Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams, Hockenheimring, 2001

‘We wanted to keep old Hockenheimring’ – Tilke

2014 German Grand Prix

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Ahead 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”.

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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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2014 German Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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83 comments on “‘We wanted to keep old Hockenheimring’ – Tilke”

  1. I don’t care about your stupid excuses Tilke, stop ruining fantastic race tracks, stop designing new ones because their rubbish, and retire from F1 now!

    1. Tilke just did his job. It was never his decision wether to keep the old layout or design a new one.

      1. Αbsolutely right….

      2. I think what Uzair Syed was really driving at was for Tilke to stop designing new circuits, and I couldn’t agree more. Many of his new circuits have the long winding, then slow unwinding section of turns at the beginning of the track. They’re low speed and do not promote any passing when coming down the main straight to turn one. They’re worthless. With the exception of COTA, all of his tracks are boring and processional. I agree, Uzair, that Tilke and his designs need to go. He should move into rollercoaster design.

    2. Tilke wasn’t the one who “ruined” the track, it was not his decision to change it so what you say is rubbish…Blame the owners.

      Unfortunately in the real world investors want the best return on their investment. A track that size is rare today, of the few that remain (le mans, spa) you’ll be hard pressed to find one taking up that much real estate for grounds of safety and costs…

      1. Le Mans is the last one left really.. but Le Mans 24 hrs knows it would be nothing if it was changed to running on the Bugatti track… they tried it in F1 for 1967 and nobody liked it.. “mickey mouse” was the term they used!

        1. Compared to Rouen and La Sarthe it was.

      2. 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)

        1. Actually, all the ones you listed have been changed bar Mosport. The glen had the inner loop added, road America has a chicane at the kink now, Laguna Seca had the Andretti hairpin to turn 5 added in the 80’s, road Atlanta added the chicane at the end of the back stretch, VIR had to be entirely rebuilt because it shut down for many years and Infineon has multiple new “safer” layouts. Granted, most still have the old versions available, but they are far from unchanged. Even though Mosport is the same layout, it’s filled with paved runoff, like most circuits with fast corners.

          1. The North American circuits are far from unchanged? I can say that for a lot of European circuits in the 1990’s to 2010. All the North American circuits I listed were changed sometime before that and none as drastically as the European circuits- all of the major North American road courses still in use today have only been modified slightly except for Sebring and Laguna Seca, of course.

            Only American superbikes use the chicane near the kink at Road America; the other series that race there use the original 1955 layout; VIR was closed in 1972 and was rebuilt and opened in 2000 but the multiple layouts it had are still the same when it was originally built in 1957; Infineon had a chicane added in the Esses section but the rest of the track is still the same. The Glen and Road Atlanta had chicanes (Inner Loop and Turns 10A & 10B) added but their 1970’s layouts are still the same as they were before.

    3. I thonk the same. Where the real track are, we Will be thanksfull
      Hockenheim is today like Malaysia or China. Tilke crap. Its like renoveting collesium to Disneyland

    4. Jonathan pòole
      17th March 2017, 12:10

      Totaly agree . It was great for bike racing and slipstreaming . They even had the fast right that f1 drivers had a chicane installed for . World superbikes on the old track was awesome without that chicane as well . I hate all the tracks that f1 visits . There destroyed along with excitement .

  2. Financially what Tilke says does all make sense, its a shame to see the old long sections gone but the new layout is more practical in today’s world where attendance and land size is important to balance.

    It took me a while but I now do enjoy the new track. Of the 2 tracks they visit for the German Grand Prix (Nurnburgring being the other) I do enjoy Hockenheim a bit more…

    It will be interesting to see if no one runs the FRICS this weekend what the Red Bulls can do with their flexing technology…I still doubt much will change at the front.

    1. I think that the track is pretty good for visiting too. Seeing cars come by at full speed in parabolica is amazing and at the hairpin you can really get a beautiful view of how a battle develops. The double loop stadium thing is not great for racing, but on the other hand it does offer good spectator positions.

  3. While I understood that the old circuit needed to be updated to meet the growing challenges around saftey, I never did quite understand why they turned one of the fastest circuits of the season to one of the slowest. I do believe that the new circuit has not developed its own identity beyond the motodrome section which was the feature they kept from the original circuit.
    If done safely, I do think there was a place in modern day F1, for a high speed circuit, its a pity that Hockenheim is not that circuit.

