Surprises are in the air on the Ring in ‘the Siberia of Germany’



For the first time since 2013, there will be another grand prix at the Nürburgring. Two thirds of the field will drive a Formula 1 car for the first time, but for René de Boer the circuit in the Eifel has no secrets.

The Dutchman, who lives in Germany, is a freelance motorsport journalist and public relations officer in global motorsport. He is part of the press team of the German Touring Car Championship DTM and in that capacity has often worked at the Nürburgring. He has been at home there for 25 years.

The Nürburgring has an illustrious motorsport history, but the grand prix is ​​on a modern Formula 1 circuit. How do you characterize the job?

“You have to think of the Nürburgring as a complex with two circuits: the ‘Nordschleife’ and the grand prix circuit that has existed since the eighties, a normal track as you can find it all over the world, with run-off lanes and gravel bins. Nice, but not challenging. Nothing special. It is located in a remote, relatively inhospitable and hilly area. “

“The Nordschleife is legendary. A twisting circuit of more than twenty kilometers, built a hundred years ago as an employment project. 73 curves and enormous differences in height. Many fatal accidents have happened. One of the victims was the ‘racing squire’ Carel Godin de Beaufort. The Niki Lauda’s crash in 1976 is also on everyone’s mind. “

Why do many drivers consider the Nordschleife the most beautiful circuit in the world?

“Because of the difficulty. It is exciting, difficult and dangerous. You need hundreds of laps to master the curves and that fires the imagination.”

“You can also drive a round with your own car here for a fee. That is also unpleasant. Many motorists suddenly start behaving like a driver, without having the car control that goes with it. That often goes wrong.”

There are still races on the Nordschleife. The organization is already dreaming of a Formula 1 race. Is that possible?

“Recently there was a 24-hour race. A special event, but the fastest Le Mans cars are not allowed to participate. Far too dangerous. The organization is doing everything to make the circuit safer, to reduce lap times and prevent it. that cars end up in the thickets. But I don’t see a grand prix happening on the Nordschleife. “

“Theoretically it is possible if you adjust some bumps and steep walls, but twenty cars on a twenty kilometer circuit means you see a few every minute. It’s spectacular to drive a Formula 1 car here, but whether it will lead to exciting races, I dare to doubt. “

In September you worked here with the public for two weekends in a row. Did you like that?

“There were 2,500 people admitted to the DTM races every day, but there was no mood. Normally this touring car championship is accessible. Fans are allowed to come almost everywhere and there are activities, such as meetings with drivers. Not now. they were allowed to walk in their grandstand. “

“It was very sterile and scary. You didn’t meet anyone, couldn’t drink coffee together. The social aspect was gone. Formula 1 is even more distant. It is a circus that settles down, does its trick and leaves again.”

This weekend, thousands of Formula 1 fans are welcome, while the number of corona infections is rising sharply. Is that safe?

“I think so. The terrain is so gigantic that you can easily guide a stream of people in the right direction. The circuit is vast, there are many seats and keeping a distance of a meter and a half is fine. The Bundesliga also plays football with eight to twelve thousand supporters. per stadium. “

It is surprising that Formula 1 is back in Germany. After all, the popularity of the sport is waning.

“It was not foreseen that Formula 1 would return. It was over and out. But the Formula 1 leadership was looking because of corona circuits in Europe where a race could be held. The Nürburgring met the conditions. A great opportunity. There is normal. We can’t find a party that wants to organize a Formula 1 race here. The chances of running profitably are nil. Hockenheim is also close to death financially. “

“The time of Michael Schumacher will never come back. He was the first German to become so great in this sport, comparable to what Max Verstappen is now doing in the Netherlands. Despite four world titles, Sebastian Vettel never managed to get out of that shadow.”

How is it possible that the circus has settled in the Eifel? The Ring was as good as underneath, wasn’t it?

“Yes, a lot has happened here. The previous director came up with a megalomaniac plan about fifteen years ago. A huge amusement park including a rollercoaster that should go faster than a Formula 1 car. It has been built, but has never ridden. Too dangerous. They couldn’t do it technically. “

“There is also a huge amusement arcade that is usually empty. The Ring Boulevard, which they dreamed of car manufacturers to set up luxury showrooms, also failed to get off the ground. It has been filled up with racing team cars. Otherwise it looks so shabby. “

In the end, the piece ended on dubious, shadowy flows of money. The operating company went bankrupt. The fact that Formula 1 is here now is due to a Russian who bought the lot with his investment vehicle. The Ring has been kept, but hung by a thread for a long time. “

Sebastian Vettel describes the Eifel as the Siberia of Germany. Will it be haunted during the grand prix?

“It’s a nice, fitting comparison. The weather can change quickly here. Sunshine, fog, rain, hail, snow, abandoned races – I’ve seen it all here. Surprises are always in the air. That makes the Ring exciting.”