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ROUND 9 • GERMANY • NÜRBURGRING • JULY 7

EVENT COUNTDOWN

ALBERT PARK

12-15 MARCH 2015

• Set in the Eifel Mountains due west of Koblenz and south of Bonn, the Nürburgring dates back to the 1920s when it was a major project aimed at easing the local unemployment situation. It had two ‘loops’, the shorter Südschleife and the fearsome, far longer Nordschleife – the one that remains with all its memories.

• They called it ‘the green Hell’: a supremely challenging circuit that swooped and curved through thickly forested countryside. When the Nürburgring was first used for a World Championship race in 1951 it measured 22.772km, a figure that increased to 22.835 by the last time the old track was used in 1976. That was the year of Niki Lauda’s horror crash in the Ferrari, the Austrian being given the last rites before making a superhuman recovery from injury and burns to race again just five weeks later.

• On a happier note, the old Ring was the scene of the greatest drive in one of the greatest F1 careers ever seen. In 1957 Juan Manuel Fangio, driving for Maserati, gave chase to the fleet-footed Ferraris of Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins; the Argentine led by half a minute but saw that change to almost a minute’s deficit after a long pit stop at half-distance. The Maestro caught and passed the Ferraris for the finest – and last – of all his 24 victories and clinched his fifth world title.

• In 1968 there was another master-class, this time from Jackie Stewart: in a wet race the Scot eclipsed the field by over four minutes in his Matra Ford. Twice more JYS tamed the most challenging circuit of them all, in 1971 and 1973.

• After Lauda’s near-fatal crash the Nürburgring disappeared from the calendar until 1985, when a modern, rather colourless 4.542km circuit alongside the old track came into being. In recent times the distance has gone out to 5.148 and the new Ring has staged both the European and German Grands Prix.

• For Australians the new Nürburgring found a special place in history in 2009. That’s when Mark Webber started from his first F1 pole position and won his maiden Grand Prix, heading home the sister Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa’s Ferrari. Webber yelled ‘Yes’ into his helmet microphone 17 times on the slow-down lap...

• The last time the F1 circus rolled into town in 2011 Webber was on pole again but this time he had to give best to the man who shared the front row with him, Lewis Hamilton in his McLaren Mercedes.

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