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German GP Memorable Moments: Part 1

Feature 02 Jul 2013, 16:42 IST

The Green Hell

This is the name Sir Jackie Stewart gave to the old Nurburgring. Although Formula 1 stopped racing on the 14.8 mile Nordschleife more than 35 years ago after the accident in which Niki Lauda lost his life, the circuit near the Eifel mountains still holds a special place in the hearts of the fans. Since its inception it is considered as one of the most fearsome tracks in the whole world along with Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

Niki Lauda at Nurburgring

We return to the Nurburgring after two years due to the alternating pact between this track and Hockenheim for hosting the German Grand Prix since 2007. The track on which the drivers will race on Sunday can be said to be a shadow of the old Nurburgring but still with its fast corners and undulations it provides an interesting, albeit less fearful challenge nonetheless.

Since the 80s, the new shorter Nurburgring has hosted the European Grand Prix on quite a few occasions but as we are dealing with the German Grand Prix here, we shall shelve incidents from the past races with the nomenclature of the old continent for sometime later.

After Germany were defeated in World War II, they were banned from international motor-racing for many years to come which resulted in the first German Grand Prix not being held before 1951. In the earlier years, the Ring used to host the German Grand Prix with an exception being 1959 when the race was held around the very fast AVUS track in Berlin. Interestingly, that was the only time AVUS hosted an F1 race.

During the later years when safety concerns started rising with Sir Jackie Stewart leading the way, Nurburgring was deemed too dangerous, and a much safer track at Hockenheim was used. The Ring then underwent major modifications to meet the safety standards, thus clawing its way back into the F1 calendar.

Even the Hockeheimring went major changes in the early part of the 21st century, but they were down to different reasons which we shall come to know about in due course.

Fangio proving why he is the best

Juan Manuel Fangio – Winning the 1957 German Grand Prix

The victory for Juan Manuel Fangio at the 1957 German Grand Prix went down in history as one of the most sensational ever. Having decided before the race to go for softer tyres and less fuel mandating a pit stop, he was around a minute behind the two non-stopping Ferraris after exiting the pits, an unexpectedly big gap.

The pit stop went haywire when a mechanic let a nut run under the car while changing a wheel. It took the crew 30 seconds to find it – the time the complete pitstop should have taken!

Never mind, after a full minute or so, Fangio started the pursuit of the Ferraris. He broke the lap record 9 times during the next few laps with 7 of them being on successive laps – mind you, around a 22.7 km lap with 160 corners. Finally, on the penultimate lap, Fangio got the better of the two Prancing Horses and took the lead, never to relinquish it again – overtaking the second Ferrari with two wheels on the track and the other two on grass.

After the race, Fangio said: “I was stretching myself to the limit, until that race I had never demanded more of myself or the cars. Whenever I shut my eyes it was as if I were in the race again, making those leaps in the dark on those curves where I had never before had the courage to push things so far.”

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