The Hockenheim circuit was built in 1939 as a high-speed test track for Mercedes-Benz who needed a venue to test for the Tripoli Grand Prix. The original track was almost 8 kilometres long and was formed of two long curved straights with a long corner at either end.
When war broke out the construction was halted and in the post-war Germany the Nurburgring became the venue for Formula One, with Hockenheim hosting a few smaller events. When a plan to build an Autobahn through the circuit was approved, the government supplied Hockenheim with a large sum by way of compensation. This money was used to build a new circuit, the now famous Hockenheim circuit which cut through the forest before looping into the wonderful stadium section around which large grandstands were erected.
In 1968 Hockenheim hit the headlines when Jim Clark was killed there in an F2 race. Nevertheless, Formula One came to the track in 1970 as the Nurburgring was quickly becoming outdated. Once the Nurburgring had been updated however the sport returned there, leaving Hockenheim with national and F2 events.
In 1976, Niki Lauda suffered horrific burns at the Nurburgring and from that point on Hockenheim became the home of the German Grand Prix. In 1980 Patrick Depailler was killed in testing at the track, and a chicane was put in to break up the fast Ostkurve. Didier Pironi suffered terrible injuries to his legs in an accident in 1982, though Patrick Tambay brought the Ferrari team some consolation with a win that weekend.
Ever since the debut of Michael Schumacher, the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim has been one of the most atmospheric races of the season, the noise in the stadium section being quite deafening at times. In 2002 the long runs through the forest were done away with and the layout of the track was heavily modified. Despite arguments that it had lost some of its character, the first race at the new track, in 2002, was deemed a great success and has remained a regular feature on the Formula One calendar ever since.