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F1 History 20

The old new Nürburgring

I see that in a rare moment of apparent indecision, Bernie Ecclestone has been doing a spot of back-pedalling since suggesting last week that he might be minded to buy the Nürburgring, the debt laden venue of the German Grand Prix, at least in those alternate years when it is not being held at Hockenheim. Last week he said it was ‘quite possible’ that he might buy it, but this week that position has been modified to one where it ‘isn’t practical’ for him to take it on.

history  The old new Nürburgring

Even so it looks more likely than ever that the ‘Ring will be saved as rumours abound about possible tenders from Red Bull’s Dietrich Mateschitz, the German version of the AA (ADAC) and the current boss of the Nürburgring Jorg Lindner. Bids need to be in September so hopefully the circuit’s agonies, upon which I was reporting on this site almost a year ago, will be over by Christmas.

In the meantime I have been interested to hear how drivers love racing at the ‘Ring. Not the original Nordschleife you understand, but the new circuit built on the old Sudschleife and upon which cars have been racing for almost 30 years. This means that most of the current F1 crowd weren’t even born when it first opened its doors in 1984.

history  The old new Nürburgring

It is fascinating to compare and contrast attitudes to the track then and now. Lewis Hamilton has described it as ‘one of the classics’ while Mark Webber described it as ‘a beautiful little circuit for us to drive on so I think all the guys enjoy driving here’. Fernando Alonso said he liked it because it combined every kind of corner a driver wanted to find on a track. Bear in mind too the significance of those doing the talking: three of the most unreconstructed racers on the grid.

Rosberg’s view, however, was rather different. He said he’d have been more excited playing snooker than driving around the track. This, however was not Nico Rosberg talking after the 2013 German Grand Prix, but Keke Rosberg after the 1984 European Grand Prix, the first to be held at the new track.

history  The old new Nürburgring

Our own Denis Jenkinson had some delightfully trenchant views when he reported back from the first German GP held there the following August. ‘In the past there have been some memorable “Grosser Preis von Deutschland” on the mighty Nürburgring but the best we are going to get on the new (Mickey Mouse) Nürburgring are going to be “forgettable.”’ He considered the Grand Prix a ‘shadow of its former self’ and concluded that ‘I don’t think very much adrenalin flowed either on the track or among the handful of spectators.’

Like all things, perspectives are relative. Today amid a sea of Tilke-designed tracks, the now old new Nürburgring may indeed appear a classic. But in a season that visited Estoril, the original Paul Ricard, Ӧsterreichring, Brands Hatch, Zandvoort and Kyalami it’s not hard to see how a track designed to replace the most revered circuit in the world was always going to pale into anodyne insignificance by comparison.

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history  The old new Nürburgring

Add your comments

20 comments on The old new Nürburgring

  1. John, 9 July 2013 09:19

    In relation to modern circuits (flat, featureless car parks), it looks like one of the more fun circuits to drive. In relation to its big brother, it looks like the template Tilke uses to dream up his latest creations.

  2. Pat O'Brien, 9 July 2013 11:29

    Tanks, Andrew. On Sunday I was thinking to myself that this track isn’t as sterile as I remember it. I’ve been Tilked!

  3. C C, 9 July 2013 11:51

    Yep, the Track is a classic. Its always had people against it purely becuase it sits in the shadow of its big brother to which it cannot be compared.

    You look at other tracks on the Calender nowadays and the ‘new’ Nurburgring trumps most of them. It has gradient, variable weather, a crowd tend to turn up, it ‘flows’ and yes, even has gravel traps at quite a few corners to punish mistakes. Ok, the new ‘Tilke inspired’ bit at turn one is a joke and should never have been put in (Hairpin..Yawn..switch back..yawn.. tarmac run-off..groan..), but other than that its a little belter.

    After Tilke butchered Hockenheim, its the best German GP venue.

    I guess when the track was built, it had to fit in amongst the likes of Imola, Kyalami, Brands Hatch, Ostereichring..etc. Now all those tracks have been cut from the Calender, the Nurburgring seems like a throw back to a bygone age.

