NURBURG // Similar to a secret garden, the Nordschleife track sits unkempt and undeveloped on the periphery of this weekend's main attraction, the Nurburgring's GP-Strecke.
The "Northern Loop", original host venue of the German Grand Prix, is a sprawling 22km circuit that is hidden among the dense forest, features blind corners, undulating straights and several different types of tarmac, much of which is now decorated in sentimental graffiti. It also offers practically no run-off areas.
Formula One has not raced upon the illustrious track since 1976, when Niki Lauda suffered a near-fatal accident that resulted in him being badly burned. Much was made of the distance the ambulance and fire engines had to travel to reach the scene of the crash. From the following year the country's annual race was held at Hockenheim.
In 1984, the Southern Loop of the Nurburgring held the European Grand Prix and today continues to host the German Grand Prix biennially. Critics, however, say it pales in comparison to its northern sibling.
Courtesy of the Nordschleife's chronicled history, it remains one of the most loved - but most unforgiving - tracks in the world. Now used solely for recreational purposes, professional drivers and racing enthusiasts both revel in the opportunity to try their hand at "die Grune Holle" - the Green Hell.
This week alone, Nick Heidfeld, Sergio Perez and Adrian Sutil all experienced the dangerous thrill of driving on the daunting Nordschleife, and Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, the two Mercedes-GP drivers, circumnavigated the old track in the same Mercedes-Benz W196 that Juan Manuel Fangio drove in his first win for the Silver Arrows in 1954. "It was a very, very special experience for me," Rosberg said.
Sutil was not so fortunate. Force India's German driver endured a technical problem and lost control, resulting in him careering into the barriers. He later played down the incident saying it was "nothing major", but the incident highlighted problems with safety.
Rumours abound regarding how many civilian deaths are caused annually by accidents on the Nordschleife's open track. Some speculate as many as one fatality per month. There certainly is little chance of Formula One ever returning.
"There is no doubting the Nordschleife is one of the best circuits in the world, if not the best," Sebastian Vettel said. "Unfortunately, cars are not made to go racing around there like you see in the pictures from previous years."