Could we finally see a new outright record at the Nurburgring?
Formula 1 will return to the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife, but not in the way F1 fans were hoping for. Instead, Daniel Ricciardo will use Sebastian Vettel's 2011 RB7 (Kinky Kylie) to complete some show runs before the kick-off of the 12H Nurburgring, which is part of the FIA's World Endurance Championship and has now partnered with Red Bull from a sponsorship perspective.
Kinky Kylie may be retired, but she leads an exciting life. Before this year's Australian Grand Prix, she rallied across the backbone of Oz.
These show runs are scheduled for 9 September 2023, and the big question on everyone's mind is whether the smiliest man in F1 history will attempt to set a new lap record. The Nurburgring press release only mentions show runs, not to mention the fact that the Nordschleife is not an F1-certified track.
There's almost no run-off at the Nordschleife, so if drivers get it wrong, they're going into the barriers hard. For proof, look no further than any Nurburgring fail video on YouTube. More often than not, it's a base BMW 3 Series that mows the Green Hell's lawn.
This is not the first time a modern F1 car will hit the infamous circuit. In 2007, Nick Heidfeld drove some demo laps in his BMW Sauber, and Michael Schumacher entertained the crowds in a Mercedes F1 car. Neither driver went full send, and there's an excellent reason.
The F1 circus used to race on the hardcore Nordschleife (Northern Loop), but the German Grand Prix was canceled after Niki Lauda's severe crash in 1976. The crash and the aftermath are beautifully depicted in the cinematic masterpiece Rush. The German Grand Prix was canceled for being too dangerous, and F1 only returned to the Nurburgring in 1984 after a dedicated Grand Prix track had been built within the North Loop.
These days the Nordschleife is used for production car records. The most recent example is the Honda Civic Type R claiming the FWD record. The fastest-ever F1 lap is effectively an unanswered question. Clay Regazzoni claimed the fastest lap (7:06.4) of the 1975 race in his Ferrari 312T. Niki Lauda managed a time of 6:58.6 during qualifying that same year. Neither lap is officially recognized.
In 1983, Stefan Bellof set the fastest Nurburgring Nordschleife in the highly successful Porsche 956 endurance racer. The time was 6:11.13. Porsche beat its own record again in 2018 with the 919 LMP1 car with a 5:19.55 in derestricted form.
Obviously, an F1 car and an endurance racer aren't in the same league. Endurance racers are faster, but F1 cars can corner and accelerate much quicker. When BMW Sauber completed the 2007 run, it said a theoretical lap of 5:15.8 should be possible.
The truth is, we'll likely never know. While Danny Ric won't push the limits of the Renault V8-powered RB7, he won't be going slow either. Even if Danny Ric is pushing at 70%, there's a good chance he'll go faster than the current production car lap record holder.
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