October 10th, 2020

Robert's guide to the Nürburgring

The Formula One calendar returns to the Nürburgring after a seven-year hiatus and, while the cars and many drivers have changed, the magic of this place remains intact. Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN driver, Robert Kubica, who is racing DTM in Zolder this weekend, may not be here this time, but he’s got plenty of experience around this circuit…

 

The Nurburgring is a track I have been to pretty often, from my days in the F3 Euroseries – although some of the time we were racing on the short version of the track, which skips the most exciting part!

I raced there twice in F1 with Sauber, first in 2007 when I was seventh, and again in 2009. I have also been there recently with DTM, and I have to say the long version of the track, or the Grand Prix track, is pretty good.

The relatively narrow middle part of the track will be very interesting for the current F1 cars. The first sector, which I think was only built in the early 2000s, is not the most entertaining when you’re in the cockpit but actually it’s the one where you can win or lose most of the lap time.

I don’t expect there to be massive overtaking opportunities, apart from under braking into Turn One, but it’s the kind of track where you have a bit of everything – you have high-speed corners, you have a low-speed chicane, and you have a very tight hairpin in Turn One.

This makes it quite a challenging track from a set-up point of view, so you have to focus. You cannot have a car that suits every kind of corner, so you have to choose your priorities.

Obviously it’s going to be quite cold, and probably wet: however I spent ten days there in September, and it didn’t rain at all! Generally, though, it’s the kind of area where it rains. It’s actually close to Spa, so like in Belgium the weather can play quite important factor and there is definitely a chance of mixed conditions.

The cold will also have quite a big effect on tyres. As I mentioned, it’s the kind of track where you really struggle to be happy with the car and the first sector is quite challenging. If you add the cold conditions the drivers will face, then it might be even more challenging.

F1 has not raced there since 2013, but we’re at the stage of the season when the teams know their current cars pretty well, so the simulations will definitely give enough information for drivers to properly prepare. I wouldn’t think that any data from seven years ago will be looked at, especially as the current cars are so much faster, because of the regulation changes through the years. If you compare the lap times from seven years ago to now it will be like a completely different category, or even two steps of different categories.

In fairness, I don’t have many memories of racing there in F1, but from the DTM weekend it looked more interesting than I had remembered it. I assume with a current F1 car it will be quite a good fun track to drive.

When you talk about the Nürburgring, however, what comes to my mind is really the Nordschleife, or the “Green Hell” track. When I was at Sauber my team mate Nick Heidfeld had a chance to drive a modified F1 car around it. I drove around only a few weeks ago when I spent a bit of time in the area. I was always a big fan of that circuit, and after driving it a bit more, I’m even more a fan of it. Unfortunately I haven’t have opportunity to drive a race car around it yet!