New track. Same old story.

Sochi – with the majority of February’s Winter Olympic venues still standing in all their glory – may have provided an intriguing backdrop to Sunday’s inaugural Russian Grand Prix, but as with so many of the newer circuits to have graced the Formula One calendar over the years, in the end it flattered only in its deceptiveness.

The problem Sochi had, as with so many of the more modern breed of Hermann Tilke-designed racetracks, is that the venue just doesn’t feel like it should be playing host to a motor race. Aesthetically, the circuit is bland, and the layout, as has sadly become a Tilke trademark as time has gone on, feels too clinical.

When you think of a classic racetrack, a Silverstone, a Spa or a Suzuka, you think of long, sweeping bends, vast elevation and spectacular, flat-out blasts. But most importantly, the layouts feel right. They feel like places where Grand Prix racing should be held. They follow the natural contours of the land, and whilst certainly a romanticised exaggeration, you feel as though you’re watching a road wind a path where farmers used to walk their cows, before the motor industry arrived and took its hold.

The issue that this new, 21st century generation of circuits have is that they give off the very whiff of being built by setsquare. You get the sense that Tilke sits down with a blank piece of paper, ruler and pencil in hand, and sketches something that resembles a track without looking at the land that he has to play with. He sets out to design a challenge, whereas the classic circuits can catch drivers out with their natural landscapes, and as a result you end up with a finished product that looks disjointed and ungainly.

That’s not to say that Sochi doesn’t have anything going for it. The fast, right-hand sweep that starts the lap looked spectacular – helped in part by FOM’s brilliantly-placed camera on the inside kerb – whilst the never-ending left-hander at turn three was a proper old school corner that made for some thrilling action (Jean-Eric Vergne’s stunning move around the outside of Kevin Magnussen a case in point). But those flashes of brilliance, as is the case all too often with Tike’s portfolio, are lost in a river of mediocrity.

A series of frustrating, 90-degree right-angles that prove all too common a feature of modern tracks, the dreaded adverse camber section that is designed to catch out a driver, but in reality does nothing but infuriatingly force the field to play an elongated game of follow the leader and kill off any chance of an overtake into the following bend. These make an all too familiar and unwelcome appearance, as they do at other recent arrivals such as Abu Dhabi, Korea and India.

The two main overtaking points on the track – the run to turn two and the back straight into turn 13 – could both be improved significantly, the former by reconfiguring it into a tighter and more conventional chicane, similar to the final corner at Montreal, whilst the latter, which had the potential to be a haven for overtaking, was far too tight, which when added to the kink just before the braking zone (admittedly unavoidable due to lack of space) prevented much in the way of wheel-to-wheel action.

Similarly, if turns four and five had been opened up with the inside kerbs removed, there lies the potential for a proper flat-out, balls to the wall style run into turn six, which with the extended and quicker approach, would in itself become a third potential passing place. One of the major flaws with Valencia, which is repeated here, is the tendency for a huge section of run-off to be placed on the inside of some of the tighter corners, thereby leading to a filter system and preventing cars from running side-by-side. If these pointed, jagged sections were removed and the road opened up, it would result in a much more flowing, and spectacular, Grand Prix venue. Again, a faster and more sweeping S-bend could replace the painfully Mickey Mouse left-right at turns 15 and 16, and if the second of the two right-handed corners that end the lap were made faster, it would increase the chance of a driver getting a proper run on the car in front and being able to slipstream past him without needing the help of DRS.

Admittedly, the lack of any form of tyre degradation in a way not seen since the Bridgestone era didn’t help, nor did the miscalculation on the part of most of the teams in planning their fuel levels around a theoretical safety car that never materialised, leading to a significant number drivers having to nurse their machines home in the latter stages. However, things could have been improved if the circuit had been better designed.

It’s a shame, because given the right circumstances and location, Formula One in Russia could be a huge success. It’s an enormous global and commercial market, it appears – by the pictures in Sochi – to have a large and passionate set of fans, and it’s close enough to the racing heartlands of Western Europe to ensure good numbers of travelling supporters are well placed to make the journey east to come and spectate.

