Toto Wolff dismayed by low attendance at Hockenheim

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Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff has said that the low attendance at Hockenheim is “not satisfying” given Germany’s current success in Formula 1.

Germany is currently enjoying a spell of dominance in the sport. Sebastian Vettel has won the last four world titles for Red Bull, German marque Mercedes is the runaway leader this season, and a German driver leads the drivers’ championship in the shape of Nico Rosberg.

However, for practice on Friday at Hockenheim, the grandstands were nearly empty, and the attendance for the race on Sunday is predicted to be less than 50,000. For the British Grand Prix, well over double that figure packed into the stands at Silverstone to cheer Lewis Hamilton on to a home victory. For Wolff, the situation is very disappointing.

“It’s not satisfying,” he said. “If you compare Hockenheim Friday to Friday at Silverstone and Friday in Austria, it’s a different world and we have to understand why that is.”

Even on the Thursday in Austria, fans flocked to the circuit purely for driver signings and events, causing severe traffic delays en route to the Red Bull Ring.

Wolff still thinks that the figure could surpass the predictions given that some may have not bought a ticket yet, but he does agree that something must be done to improve the situation.

“I’m not sure whether we have an exact number for Sunday already,” he said. “You know, there are lots of people probably deciding at short notice, depending on the weekend. “We have to analyse the phenomenon. If the weekend continues like it does now, we need to think about it.”

The attendance for last year’s German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring was also low, and even when combined with the Bahrain and Monaco Grands Prix in 2013, the three races did not match the single figure for the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas.

In a feature on MotorSportsTalk yesterday, I looked at the current ‘golden generation’ of sportsmen in Germany, and how the nation has dominated the F1 scene since the turn of the century. However, the reasons why this is not translating into ticket sales – be it high prices or lack of access – need to be assessed.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

 

There still would be much to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during an ongoing pandemic).

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).