  4. Alex Kinsman, 9 July 2013 12:18

    Great piece, with one unusually glaring error.
    The circus didn’t visit Paul Ricard in 1984, but instead had its last trip to Dijon.
    Interestingly, Ricard was also another track slated upon introduction compared to other venues (Rouen, Clermont Ferrard, Reims…) but which grew to be accepted and enjoyed.

  5. Peter Bowyer, 9 July 2013 12:38

    Having raced both tracks at the same time – the GP track is used so that there are pits for when the Nordschliefe is used – all that I can say is that the new part is like a motorway slip-road – you get it over and done with as quickly as possible so as to get out onto the real thing.

    I have also raced at Spa several times – which pales into virtual insignificance against the ‘Ring – but against any other track Spa is the master and the new Nürburging is pallid in comparison.

    OK, I have been lucky enough to race at the two best tracks in the world – but that doesn’t mean to say that all other tracks should not even try to make themselves equally as interesting for the drivers and spectators. The key is having hills, the new ‘Ring has them and that makes it interesting when compared to most other modern tracks but with at least one modern track – Texas – Tilke has manged to include some elevation changes and the result is good.

    Is it really that simple?

  6. Terry Jacob, 9 July 2013 12:41

    It’s still not THE Nurburgring .

  7. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 9 July 2013 14:49

    I recall watching that first race in 1984 on tv and can understand why Keke had those thoughts. I also recall reading Jenk’s views in Motor Sport Magazine back then too.

    The original Flying Finn was used to places like the original Osterreichring, Kyalami, Zandvoort, Brands Hatch, Interlagos, Imola, etc.

    In addition, he raced on some of the same ‘fun’ North American circuits as Gilles Villeneuve in Formula Atlantic.

    Having said that, Keke also had to ‘race’ in places like:

    - a Las Vegas parking lot;

    - Zolder;

    – a fair ground that crumbled under his winning Willaims Deep in the Heart of Texas.

    So, it wasn’t all and “Grosser Preis” and “Grandes Epreuves” only back then!

    Times change and drivers and their contexts change.

    In those days, Montreal was nothing. Now it’s supposedly a “classic”. Ditto this new Nurburgring.

    The Monacos and the Monzas remain as extreme now as they were then, basically.

    Thankfully there are still the Suzukas, Spas, Interlagoses and the new COTAs/Austins still.

    Lastly, not all Tilke tracks are Junk…

    Austin and Istanbul prove/proved that some Tilke circuits have/had much more meat on them than some of the crap ciruits thak Keke had to drive on (Zolder, Vegas, Dallas).

  8. Ray In Toronto, Canada (Ray T (The other one)), 9 July 2013 15:00


    I understand the Nordschleife would have been astoundingly challenging (I’ve only ‘driven’ it in Grand Tousimo 5 or somesuch)…

    …but how much fun would it be for someone paying 200 Euros to see the cars go by only 12 times or so while the Continent is in recession?

    As I recall, the 1961 GP which Moss won was a 15 lap race and you could see your favourite drivers only once per 9 minutes.

    That wouldn’t work now.

  9. kowalsky, 9 July 2013 16:05

    what do you think Denis Jenkinson would think about drivers menacing to boycott a gp at the new nurburgring, just because some tyres blew up. I imagine the same as me.

  10. Jonesracing82, 10 July 2013 07:44

    the fact the the ‘new’ ‘ring is spoken about positively by the drivers now but was considered dull & featureless in the mid 80′s perhaps says alot about the rest of the tracks F1 now races at compared to yesteryear….

  11. Andrew Frankel, 10 July 2013 09:07

    To Alex Kinsman – was referring to comments made by DSJ following the August ’85 German GP, a season in which they did indeed travel to Ricard.