But for the country to fully maximise its vast potential as a part of the F1 calendar, one of two things would probably need to occur. The circuit at Sochi would have to undergo some minor surgery to allow it to be better configured, or the race could be switched to a purpose-built, permanent venue.

Until that happens, it appears that what we have here is, unfortunately, another venue that doesn’t live up to its billing.

Stephen D’Albiac

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Once it was confirmed yesterday that Jules Bianchi had suffered a diffuse axonal injury as a result of his horrific crash at the Japanese Grand Prix, all sorts of facts and statistics began to be perpetuated by some sections of the media.

One such statistic which rankled with me in particular was one that claimed that 90% of people with Jules’ injury never regain full consciousness, and of the remaining 10%, the vast majority of those remain significantly impaired for the rest of their lives.

Having little medical knowledge, but having heard of diffuse axonal injuries, particularly with regard to racing drivers, I was immediately sceptical of this fact. One quick Google search confirmed my suspicions.

What the 90% statistic quoted by various sources refers to is patients with severe diffuse axonal injuries. That does not cover patients who have suffered minor injuries of this nature, which can include non-life threatening conditions such as concussion. In essence, a fact that is attributed to the very worst case scenario of this condition has been applied it to any case of any possible seriousness.

The truth is that no one knows the extent of the DAI that Jules Bianchi has suffered. The only people who know that – and given it’s still very early days even they may be unaware – are Jules’ doctors.

Therefore, for stories on the fact that there is a 90% chance that Bianchi will never regain consciousness is incorrect at best, but given the circumstances of the story, sad to say the least. In short, a story involving a man who currently lies in hospital in a critical condition has been needlessly sensationalised, which given the situation is, in my opinion, totally unnecessary.

Now, with articles of this nature creating doubts in the minds of fans across the world that Jules may fully recover from his injuries, I seek to use the second half of this post to shed some positivity on what is an extremely difficult situation.

The following extract is quoted from Rapid Response: My Inside Story as a Motor Racing Lifesaver, the autobiography of former CART doctor Steve Olvey, and concerns former F1, CART and IndyCar driver Roberto Guerrero. Guerrero suffered an accident whilst tyre testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the autumn of 1987. Initial scans when the Colombian racer arrived at hospital showed a diffuse axonal injury – the same as Bianchi – and the prognosis initially seemed very bleak.

This is where I let Dr. Olvey take over. Apologies for the length of it, but it is such a brilliantly written piece that I felt that to edit it in anyway would be inappropriate. The main message of this story is hope, and although Jules still has an incredibly long road ahead of him, there is no reason to believe that he can’t make it.

Forza Jules.

In the fall of 1987, I was getting a haircut on a beautiful sunny afternoon in Indianapolis. Halfway through I received an emergency page on my beeper. The news wasn’t good. Roberto Guerrero, Colombia’s best driver at the time, had crashed heavily while testing tyres for Goodyear at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Medics from the scene had reported a severe head injury with the patient in a deep coma. Guerrero was unable to breathe for himself and required assisted ventilation en route to Methodist Hospital.

I jumped from the barber’s chair with only half a haircut and sped to the hospital. When I arrived at the emergency room, I was met by Dr. Bock who was on duty that day. Mike Turner, an excellent neuro-trauma surgeon was on hand as well. They both reported that the head injury looked really bad. The CT scan of Guerrero’s head did not reveal anything that the surgeons could fix. Sadly, it showed instead a very swollen brain with severe diffuse axonal injury, or DAI. Basically, the brain had suffered an extensive shearing injury to the nerve fibres causing the entire central nervous system to short circuit. It could not be surgically repaired. Guerrero was moved from the emergency room to the intensive care unit.