    1. Imagine a Mercedes 1-8.. I’m sure they would have loved that PR!

  4. It’s still not too bad. It has a variety of corners and is quite unique.

    1. It can’t be “quite” unique. It’s either unique or it isn’t.

  5. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    15th July 2014, 12:38

    I’ve always struggled to relate to any sentiment regarding the old circuit. Perhaps the most accurate statement regarding the old track is when Brundle said that it was merely “driving around at a couple of hundred miles an hour waiting for your engine to blow up”. Also from a racing perspective the superiority of teams that had invested more into their engines was verging on the ridiculous, and for example saw Barrichello and Ferrari’s then engine might win from 18th on the grid. For the fans also the old track was awful; in 1998 for example I found myself doing “the golden rain dance” for the entire race due to the lack of loos near the Ost-Curve. The new track, whilst bland, does serve up decent racing (although the on-track action at the Hockeheimring Spec II has historically been better in lower downforce categories such as DTM, F3 and F3000) and is the modern facility (i.e. plenty of loos) that F1 demands. Yes the old track was novel, yes the old track was different, but was the high speed spectacle any better than that we are getting at the Colosseum of speed: Monza?

    1. The old circuit actually did produce good racing, The problem was that the local director usually missed all of it.

      I remember in 1997 the local director spent most of his time watching the top few cars where nothing was going on. However on the Digital PayTV feed plenty of good racing & overtaking was shown & it almost feels like your watching a totally different race when comparing the 2 broadcasts.

      For example pretty sure the local director didn’t show anything of this-

      It was the same in 98/99/00/01, There was a lot of good racing going on which the local director didn’t feel like showing.

      Anothere xample from 2001-
      Think the local director showed some of this one-

      As to Barrichello’s Ferrari winning from 18th on the grid, That wasn’t all down to car/engine performance. The idiot running onto the track which brought out the safety car played perfectly into the fuel strategy Ross Brawn had him on & then staying out on dry tyres in a heavy downpour saw Rubens drive brilliantly to earn that win due to driving brilliantly in those conditions.

      1. @gt-racer

        The idiot running onto the track which brought out the safety car played perfectly into the fuel strategy Ross Brawn had him on

        Which was exactly what the track invader wanted – as I recall he was an unhappy ex-Mercedes employee who wanted to spoil the race for the Mercedes-powered McLarens.

      2. It really seemed that there was a lot of footage held back from terrestrial tv back when Bernie’s digital channel was on the up…

    2. While I disagree as I much prefer the old layout of the Hockenheimring, I won’t quibble with your opinion. We all have them. As for why I liked it, I felt it had a unique character. All of Tilke’s tracks (or nearly) are based on 1 or 2 super long straights and some slower sections. The old track already fit those parameters but it didn’t seem so sterile. Not to me anyway.

      Your example of Barrichello winning from 18th as proof of engine superiority, however, is a bit overstated, I think. While the Ferrari did have a good engine and was a very good car, Rubens won only after MSC crashed out, a safety car period, and staying out on slicks when it started to rain when no one in front of him did. It wasn’t as if he just coasted in on the engine alone.

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        15th July 2014, 16:17

        @hobo – It did have a something of a character, I won’t dispute that, I just found the spectacle of looooooooong straights and popping engines a bit out of place with what I personally associate with F1. I also won’t dispute the rather sterile and bland nature of the Tilke layout, but away from F1, in DTM especially, I can produce good racing, so the fact that I have witnessed some great races in other categories at Hockenheim means the new layout is probably liked by me more than those who have simply watched F1 there.

        Regarding 2000, the safety car period and the decision to stay on slicks navigated Rubens past the McLarens, but on lap 10, having started 18th, was attacking De la Rosa for fourth: that is engine superiority if nothing else. In fact it’s a scenario not unlike the disparity between the modern Mercedes powertrains and those of Ferrari and Renault.

        1. The old Hockenheim circuit does seem to be one of those circuits where the fans seem a lot more enthusiastic for it than the drivers were.

          Brundle himself has stated that he was never that keen on the old circuit since there were very few interesting corners and none that really challenged the driver, putting the emphasis very heavily on the car.
          Similarly, there is a famous clip by James Hunt commentating on one German GP where he makes clear that he also found the circuit boring for much the same reasons, and indeed spent much of the race criticising the track for being so uninspiring and producing processional races somebody had an engine failure.

