off. He even could have made an ultra fast (yet safe) track with only very fast corners ! But no, again an “average” track.
    There is always a straight, an hairpin, another straight, etc… And maybe 2-3 real fast corners in the middle of that crap.
    In the case of Hockenheim, why did he add this stupid Mercedes complex after the hairpin ? He could have kept a long straight up to Stadium. Why is turn 2 so slow ? He could have made a fast corner, like Copse for example. Ok, he had constraints. But nobody obliged him to make slow corners/complex.

    And why always 4-5km tracks ? Can’t he build a 3,5km short track ? Or a long 7km one ? We need some VARIETY in all of this. All Tilkedromes look like each other: average.

  11. gary said on 24th July 2014, 11:32

    Boring track. Generic at best. Only real part of his comments are more spectators and more money. The only part that I read which had any enthusiasm in it. Rest of it had to be said to preempt the money bit.

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