The cause of this injury in the general public is usually a car accident. The forces of a crash, if severe enough, cause the head to violently rotate. Severe damage can occur to the brain without the head ever coming into contact with anything. Nerve fibres within the brain and brainstem are damaged by this shearing effect. A helmet offers virtually no protection for this type of injury. The mortality rate in the general population was over 80% in 1987, and the only treatment was, and still is, supportive care. Judicious use of medications to help remove the excess brain water and to control the increased pressure that develops inside the skull are the only modalities of therapy.

One promising treatment had recently been tried in some large medical centres with varying degrees of success. It was not yet in common usage, and most neurologists and neurosurgeons did not feel it was beneficial and were reluctant to try it. The treatment involved the use of barbiturates in very high, even toxic doses, and were given intravenously. The medication was thought to decrease the metabolism of the brain and, as a result, lower the pressure within the brain itself. If the brain was allowed to swell too much, it would herniate or rupture through the opening in the base of the skull. This extrusion of the brain stem would normally result in instant death.

We had used barbiturates to treat increased brain swelling in the past, but only in the standard recommended doses. We had never used the very high experimental doses that had been reported in the medical literature. Dr. Turner and I met with Guerrero’s wife Kati and explained to her the gravity of the situation. We told her there wasn’t anything we could do surgically and that the only hope for her husband was supportive care and the use of high dose barbiturate therapy. We asked for permission to use these very high doses. Kati grasped the situation fully and told us to do anything we thought might save her husband’s life.

Dr. Turner and I placed Guerrero in an artificial coma with the barbiturates. He required the ventilator for breathing support and constant monitoring of his vital signs, and a probe was placed inside his brain to measure his intracranial pressure. It was sky high! Normal was less than 15. His was over 60. I started pushing the barbiturates intravenously. We reached the usual maximum dose with zero effect on the pressure inside his head. The situation looked grim. I then gave him five times the recommended dose. This caused his blood pressure to drop to near zero. I thought he was dying. I quickly started another medication to raise his blood pressure, and he required huge amounts of this medicine. I was not at all hopeful. Kati remained by his bedside, determined.

After about seven hours of this treatment, and a lot of criticism including accusations of experimentation amongst the nursing stuff, the pressure within Guerrero’s brain began to subside. Within 24 hours it was back to normal. He woke up three weeks later. I had spent most of the first 36 hours at his bedside. His wife never left him at all! She remained by his side throughout his entire stay in the intensive care unit. She would later accompany him daily through the long rehabilitation process.

When Guerrero first spoke, he spoke in Spanish, his native language. He told Kati that he loved her. He steadily progressed, and eventually was ready for a long and difficult rehabilitation. Spurred on by Kati and his young son Marco, he took this rehabilitation to heart. He was one of the first patients to receive what we call cognitive rehabilitation. This form of rehab used computer-assisted exercises to bring a person’s memory and visual motor skills back to baseline via biofeedback. It was very much like playing a series of complicated video games. Guerrero was scheduled spend five hours a day doing these exercises. He would spend nine. During this period he would also re-learn to walk and to speak the English language.

Kati was unrelenting, pushing hard. As a result of her efforts, her determination, and her deep affection, Guerrero was driving the family car within two months and had played a full game of golf in three. His recovery surprised all of us.

In April of 1988, he wanted to drive a racecar again. His team entered him in the race at Phoenix. I thought he could do it as well because he appeared to me to be fully recovered. No-one else seemed to think so. Due to justifiable apprehension on the part of the CART officials, as well as his fellow drivers, doctors subjected him to a full nine-hour battery of neuro-psychiatric tests. He passed them all with flying colours. I repeated the tests for a second time at the University of California in Los Angeles just to assure the officials that they weren’t biased. Again he passed! At UCLA, he was consistently monitored for any seizure activity. He had none. He was then required to go through a strict driving test under the eyes of the CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach. Again he passed! CART had no choice but to clear him to race.