        2. @william-brierty – I hadn’t thought about the non-F1 use of tracks in F1 track design before. Granted, Hockenheim has been more than F1 for a long time, maybe forever (not sure). But that makes me wonder if other tracks that seem boring for F1 are so because design was compromised or changed to benefit other series.

  6. For all the bashing he receives (most of which is perfectly justified) I think his arguments here make a lot of sense.

    The older circuit went to the unknown after the first corner and there were no grandstands at all. It’d have been an herculean effort to get it up to date, and the resulting track isn’t that bad in my opinion. Sure it lacks the uniqueness of the old one, but you got to move with the times. Had it kept going, maybe we’d not have Hockenheim at all these days.

    Maybe they could’ve done better, preserving the fast nature of the place. Maybe after the harpin they vould’ve headed directly to the Motodrom… but who knows if that would have been possible on safety grounds?

    1. The older circuit went to the unknown after the first corner and there were no grandstands at all.There were grandstands at the 1st 2 chicanes & one which ran for a distance between the 2.

  7. “The new shape followed the obligation of sparing the existing woodland […]”

    I think simply broadening the circuit would have a lesser impact on cutting trees. He almost cut down half of the “inner forest” to build this new circuit.

    It’s what you usually hear from Tilke: If he doesn’t want to be blamed for taking the responsibility for ruining old traditional tracks, he should simply not take over the task and let isomeone else do it. But of course he won’t do that, because I suppose he’s being paid nicely. Instead he tries to justify the alternation of the circuit somehow without coming to the core: I took over the task because of the money involved!

    For me, with the old Hockenheimring, a part of the German motorsport history died too.

    1. He almost cut down half of the “inner forest” to build this new circuit.

      And the trade off was that they had to replant new trees over the old circuits.

      They were always told that if they cut down any trees, They had to replant a certain number for each tree cut & with the old layout there wasn’t the opportunity to meet that obligation due to the limited space around the old loop.

      1. Hm.. in sum both ways, that means cutting a majority of trees and replant a certain amount (new Hockenheimring) and cutting a lesser amount of trees for a broadening of the track, would have had the same effect (in terms of trees around the Hockenheim, though I doubt they actually cared about trees). But arguing too specificially now about it, won’t make any sense.

        After all the argumentations I’ve heard so far from all kind of people involved (politicians at that time, now Tilke etc.) they did not REALLY have an interest to keep the old Hockenheimring.

  8. I have to say that I’ve never been a fan or the 2002 lay-out (and this isn’t nostalgia for the old track talking). Hockenheim still has its unique stadium section, which is nice, but the track I just don’t find that special. So I have since been a lot more fond of the Nurburgring out of the two German tracks. And there was speculation of the German Grand Prix being held at the Nurburgring only from 2015 to 2019. Now don’t shoot me down F1Fanatics, but I wouldn’t lose any sleep if F1 never returned to the Hockenheimring.

    1. Have to say I agree. Every year I say to myself either “Yay this is Nürburgring year” or “Damn this is Hockenheimring year”. I find that the Nürburgring seems to produce more exciting races – maybe it’s just the more exciting track rather than the actual racing (not sure) but that doesn’t change my opinion either way, I know which one I prefer.

      1. Out of the new Nurburgring and New Hockenheim, I actually like Hockenheim. In video games I play, Hockenheim seems to string together right unlike the Nurburgring, but that’s just my opinion.

    2. I agree. I find the track to be largely unremarkable and unmemorable. Of course, that puts it ahead of tracks I actively consider bad, but it puts it well behind the Nurburgring.

  9. Michael Brown (@)
    15th July 2014, 13:00

    I have a nostalgic soft spot for the old Hockenheimring, as it was the first track I drove on in an F1 game (F1 1999 or 2000). I can see why the decision was made to shorten the track, though. Spectators weren’t getting the best value for their money as they only saw a small portion of the track for 44 laps. I’m still conflicted on which German GP track I like more, the new Hockenheimring or Nürburgring. I often practice on the current Hockenheimring in racing sims because it is short and has a good layout for practice.

    1. @lite992: I don’t think the decision for giving the spectators more laps was the right one. I would still rate 44 laps on the old Hockenheimring over 67 laps on the new one. But maybe my view is tainted as I’ve been there with my father in ’99 and have seen and heard the F1 cars flying past with 360 km/h.

      You could say that F1 has been doing it right at that time when fans remember the majestic sound through the forest from a race which has been over ten years ago.

