Why do all motorheads love Germany? Well, there are many reasons like the Autobahn, the birthplace of the major automobile companies, etc. But, there is one more reason why we love Germany and it is the Nürburgring. The Nürburgring Grand Prix racetrack was built in 1984, but the Nürburgring racetrack was first built in 1927, almost 100 years back! The first layout was designed by Hans Weidenbrück, using the rolling hillsides and plateaus around the Schloß Nürburg to create a massive circuit. The Nordschleife track (north loop) runs around the village and medieval castle of Nürburg in the Eifel mountains and measures 20.8 km in length and has more than 1000 feet of elevation change from the lowest to the highest point. There was another loop, Südschleife track (south loop) that was 7.7 km long and the intersection point of the two tracks was shared as the Start/Finish straight, a short link circuit that could also be used, popularly known as the Betonschleife (Concrete Loop) though officially titled as Start-und-Ziel-Schleife.
The Nürburgring was one of two circuits which currently play host to the German Grand Prix, before falling into bankruptcy in 2015. The other circuit is the Hockenheimring racetrack which conducted the Grand Prix races in the even-numbered years, while the Nürburgring took the odd-numbered years. The Nordschleife circuit has been used for 22 F1 Grand Prix from 1951-1976 and takes the 2nd position after the Pescara Circuit in Italy in terms of the longest circuits ever used in F1. After Niki Lauda’s horrific crash in 1976 at the German Grand Prix, where the Ferrari driver suffered major burns to his head, the authorities were forced to restructure the Nürburgring track. This was then followed by a new and manageable track that was inaugurated in 1984 and on an opening day, a star-studded line up of Aryton Senna, Sterling Moss, James Hunt, and Niki Lauda raced around in Mercedes 190 saloon cars to commemorate the occasion.
The circuit has undergone several major changes in its history, from the 22.8 km Nordschleife and 28.3 km Gesamtstrecke to the 5.148km GP-Strecke which is used currently. Before the Eifel Grand Prix of 2020 season in which Lewis Hamilton took the win, the last race that was held at the GP-Strecke was in 2013. The drivers cover a distance of 308.88 km after completing 60 gruesome laps around the GP-Strecke.
The race starts with the pedal to the metal, where all the drivers try to get a perfect start and make up the ground before getting hard on the brakes to enter Turn 1 or the Haug-Haken (Haug-Hook), which is an acute-angled right-hander and was recently added in 2002 to provide overtaking opportunities for the drivers. Exiting the hook, the drivers rush back into a long left-hander (Turn 2) that runs around the Mercedes Arena followed by a short straight and another left-hander (Turn 3), which upon exiting reveals a sharp right-handed Turn 4 which compels the drivers to go hard on the brakes before entering it. It is a fun spectacle to watch the drivers fight and defend their positions from the Mercedes Arena. The exit of the right-hander opens up a straight pasture for the racers to engage in The Flash and zoom down the straight at full speed. Arriving at the end of the straight, the drivers pace themselves for the Valvoline-Kurve (Turn 5), which is a left-hander and upon exiting the Valvoline-Kurve, a short dash to the right-handed Ford-Kurve (Turn 6) is on their plates. Ford-Kurve’s exit opens the gates to heaven, with a long slightly curved straight for the drivers to stretch their legs. At the end of the straight comes the Dunlop-Kehre (Turn 7) hairpin and the racers turn right to enter it and slingshot into the uphill Michael Schumacher S (Turn 8 & 9). These turns are not too curved and at those speeds, essentially combine into a long straight and we rarely see the drivers brake significantly in this patch. The drivers then set their sights to enter Turn 10, which is the 90-degree left-handed Michelin-Kurve. The Michelin-Kurve is quickly followed by a right-handed Warsteiner-Kurve (Turn 11). After the exit from Turn 11, the drivers again are set straight to the right-handed Turn 12, the ADVAN-Bogen. The drivers face no problem at the ADVAN-Bogen and it is quickly out of their sights as they fly through it. The drivers then go hard on the brakes to enter the tricky NGK-Schikane (Turn 13 & 14). Through this chicane, the drivers clip either side of the turns and then get on the gas again for the final turn. The Turn 15 or the Coca-Cola Kurve is a Hungaroring-Esque slow right-hander that ends the lap.
Today, a part of the Südschleife is a part of the public road from Nürburg to Müllenbahc and if you want to take a feel of the old Nürburgring, you can take a drive here. That is if you do not want to pay for racing at the track. The Northern loop or Nordschleife track is still operational but is only used for touring car races that are called the Touristenfahrten. The Nürburgring has been a legendary track since its inception in 1927 and has seen its fair share of criticisms. But, nonetheless, it is an integral part of the history of motorsports and any event here remains one of the greatest spectacles and challenges on the sporting calendar.