Guerrero qualified second in a field of 28 cars. Some of the other drivers would barely speak to me. The only two people, other than Roberto, who were convinced he could drive were Kati and me. Once the race started I could barely function. All I could think was what if he crashed and hurt or killed himself or someone else? I would never be forgiven in spite of all the precautions I had taken.

After the start, Guerrero held onto second place. He began passing lapped cars as if possessed. He passed on the outside as well as the inside. Phoenix is a one-mile oval track with each lap taking 25 seconds. Negotiating heavy traffic on such a tight course was what made the short ovals so spectacular to watch. Roberto was awesome! He would finish second that day less than six months after his devastating and usually fatal head injury. I was vindicated on all counts. Because of my experience with him, head injury became my primary focus of study.

Guerrero went on to race for many more years. He and Kati are still married and live in California with their two boys. It is amazing what persistence, love and dedication can accomplish. Also, a certain degree of really good luck!

Stephen D’Albiac

The ambulance carrying Jules Bianchi had barely left Suzuka before the questions started being asked.

After a Japanese Grand Prix weekend that had been dominated by the impending arrival of Typhoon Phanfone and whether any contingencies needed to be put in place to make sure the race was able to go ahead, the recriminations began. Should more have been done to ensure the start was brought forward to avoid the worst of the weather? Should the event have been called at the point where conditions started to deteriorate in the latter part of the race? Why was a crane allowed on the track to recover Adrian Sutil’s stricken Sauber without the aid of a safety car?

The answer to all those questions is, for the time being, irrelevant. A 25-year-old man currently lies in a critical condition in hospital as a result of a horrific accident. Whilst there will come a time where an investigation will need to be carried out to ascertain what exactly led to Bianchi’s Marussia coming into contact with a recovery vehicle, until such time as his overall condition becomes clearer, such an inquest remains wholly inappropriate.

While there were serious discussions between the FIA, FOM and race promoters Honda to move the start time forward to ensure the race could be run in its entirety before conditions got too bad, at no point once the Grand Prix got properly underway after ten laps behind the safety car was it too dangerous to race.

Similarly, once the heavens began to open in the closing stages, though many felt the need to switch their intermediate rubber for full wets, the circuit was not so treacherous that the cars were unable to negotiate the track. Conditions were tricky, but at no stage were they so poor that it was impossible to continue to race in a safe manner.

Now onto the crane. While there is certainly a case to be made that the safety car should have come out whilst Sutil’s car was cleared, it was a situation that has occurred on umpteen occasions throughout the years, and almost always car and crane have done their job and left the firing line safely.

With the benefit of hindsight it’s now clear to see that more should have been done to prevent the pack speeding through the Dunlop curve at such speeds, but the fact remains that at the time race director Charlie Whiting thought he was dealing with a situation that had cropped up several times before, and on almost every occasion had passed without incident. There was no way that anyone could have foreseen the terrible scene that followed.

While there are very strong lessons to be taken from this accident to prevent a repeat in future, it happened because a perfect storm of ingredients came together. Motorsport is dangerous, sometimes it doesn’t matter what safety measures are put in place, there’s always the chance that something dreadful may happen. Sadly, we saw his in the worst manner possible earlier today.

But the hows, whats and whys are immaterial at the moment. The most important thing – the only important thing – is that Bianchi, the hugely popular Frenchman who has won a score of fans and plaudits for his laidback manner and for consistently putting an uncompetitive Marussia in places it shouldn’t be on the grid, pulls through and goes onto make a speedy and full recovery.

Until that time, any inquest can wait.

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Stephen D’Albiac

The news broke yesterday of a plan to reduce the amount of running teams do on a Friday from next year.

The idea, which has been proposed by Bernie Ecclestone, is to scrap the current Friday morning practice session in favour of a single session in the afternoon, with the thinking being to cut costs for the teams and condense the entire Grand Prix weekend into a three-day event, with the usual Thursday media activities being moved to fill the void left by the following morning’s empty circuit.

