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Kling to Frentzen - Germany's unsung Grand Prix heroes 16 Jul 2008

Race winner Michael Schumacher (GER) celebrates his first win at Hockenheim for Ferrari.
German Grand Prix, Rd12, Hockenheim, Germany., 28 July 2002 German Grand Prix, Nurburgring 6 August 1961 Wolfgang von Trips, Ferrari 156, finished 2nd, seen here at the Karussel corner. Hans-Joachim Stuck (GER) Brabham BT45B finished the race in third position. German Grand Prix, Rd 11, Hockenheim, Germany, 31 July 1977. Manfred Winkelhock (GER) RAM Hart 03. German Grand Prix, Nurburgring, 4 August 1985. Heinz-Harald Frentzen (GER) Jordan Mugen Honda EJ10 Formula One World Championship, Rd 10, German Grand Prix, Hockenheim, 1 August 1999

With BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld, Williams’ Nico Rosberg, Toyota’s Timo Glock, Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel and Force India’s Adrian Sutil all preparing for their home Grand Prix this weekend, fans at Hockenheim will be spoilt for choice with countrymen to support.

Since the inaugural Formula One world championship in 1950, 41Germans have raced on home soil, by far the most successful being Michael Schumacher. Over his 16-year career, the seven-time world champion competed in 15 German Grands Prix at Hockenheim (as well as 10 European Grands Prix at the Nurburgring).

Three retirements aside - in 1994, 2000 and 2001 - Schumacher never failed to finish in the points at Hockenheim. Even in 1992, his debut season, he took third, and a year later he was up to second. Then, in 1995, he became the first German to win the German Grand Prix after being handed the lead courtesy of Damon Hill’s first-corner crash in the Williams. Schumacher went on to win his home Grand Prix on a further three occasions - in 2002, 2004 and 2006 - each time for Ferrari. The only other man to do the same is Michael’s younger brother Ralf, who in 2001 was gifted victory after the engine of his Williams team mate Juan-Pablo Montoya failed.

However, German drivers had already built up a rich history of success - and failure - on home soil prior to the Schumacher era. We remember some of the most notable successes - and reflect on those drivers who came close to realizing their dreams but ultimately left empty handed…

Karl Kling
Best result: 1954 German Grand Prix, Qualified: 20th, Finished: 4th

A native of Giessen in East Germany, Kling was in his maiden season and competing for German manufacturers Mercedes-Benz when he enjoyed home success. Although team mate Juan Manuel Fangio won the ’54 Nurburgring race, it was Kling’s impressive drive that is still widely remembered. Storming through the field from 20th on the grid, Kling finished fourth and also set the fastest lap of the race. He went on to compete for Mercedes in 1955, but never again raced a Formula One car on home soil.

Wolfgang von Trips
Best result: 1961 German Grand Prix, Qualified: 5th, Finished: 2nd

In 1961, Von Trips went one step beyond Kling and became the first German to score a podium place in his home Grand Prix. Driving for Ferrari at the Nurburgring, the aristocrat climbed from fifth on the grid to claim second place behind Lotus’s Stirling Moss. Having already won two Grands Prix that season, Von Trips’ German success boosted his title hopes and he subsequently arrived at Italy’s season finale with the championship in his grasp. However, a collision with Jim Clark’s Lotus on the second lap at Monza left Von Trips dead and Germany without a hero. American team mate Phil Hill went on to win the race and the title, with a one-point advantage over Von Trips.

Jochen Mass
Best result: 1976 German Grand Prix, Qualified: 9th, Finished: 3rd

Fifteen years after Von Trips’ success, German fans finally got to celebrate another home podium, courtesy of Mass, who finished third for McLaren at the Nurburgring in 1976. The Cologne-born driver was beaten by team mate James Hunt and the second-placed Tyrrell of Jody Scheckter, though the race is perhaps best remembered as the Grand Prix in which Austrian Niki Lauda suffered a near-fatal crash. Mass, however, wasn’t the only German to score at the ’76 race. Brabham driver Rolf Stommelen secured his sole point of the season after finishing sixth.

Hans Joachim Stuck
Best result: 1977 German Grand Prix, Qualified: 5th, Finished: 3rd

Just a year after Mass’s success, compatriot Stuck put Germany back on the podium, the race having now moved to Hockenheim following Lauda’s Nurburgring accident. Grainau-born Stuck qualified fifth for Brabham and went on to claim third in the race - behind the victorious Ferrari of Niki Lauda and the Wolf of Jody Scheckter - following Hunt’s premature retirement on Lap 33. Stuck would contest a further two German Grands Prix, but retired from both with technical issues.

Manfred Winkelhock
Best result: Did not finish

Winkelhock graced the Formula One grid for four seasons during the 1980s, competing in three German Grands Prix - of which he failed to finish a single one. In his first, in 1982, he retired with clutch issues in his ATS. In his second, in 1983, he was one of three drivers who failed to qualify. In his third, in 1984 he made it to the starting grid, albeit in 13th, but his ATS succumbed once again to gearbox difficulties. Winkelhock’s final German Grand Prix was the 1985 event at the Nurburgring. It did not go quite to plan with a 22nd-place grid slot and another retirement. Sadly it would be his last Formula One event, as soon after he was killed while racing in a Canadian sportscar event. Last year Manfred’s son Markus brought the Winklehock name back to Formula One with a bang, when he led the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring for Spyker.

Stefan Bellof
Best result: 1985 German Grand Prix, Qualified: 19th, Finished: 8th

Thirty-one years after the success of fellow Giessen-born driver Karl Kling, Bellof attempted to emulate his predecessor at the German Grand Prix. However, in his second season with Tyrrell, Bellof had enjoyed only limited success in the preceding rounds and at the Nurburgring could only muster eighth place, in a race won by Ferrari’s Michele Alboreto. The one saving grace for Bellof was that he finished three laps up on Tyrrell team mate Martin Brundle.

Christian Danner
Best result: Did not finish

Despite competing in three German Grands Prix during his four season-long Formula One career, Danner never once finished the race. His first appearance driving for Arrows in 1986 ended in retirement, as did his second with Zakspeed in ’87. Left without a drive in 1988, he made a return to Hockenheim the following season but failed to qualify in the seriously uncompetitive Rial.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen
Best result: 1999 German Grand Prix, Qualified: 2nd, Finished: 3rd

During his Formula One career, Frentzen was largely overshadowed by compatriot Schumacher. But at the 1999 German event it was Heinz-Harald, and not Michael who enjoyed the cheers of the home fans when he claimed a well-deserved podium for Jordan. Schumacher, still recovering from a broken leg he sustained in a crash at Silverstone earlier in the year, was absent from the race and Frentzen finished third behind the Ferraris of Eddie Irvine and (Schumacher stand-in) Mika Salo. It would be his only notable success at Hockenheim.