Will Sebastian Vettel taste home victory on Hockenheim’s return?

Guten tag, Germany… and welcome back.

Hockenheim returns to the Formula 1 calendar after a two-year hiatus this weekend, and what better way to get the German fans through the gates than having one of their compatriots sitting atop the drivers’ championship.

Come Sunday, Sebastian Vettel will be aiming to do what Lewis Hamilton could not at Silverstone – win on home soil.

The headlines were already written for the Mercedes man to claim a record sixth British Grand Prix victory but the prancing horse had other ideas. Instead it was Vettel who held aloft the winner’s trophy to extended his lead this intriguing title race to eight points.

So what does the 2.842-mile Hockenheim circuit bring to the table?

Bust-ups, crashes and emotional drama, it would seem.

Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso on the podium during the German Grand Prix 2010
Ferrari’s team radio to race leader Felipe Massa in 2010 was a classic: “Fernando… is faster… than you.” Alonso went past to take the race win

Situated in the Rhine Valley, the original circuit at Hockenheim took drivers on a flat-out thrill ride through lush, green forests. Throw in some ewoks and a couple of speeder bikes instead of F1 cars, and it could easily have doubled-up as Endor from Return of the Jedi.

In 1982, Nelson Piquet was leading the race for Brabham and looked certain for a podium finish; enter Eliseo Salazar. As Piquet attempted to lap the inexperienced backmarker, a clash of wheels sent the Brabham and ATS into a spin and into retirement. The incident had a glimmer of the Hamilton v Raikkonen, first-lap Silverstone drama about it. The aftermath, however, took a punchier turn.

Brazilian Piquet leapt out of his car like a raging bull, launching himself at the Chilean, fists flying, and with a rather ungentlemanly kick towards a delicate area. If only Instagram had been available back then for these two to sort out their differences.

David Coulthard drives through the forest of the Hockenheimring in 2001
If go down to the woods today… you might find David Coulthard’s 2001 McLaren with a blown engine

The dawn of a new millennium saw another Brazilian make the Hockenheim headlines, this time for the right reasons. Step forward Rubens Barrichello, 122 grands prix into his career and still no victory parade. Starting 18th on the grid and having German legend Michael Schumacher as a team-mate, it didn’t look very promising.

But somehow it all fell into place.

Schumacher went out in a first-corner crash, a track invader triggered a safety car and the heavens opened. All the while Barrichello drove faultlessly through the field before the tears of joy came as he crossed the line for a stirring maiden win.

Two years after that historic moment, the long straights through the forests were given the old heave-ho, with a shorter layout built around the existing stadium section. Take a glance at any fan forums and the post-2002 Hockenheimring doesn’t quite get the same love that the old track once did.

What this weekend surely needs then, is a rousing rendition of pure, unadulterated, patriotic enthusiasm.

Sebastian… are you ready?

Flashback quiz

How many grand prix winners from Germany can you name?

It’s a simple question… with a few very easy answers, perhaps?

Seven German drivers in total have claimed top spot on the podium at various circuits since the 1960s.

There are only two minutes on the clock to guess them all.

How many German winners can you name?

Previously in F1: Round 10, Britain

Lewis Hamilton fans in the stands at Silverstone for qualifying
Best of British qualifying: The crowd only wanted one person on pole for Sunday’s race and they got it. Lewis Hamilton beat Sebastian Vettel in a thrilling last-lap tussle to take his place on the front row at Silverstone
Sebastian Vettel celebrates winning the British Grand Prix at Silverstone
Championship sunny delight: In the heat of the Silverstone sun, it was the blazing red of Vettel’s Ferrari that took the chequered flag. An opening nudge from the wheel of Kimi Raikkonen left Hamilton with everything to do, with the Mercedes man recovering superbly from the back to finish second

The track

A graphic to the Hockenheimring in Germany

Back pocket facts

  • When children start their first day of school in Germany, they receive a schultute, which is a large cardboard cone filled with toys, chocolate and sweets.
  • According to German law, a person’s gender must be obvious by first name, so the civil registration office, or Standesamt, can refuse names that don’t comply.
  • In 2013, Germany dumped the mammoth, 63-letter word Rindfleischetikettierungsuberwachungsaufgabenubertragungsgesetz. It translates as “law delegating beef label monitoring” and despite the German’s love for extended compound nouns, was deemed a tad excessive for the modern language.
  • There’s no middle-lane hogging in Germany. When using the famous Autobahn, motorists stick religiously to the rules of the road: keep as far to the right as possible and use left lanes for passing only.

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