Whilst, at first glance, the plans seem sensible enough, as usual, both the teams and Mr. Ecclestone are missing some very fundamental flaws.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the proposals will do little, if not absolutely nothing, to cut down on the amount of running the teams will do on the Friday. They may have half the time on the track, but all that will happen is that teams will condense their current FP1 and FP2 programmes into one, meaning they will complete double the mileage they usually get through in a single session. At present, the price of car parts doesn’t legislate for the time period in which their owner decides to use them, meaning that cost saving on this front will be kept to a tidy maximum of absolutely zero. Not bad going.

Secondly, whilst cutting the weekend’s activities from four days to three may save an extra night’s payment for a hotel room, in the grand scheme of things such expenditure is but a mere dot on the landscape that is modern day Formula One budgeting. We’re living in an age where the sport needs to save millions, not thousands, and to the teams paying for accommodation that kind of saving is small change. If one compares the current need for penny-pinching to climbing Everest, this little measure is more akin to scaling Mount Wycheproof.

If meaningful progress is to be made on the cost cutting front, then the sensible thing to do is to sit down and agree on a budget cap. How that is done doesn’t matter. Whether it’s by cutting the number of personnel a team can hire, standardising more car parts, or allowing for an increase in technical partnerships between the frontrunning teams and the struggling privateers, at a time when the sport has just presided over a multi-million pound switch to turbocharged engines – one that whilst technologically important, could have waited another two or three years until the global economy was in a better place – more significant action needs to be taken to keep budgets down, not sugar-coated token gestures that do little to improve the overall picture.

What also cannot be ignored is that, if these proposals do come to pass, yet again the real losers will be the fans. With ticket prices for the Friday alone of next month’s British Grand Prix starting at £65, the paying punters want on-track action. If the length of time Grand Prix cars spend hitting the Silverstone tarmac on that first day next year is halved, will that be reflected in a drop in the admission fee? If the past few years are anything to go by, that seems pretty doubtful.

Formula One is walking a very precarious tightrope with regards to its treatment of the fans. After showing complete contempt for its support last winter by disregarding the wishes of more than 90% of the fanbase with the now infamous double points debacle for this year’s season finale in Abu Dhabi, the sport needs to be extremely careful with regards to how it treats its viewers. If the fans continue to be treated as a commodity rather than the single most important part of the sport that they are, they will walk away, leaving nothing but an irrelevant, out of touch series heading for a rather swift expiry date.

If the teams, Mr. Ecclestone and the FIA met, went through a number of ideas rationally and banged some heads together, a real, and effective set of regulations that genuinely cut costs could be thrashed out. The problem you have is that when you allow the teams so much influence over the regulations, the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Red Bull and Ferrari are not going to vote for Christmas and squander their own significant financial advantage over the rest of the field.

Until that changes, and a proper, impartial structure put in place when making the big decisions, little will be done that is truly in the interests of Formula One.

Stephen D’Albiac

Lewis Hamilton will start on pole for the second race running as he pipped Sebastian Vettel to the top spot in qualifying for tomorrow’s German Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver had been off the pace in the morning’s practice session, but found the sweet spot in his car when it mattered to beat Vettel’s Red Bull by just 0.103 seconds.

Mark Webber will start third tomorrow, just ahead of the Lotus pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, whilst Daniel Ricciardo continued his impressive run of strong Saturdays to qualify his Toro Rosso sixth.

The Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso lock out the fourth row of the grid after opting to qualify on the medium tyres in order to optimise its race strategy, whilst Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg complete the top ten.

The big shock of qualifying was Nico Rosberg’s failure to make it through to the final part of qualifying. The victor at Silverstone last week was kept in the pits by Mercedes, the team thinking they had done enough to make it through to Q3, but a flurry of late improvements left him down in 11th and with an uphill struggle to fight for the podium tomorrow.

Rosberg was joined on the sidelines in Q3 by Paul di Resta, Sergio Perez, Esteban Gutierrez, Adrian Sutil and Jean-Eric Vergne.

