Formula 1 returns to the Nürburgring for the first time since 2013 this weekend, and for Romain Grosjean, he feels he should have become a Grand Prix winner at the circuit that year.
But for a safety car driver, the current Haas F1 Team racer, then driving for the Lotus F1 Team, was on course for his maiden Formula 1 race victory, but he ultimately finished third behind Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel and his Lotus team-mate Kimi Räikkönen.
Grosjean admits he has not had the chance to re-learn the track on the simulator ahead of the Eifel Grand Prix, so he will be using his memory to reacclimatise to the Nürburgring, something he will have to do from second practice as Callum Ilott will drive in the first session in his place.
“To be fair, 2013 was a very long time ago, so I’m not really sure that’s an advantage,” said Grosjean. “I don’t really remember the track more than that. So, obviously it’s going to be a bit of challenge to learn it.
“I haven’t had the chance to do it on the simulator. I’ll just have to go with my memory. I know it’s a mega track. The biggest challenge there will be the weather.
“I was very happy with my weekend, but I should have won the race. It was pretty clear I was going to win the race until the safety car. Yes, a podium finish is always mega, but missing out on the win was a big thing – I really had a big lead. No hard feelings though, it was a good race on a great track, and obviously a podium in Formula 1 is always super good.”
Grosjean says the biggest challenge of the Nürburgring will be the first sector, but the Frenchman says it will be cool to race the V6 turbo hybrid cars around the track this weekend.
“I think the biggest challenge in a modern Formula 1 car will be sector one, because of the weight of the car and the camber and so on,” said the Frenchman. “The first hairpin, there’s that big drop at the apex, then turn three is a long corner combined with turn four. It’s obviously hard on the tyres.
“The second sector is much more flowing with mid to high-speed corners. The bottom hairpin, which actually looks like a bulb, it’s really mega going up flat-out. The last two corners are very important for lap time, with the chicane and final turn, it’s quite open and quite wild. I think it’s going to be a pretty cool place to go racing.”
“I’m looking forward to going back to the Nürburgring” – Kevin Magnussen
Team-mate Kevin Magnussen says there is only so much that can be learnt in the simulator, and it will be when they take to the track on Friday morning when the true learning of the track will take place.
The Dane, responsible for Haas’ only points finish of the season so far with a tenth place in the Hungarian Grand Prix in July, says he is ‘looking forward’ returning to the Nürburgring, although he has yet to experience the track in a Formula 1 car.
“Real track time is by far the best, you can only learn so much in the simulator really,” said Magnussen. “You learn the layout of the circuit, and the very basic driving technique – I guess you can have a look at that as well.
“It’s only when you get to the venue you really get a feel for the rhythm of the track, and then it still feels new even though you’ve driven the simulator. I’m looking forward to going back to the Nürburgring. It’s a track that I’ve enjoyed driving at in the past. I think it’ll feel really good in these fast Formula 1 cars.
“The Nürburgring is a pretty narrow track in places and it has a good variety of low and high-speed corners. There are some big braking zones, big chicanes, and I think part of the track is pretty old school – you’ve got some banked corners. It’s narrow, it’s fast and there’s a good flow to the lap – I’m looking forward to it.”
One of Magnussen’s attributes has been his starts in 2020, and he was happy to move up nine positions on lap one in the Russian Grand Prix two weeks ago. He admits some luck went his way as he jumped up from eighteenth to ninth, but he says it was a ‘very good lap’ at the Sochi Autodrom.
“It was a very good first lap,” said the Dane. “I got a good launch off the line, then I found some good gaps through turn one and into turn two – where lots of people ran wide and had contact. I chose the inside line and managed to avoid all of that, I overtook quite a few people on the exit of the corner as well.
“There was some further contact with Leclerc and Stroll which gave me another position. All-in-all it was a good start with some good moves and some good fortune courtesy of other people going off-track. Everything came together and that meant I moved from eighteenth to ninth on the first lap.”