      1. Yes but the track is not just for F1, is it? Do you remember the DTM used a horrible short cut around the back of the pits? And I don’t think you could get there to see anything.
        Also, I seem to remember that two motorcycle sidecar passengers were killed out in the forest in 1998 or thereabouts, and I think that contributed greatly to the argument for alterations.
        Apart from that, if you sit in the Mercedes Benz grandstand now, you get a fantastic view of the track from Turn 4 to about Turn 10.
        Hockenheim is one of my favourite tracks that has almost zero elevation change.

        1. I don’t think it’s fair to argue over Motorcycle (sidecar) racing, as those are genereally more dangerous. They live always dangerous no matter the track. There has been even a MotoGP driver death not so long ago in Malaysia. Does it get alterated because of that? No.

          And yes, I remember the tiny circuit. DTM used the longer circuit and the short circuit once each season. I love the contrast between those circuits.

          But each his own. Watching motorsport live at the track has been dominantely about sound impression for me. If I want to watch as many cars as possible, I tend to view it on TV.

  10. I just wish they had kept the old track like they did at Nurburgring, so that it can still be used if wanted.

  11. It would be interesting what people’s opinions on the circuit would be had it been an entirely new facility rather than being attached to the history of an old circuit. Yes – it’s a shame that a unique circuit was lost in favour of a modern “Tilke-drome” and if it was up to me then it would still be there, but as new circuits go I think it’s pretty good.

    I guess the nature of a boring race means you’ll be unlikely to remember it, and I’m sure there have been several here over the last decade or so, but my current memories of this track are ones of close racing with drivers side by side for several corners on a fair few occasions which is more than can be said for some others.

    They had to work with what they were given and I think they did a good job.

  12. petebaldwin (@)
    15th July 2014, 13:42

    Imagine the old track with DRS…. *shudders*

    1. I don’t think they would use DRS there because the super skinny wings they used to run round Hockenheim had no significant drag to be reduced.

      And because Hockenheim had so many more longer straights than Monza I don’t see them trying to run high downforce & relying on DRS to drop the drag for the speed, Especially since DRS can’t be used outside the DRS zones anymore.

      1. “Un-DRS-able”.. and suddenly the most popular F1 track :P

        1. @fastiesty: After reading your comment, I just imagined a possible track slogan for F1 races at the old Hockenheim: “Visit the F1 German Grand Prix 20XX on the unique Hockenheimring where all those pesky gimmick are useless. Watch the world’s best single seater drivers live.”

          And millions pilgered to see one of the last pure racing events left in the world without any gimmicks after FIA took control over any motorsport event worldwide and ruined it with DRSes in all forms, nitro-boost, spontanousely activated water sprinklers, shortcuts, ejection seats in case a driver complains to the stewards about another driver for not getting a penalty, etc. The possibilities are endless!

          In reality and seriously now, they would slam the DRS zone somewhere between the Senna chicane and the Motordrome. :p

          1. @xenomorph91 Haha yes.. 4 straights to choose from… why not 4x DRS? Double the fun and re-passing of other tracks, if it will work at all. I would have thought first and last long straights.

          2. Michael Brown (@)
            16th July 2014, 18:03

            @fastiesty Knowing the FIA, they would probably do that

  13. Did he intended to keep the old layout in Silverstone too ?

    1. Tilke didn’t have anything to do with Silverstone, The new loop was designed by a UK company called Populous.

      1. Should also be remembered that the new loop at Silverstone was originally designed for the MotoGp bikes because they didn’t want to go through Bridge.

      2. It’s also worth noting those changes managed to preserve the nature of the circuit; it’s still fast and sweeping.

      3. That explains the quality of the work. As much as I was saddened when I heard they will remove one of the iconic parts of the track, I had some hope when I heard it won’t be done by Tilke. And what do you know, when they finally came to race on the new layout, it was actually pretty cool.

    2. Tilke wasn’t involved in the redesign of Silverstone.

      It was a company called Populous

      1. Ah, beat me to it @gt-racer

      2. @gt-racer,@raceprouk,@iamjamm
        I was just searching on the article in which i read that Tilke had something to do with Silverstone, even before the 2010 changes, the layout changed many times and i don’t know which change was performed by Tilke but what i know that in this Autosprint article Alberto Sabatini (if i’m not wrong) says that “Tilke put his hands on the legendary Silverstone and succeeded to ruin it”

          1. @keithcollantine
            Thank you for this piece of information !!! To be honest i have to search more in the old articles that were written before i register on this blog.