Williams celebrates its 600th Grand Prix this weekend, but the team marked the milestone in the worst possible way as both cars fell at the first hurdle. Valtteri Bottas will start 17th and shares the ninth row with Pastor Maldonado.

Charles Pic starts 19th, with Jules Bianchi, Giedo van der Garde and Max Chilton completing the grid.

Qualifying Results
1) Lewis Hamilton (GB) Mercedes
2) Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull-Renault
3) Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull-Renault
4) Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Lotus-Renault
5) Romain Grosjean (Fra) Lotus-Renault
6) Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Toro Rosso-Ferrari
7) Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari
8) Fernando Alonso (Esp) Ferrari
9) Jenson Button (GB) McLaren-Mercedes
10) Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Sauber-Ferrari
11) Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes
12) Paul di Resta (GB) Force India-Mercedes
13) Sergio Perez (Mex) McLaren-Mercedes
14) Esteban Gutierrez (Mex) McLaren-Mercedes
15) Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India-Mercedes
16) Jean-Eric Vergne (Fra) Toro Rosso-Ferrari
17) Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams-Renault
18) Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams-Renault
19) Charles Pic (Fra) Caterham-Renault
20) Jules Bianchi (Fra) Marussia-Cosworth
21) Giedo van der Garde (Ned) Caterham-Renault
22) Max Chilton (GB) Marussia-Cosworth

Stephen D’Albiac

German Grand Prix Preview

Posted: July 5, 2013 in Formula One

As Formula One arrives in Germany for the ninth round of the 2013 season, there’s only one issue that takes centre-stage as the sport’s main talking point – tyres.

The incidents that overshadowed the race at Silverstone just five days ago are still fresh in the memory, with no less than five blowouts affecting the drivers throughout the British Grand Prix, raising serious issues about safety.

In an attempt to prevent a repeat of last week’s shenanigans, Pirelli has brought a new, kevlar-belted rear tyre to this race instead of the steel-belted rubber that caused so much trouble at Silverstone, but it’s an issue that is set to rumble on throughout the weekend, with the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association threatening to boycott the event if tyres continue to fail throughout practice and qualifying.

The new tyres could also have the effect of shaking up the pecking order. While Pirelli has said that the actual compounds haven’t changed, many teams feel that it could allow those who have struggled so far this season to come to the fore, and vice versa, with Nico Rosberg saying that ‘the title fight will be altered’. However, what impact the new tyres will have on the field remains to be seen.

The Nurburgring is a circuit with a mix of fast and slow corners, not too dissimilar to that of Barcelona or Shanghai, so it’s a venue that should suit the Mercedes and Red Bulls. It should also allow Ferrari to perform well, but after its poor showing at Silverstone last weekend, a track that should also have suited the F138, it’s too early to predict just how competitive they will be this weekend. Lotus also cannot be discounted, the E21 runs well in hot weather, and with temperatures in the mid-20s forecast for raceday, this could be a chance for the Enstone team to rediscover its early season form.

Nico Rosberg will be confident of tasting success this weekend. The Mercedes driver celebrates his second home Grand Prix this weekend, having won on the streets of Monaco, the principality he grew up in. Having also taken the chequered flag at his team’s home race at Silverstone last time out, there are plenty of good omens knocking about for him at this moment in time.

Out to stop him will be fellow German Sebastian Vettel. The championship leader broke down with just 11 laps remaining at Silverstone, gifting victory to Rosberg, and will be desperate to bounce back with a first career win on home soil. To do so, however, he will need to break his ‘July jinx’ and take his maiden Grand Prix victory in the year’s seventh month.

Standing in the way of the two Germans will be their respective teammates. Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber have taken the last two victories at this circuit, and with punctures and a poor start costing the pair a realistic shot at winning in Silverstone, they will be itching to put the record straight on Sunday.

