Crisis in Germany: ‘We have abolished ourselves from world of motorsport’

Oliver Harden
Dark clouds gather as Fernando Alonso (McLaren) leads Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) at the European Grand Prix. Nurburgring, 2007.

Dark clouds gather as Fernando Alonso (McLaren) leads Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) at the European Grand Prix. Nurburgring, 2007.

Former Formula 1 driver Ralf Schumacher has opened up about what he sees as a “disaster” for motorsport in his homeland of Germany.

F1 has struggled to maintain interest in Germany ever since the retirement of Schumacher’s brother, seven-time World Champion Michael, with even the record-breaking exploits of youngest-ever World Champion Sebastian Vettel and eight-time Constructors’ title winners Mercedes not holding much attention.

Just a single German driver, Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg, competes in F1 currently compared to seven at the conclusion of the 2010 season.

The 2023 campaign is the third year in a row that the sport has not staged a grand prix in Germany, with the iconic Nurburgring venue last hosting the Eifel GP during the pandemic-affected year of 2020.

Meanwhile, Hockenheim – which for a number of years shared the German GP with the Nurburgring on a rotational basis – has not appeared on the calendar since 2019.

Asked by at the launch of his new skincare range for his hopes for the next generation of German drivers, Schumacher – who took six wins from 180 grand prix starts between 1997 and 2007 – was not optimistic.

“This is a disaster,” he said.

“We’ve abolished ourselves from the world in terms of motorsport – and with our eyes open.

“I pointed this out several times, but obviously it wasn’t wanted. recommends

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“Our biggest problem was to sell Formula 3. Formula 3 was the gateway to Formula 1 and, as the supporting programme of the DTM, a focal point of German motorsport, also for international drivers.

“Now Germany has become interchangeable. Why should one still do motorsport here?

“Quite the opposite: Italy is home to karting and Formula 4 racing.

“And then it goes on: we have no more Formula 1 races and with Mercedes only one German manufacturer, although with Audi [set to enter in 2026] a second one will come along.

“Mercedes picks up people regardless of where they come from, which is right. But Mercedes does not promote young talent in the classic sense.

“On top of that, we hardly have any karting tracks. And the ones we do have are old and bad.”

With the DTM touring car championship viewed as Germany’s premier motorsport category, Schumacher does not see a place for aspiring F1 drivers in his homeland with Italy the go-to destination for ambitious youngsters.

He explained: “For me, the ‘Formula youngsters’ train has sailed.

“The ADAC will concentrate on touring car racing.

“Formula racing in Germany is finished for me for the next few years. We haven’t invested either. In nothing at all! Whoever starts in karting today has to go to Italy. And once he’s there, he stays in Italy.

“That rules out 99 per cent of all motorsport athletes anyway, because in Italy a professional season costs almost a quarter of a million.

“I don’t know how many parents can afford such sums.”

Put to him that this was quite a damning assessment for Germany’s young drivers, Schumacher replied: “That is the truth.

“I already pointed it out about ten years ago, but nobody wanted to listen. I would like to hear more positive things in Germany again.

“One hardly dares to speak positively about motorsport anymore, if you look at some political programmes. We tend to either do nothing or too much.

“There is less and less of a healthy middle ground and that is not so good for motorsport.”