  12. Steve W, 10 July 2013 10:03

    kowalsky, I remember reading that the the same Denis Jenkinson “boycotted” the 1970 German GP at Hockenheim because the Nurburgring was considered unsafe until some safety modifications were carried out. He attended an F2 race at the ‘Ring instead. And this was the old glorious Hockenhiem, by today’s standards…

  13. kowalsky, 10 July 2013 16:30

    steve w.
    Do you even consider nurburgring 1970 was close in danger factor to the 2013 gp at the new nurburgring.
    If niki lauda had his 1976 accident today, he would be going upset but unscatched to the ferrari hospitality
    just one thought, if you were a driver, and had to race in a gp, let me guess with one you rather race at. Even with a tyre not 100% safe.
    bingo!!! youy chose 2013.

  14. ray fk, 10 July 2013 18:42

    This circuit was rubbish in 1984 and it’s still rubbish in 2013.Today’s drivers saying this is a classic just goes to show that the modern F1 calendar is now littered with the worst circuits in F1 history.The drivers of F1 should be judged by the circuits that they had to drive on and if I had a top ten then all my drivers would come from the pre Senna era rather than the post Senna era.As for tarmac run-off I’ve said it before that this should only be used at the end of a straight.Putting it on a corner it simply becomes a ‘driver aid’.

  15. Terry Jacob, 11 July 2013 11:45

    Jenks was right ……………..And just because most tracks opened in the last thirty years have been ‘Mickey Mouse ‘ rubbish still doesn’t make the current Nurburgring a ‘classic ‘.

  16. Lewis Lane, 11 July 2013 21:39

    The biggest problem i have with the “new” circuit is the missed opportunity when it was built. It’s always baffled my why it was decided to destroy the Sudschleife in the process, and not either use part of that in the rebuild, or to create a link between sections of the Nordscleife to form a new layout on that side. The full ‘ring should have been preserved, in my opinion. Never understood why they chose to destroy the place…Does anybody know? I think that compared to some of the circuits we’ve seen since ’84, it’s not too bad, but it’s not exactly a classic…For some reason, i’ve always thought of Nivelles every time f1 goes there.

  17. Carlos Sanchez, 12 July 2013 09:00

    Quite honestly I just think it is an offense to call this Mickey Mouse modern circuit with the name of the original thus consequently degrading both, and we can see that with the economic flop that the venue as a whole is/faces nowadays.

    The post 1984 track can be called the Nurburg circuit, while the original and true ‘Ring’remains and always will be the Nurburgring, period.

  18. Rich Ambroson, 15 July 2013 18:18

    While I don’t really consider the track to be Mickey Mouse (in comparison with the average fare in GP these days, or like the Las Vegas parking lot venue from the early 80s… ahem…) it is in no way a classic. Better than the average Tilkedrome (Istanbul, Austin and perhaps Malaysia apart), sure.

    A classic?

    No. Not at all.

  19. Brett, 31 August 2013 02:20

    Gordon Murray once quipped a term – ‘wing and slick tyre technology’.

    If the FIA had had forethought – difficult for politicians – both would not have flourished too far. Both made F1 & Sports Cars far more hazardous than before.

    And an irrefutable question now lingers; would the astounding circuits once used still be in use, had F1 had to contend only with mechanical grip?

    Spa Francorchamps.
    Watkins Glen.
    Brands Hatch.
    Paul Ricard.

    No doubt, I have forgotten others. Possibly Targa Florio, the Mille Miglia.

    Some are still used, but horribly mutilated with chicanes & slow areas; Monza, Monaco, Le Mans, Silverstone…

    In saying all that, I would applaude the present cornering ability F1 cars, if the cars did NOT have to contend with ‘dirty air’ or ‘the marbles’. Both of these are passing inhibitors.

    A thought for the electronically minded; magnets under the cars & a corresponding magnetic tarmac.

  20. Kaj, 22 February 2014 18:38

    Unfortunatelly now only in Polish, but I would like to encourage you to visit a site devoted to Nurburgring History – because I have spent a lot of time collecting historical materials & films.

    Here are direct links:


    You ca use google translator at this moment.

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