And what of Fernando Alonso? The Spaniard has a fantastic record in Germany, winning five times there over the course of his career, and after a strong drive to the podium last week reduced his points deficit to Vettel to just 21, if Ferrari give him the car to fight for victory on Sunday, you can bet he will be taking that opportunity with both hands.

Fans, teams and drivers alike will be holding their breath that there are no problems with the tyres throughout practice, and that both compounds behave themselves this weekend, ensuring that any threat to boycott the race comes to nothing.

And on the 99% chance that all does indeed go to plan on the tyre front, you can guarantee one thing. The ‘Ring will entertain.

The Circuit

Known by many around the world as the home of the legendary Nordschleife, widely regarded as the most challenging racetrack of all time, the Nurburgring has been part of the Formula One calendar in one form or another for over 60 years.

Dubbed ‘the Green Hell’ by triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, the Nordschleife proved to be the ultimate test for man and machine in the F1’s formative years. Names such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jim Clark and Graham Hill all won at the legendary 14-mile circuit, whilst Stewart himself famously took the chequered flag by over four minutes in the torrential rain in 1968.

But success regularly came at the expense of safety. Onofre Marimon, Peter Collins and John Taylor were just three drivers claimed by the remorseless circuit, and by the mid-1970s Grand Prix racing there had become too dangerous. Niki Lauda’s terrible crash in 1976, which left the Austrian scarred for life, brought a halt to Formula One at the Nordschleife.

In its place came a new 2.8-mile circuit that opened for business in 1984. After two Grands Prix at the new Nurburgring in the mid-1980s, it would be another decade before Formula One would return, with the success of Michael Schumacher ensuring there would be a second German race on the calendar, along with the race at Hockenheim.

The new ‘Ring became a fixture on the schedule once more, running under the European – and briefly, Luxembourg – Grand Prix banners, and played host to some memorable races, not least Johnny Herbert’s remarkable 1999 win for Stewart. However, the modern circuit had gained a reputation for causing first lap accidents, and as a result, the layout was slightly altered by fan favourite Hermann Tilke in 2002 to leave us the 3.19-mile ‘Ring we have today.

The European Grand Prix continued to be held at the Nurburgring until 2007, when the circuit agreed to become host to the German Grand Prix on a biennial basis, alternating duties with its old rival at Hockenheim.

With that little history lesson over, here’s what the track looks like in the flesh, courtesy of Michael Schumacher’s 2006 Ferrari.

Track Facts
Location: Nurburg, Germany
First Race: 1951 (1984 in current iteration)
Track Length: 3.199 miles/5.148km
Laps: 60
2011 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes)*
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) – 1:29.468 (2004)

*2012 race held at Hockenheim

Past Winners (Nurburgring only)
2011: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes)
2009: Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault)
2007: Fernando Alonso (McLaren-Mercedes)*
2006: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)*
2005: Fernando Alonso (Renault)*
2004: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)*
2003: Ralf Schumacher (Williams-BMW)*
2002: Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari)*
2001: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)*
2000: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari)*
1999: Johnny Herbert (Stewart-Ford)*
1998: Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes)**
1997: Jacques Villeneuve (Williams-Renault)**
1996: Jacques Villeneuve (Williams-Renault)*
1995: Michael Schumacher (Benetton-Renault)*
1985: Michele Alboreto (Ferrari)
1984: Alain Prost (McLaren-TAG)*

* Race run as European Grand Prix
** Race run as Luxembourg Grand Prix

Stephen D’Albiac

On a day where tyres played a bigger role on the circuit than the racing, which drivers impressed the most at Silverstone? Here’s the belated Performance Podium from the British Grand Prix.

1) Mark Webber

With the headlines in the build-up to the race dominated by Mark Webber’s decision to leave Formula One at the end of the season and pursue a career in sports car racing, the Australian was looking to produce a trademark strong performance at Silverstone in his last British Grand Prix.

Webber started fourth, alongside his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel, but a disastrous start saw him lose several places off the line and contact with Romain Grosjean’s Lotus at the first corner left him in fourteenth place and a damaged front wing, leaving himself with a mountain to climb for the remainder of the afternoon.

