Eifel GP 2020 - GP preview - Alfa Romeo
The modern Nürburgring, the GP-Strecke, may be a tricky venue to race, but its challenge pales in comparison to that of the legendary Nordschleife – the 20km-plus, up-to-160-turn monster of a circuit that used to be the home of the German Grand Prix. That layout, used (in various iterations) until 1976, rightfully earned the moniker “the Green Hell” due to the sheer technical, physical and mental challenge it presented drivers with: even at the (more or less so) sedate speeds of a road car driven when the old track is open, it is easy to imagine the contrasting feelings of intimidation and exhilaration that a lap around here would have produced.
Not to be outdone, in more recent times, the “new” Nürburgring created indelible memories on its own: and while the new layout couldn’t match the old one in terms of the bravery it required, there were many breath-taking moments even on the shorter, 5.1km circuit. We had the Luxembourg Grand Prix, the European Grand Prix, the German Grand Prix (and we’ll be adding the Eifel Grand Prix this year). Kimi suffered heartbreak twice, retiring from the lead in both 2003 and, crucially, on the last lap in 2005. 2007 saw a massive storm break over the track as the cars completed the formation lap, rewarding the bold call of Markus Winkelhock, who pitted for wet tyres and went on to lead the race – by quite a margin – on his debut in an unfancied Spyker as his rivals aquaplaned off track in the rain. Things did get crazy, here.
To race modern Formula Ones at the Nürburgring, however, is not just a throwback to the past. Ours is a sport that never stands still, and each new round, even in this topsy-turvy 2020 season, is a new page in the 70-year-old book of racing we’ve been writing: a new qualifying battle, a new race marked by overtakes, pit stops, crashes and near misses, success and despair. A new record, like the one Kimi Räikkonen will set by taking the start of the race on Sunday – his 323rd, nobody before reaching this tally.
It is therefore fitting that, in this venue that mixes past and present and creates new history with every turn, new faces make their first foray into the world of Formula One race weekends at a time when old records are falling. When Mick Schumacher will head out of the garage in Free Practice 1, one of the drivers making his practice debut this weekend, in a venue in which this legendary name won five times, a new generation of racers will start putting ink to paper and writing their story.
This sport never stands still. Even the concrete and tarmac of the Nürburgring itself morphed through time into the track it is today. The legends of today are breaking the barriers of what is possible; the new generations make their first steps, as did their predecessors years ago. The story continues.
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal Alfa Romeo Racing
“It’s nice to return to the Nürburgring, a great venue for Formula One and a word that evokes images of the Nordschleife and a very old-school kind of racing. We saw some encouraging signs in the last few races but you don’t get any points for self-confidence, you get them for top-ten finishes and this is what we need to aim for. We expect the weekend to be colder than what we have experienced so far, so finding the right setup for these conditions will be crucial to be competitive. The Eifel weather is famous for being fickle so that could mix up the cards on Saturday and Sunday and we’ll need to be ready to react to changing circumstances. In the end, we know that we can put two cars in Q2 and that has to be our aim: if we do that, we can play a role in the battle for the top ten come race day.”
“Record or not, I am approaching this weekend as any other because once you’re in the car, it’s pretty much the same. You need to do your job and try to get the best result you can on both Saturday and Sunday: we have made a few steps forward lately but we still need to qualify a bit higher to make sure we can make the most of our race pace. Hopefully we will be able to do it this weekend. I’ve raced here quite a few times, I think I should have won a couple of races but we’ve been a bit unlucky at times, but this is how racing goes. In the end you remember the better memories, so let’s try to make some new ones this time around.”
“The last few races have given us a bit of a confidence boost: we know we are a lot closer to the cars in front of us now and we can be in the thick of the fight if we do our job properly. The key aspect remains to have a good qualifying and a clean execution during the race: if we do that, we can be in the right place when opportunities appear. I have good memories of the Nürburgring: I have raced here in Formula 3 and I have a win and two other podiums to my name. It’ll be nice to be in this venue again after such a long time.”