But having never been one to give up, Webber – with the safety car’s help – managed to battle his way back up to fifth place with seven laps remaining. And with fresh wheels on his wagon, he quickly dispatched the trio of Daniel Ricciardo, Adrian Sutil and Kimi Raikkonen to take second, and give himself an unlikely shot of catching Nico Rosberg and taking an outstanding victory.

Despite pushing himself to the limit to pass Rosberg, the lap counter got the better of him and he was left having to settle for second. A couple more laps in the race and it may well have been a different story, but Webber had produced a characteristic display that has come to define his career, and one that was fitting for his final Grand Prix at a circuit that will go down as one of his most successful.

2) Lewis Hamilton

By the time the British Grand Prix had reached its eighth lap, it appeared that local favourite Lewis Hamilton was well on the way to a first Mercedes win and a second success on home soil, having led away comfortably from pole and opened up a convincing gap to Sebastian Vettel.

But then the wretched luck that came to define the Englishman’s 2012 season returned, and Hamilton fell victim to the first of many blowouts in the race, forcing him to crawl back to the pits and dropping him out of contention for victory in the cruellest of fashions.

However, with his chances of salvaging something from the race hanging in the balance, Hamilton began his recovery, and by the time the second safety car came in he had clawed his way up to ninth with seven laps left. And with the bit between his teeth in those final stages, the Brit picked up five places in the last part of the race to come home fourth, just behind Fernando Alonso and a place on the podium, capping off a strong fightback in fine style.

3) Nico Rosberg

The fortunes of Nico Rosberg in the British Grand Prix represented something from a bygone era, as the German benefitted from the reliability woes of both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel to claim his second win of the season.

However, to say that Rosberg simply inherited the victory would be unfair on the Mercedes driver, for he drove a mature race and put himself in the position to be the main beneficiary of any problems in front of him. Furthermore, he kept his cool in the final laps despite having a reinvigorated Mark Webber breathing down his neck and threatening to deprive him of a third career victory.

For the first time in his career, Rosberg has a car underneath him capable of challenging for regular victories and he is making the most of this opportunity in impressive fashion.

HM) Sebastian Vettel

From the moment he took the lead of the British Grand Prix following Lewis Hamilton’s puncture, Sebastian Vettel appeared to be cruising to a fourth win of the year as he looked set to extend an already convincing margin in the driver’s championship.

But with only 11 laps remaining a gearbox problem dashed Vettel’s hopes of a second win at Silverstone, forcing him to retire from the race and leaving him with no option but to enjoy the remainder of the afternoon from his pit garage. The history books will show that the world champion failed to finish this race, but will ignore the way he’d looked like dominating it for such a large portion of the Grand Prix.

2013 Performance Podium Rankings
1) Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) – 23pts
2) Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault) – 20pts
3) Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) – 17pts
4) Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus-Renault) – 13pts
5) Sergio Perez (McLaren-Mercedes) – 10pts
5) Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso-Ferrari) – 10pts
5) Adrian Sutil (Force India-Mercedes) – 10pts
8) Paul di Resta (Force India-Mercedes) – 7pts
8) Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 7pts
10) Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso-Ferrari) – 6pts
11) Felipe Massa (Ferrari) – 5pts
11) Romain Grosjean (Lotus-Renault) – 5pts
13) Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull-Renault) – 4pts
14) Jenson Button (McLaren-Mercedes) – 2pts
14) Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber-Ferrari) – 2pts
14) Jules Bianchi (Marussia-Cosworth) – 2pts
17) Giedo van der Garde (Caterham-Renault) – 1pt
18) Valtteri Bottas (Williams-Renault) – 1pt

The Performance Podium rankings are calculated depending on where each driver places in each race. 1st place receives 10 points, 2nd place = 5pts, 3rd place = 2pts and an Honourable Mention = 1pt

Stephen D’Albiac