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Schumacher joins in Hockenheim criticism

RALF SCHUMACHER has joined the chorus of criticism of the Hockenheim track, saying he would like the German Grand Prix to switch to a more modern circuit.

The venue has hardly changed since it first hosted the event in 1970 and is now at risk of losing the race unless it undergoes a facelift.

Nurburgring, which has recently been modernized, is not an option as it already hosts the European Grand Prix but a new track in Brandenburg, just outside Berlin, could replace Hockenheim.

"I would go to Brandenburg because we would then have a track up to date with the latest technology which is no longer the case here," said Schumacher, when asked if he could imagine the German Grand Prix moving to the Lausitzring, due to be inaugurated next month.

"But I would miss Hockenheim because the atmosphere here is unique."

The BMW-Williams driver said the surface of the 6.8-kilometer course was uneven, causing rainwater to collect on the track during Friday's practice, while visibility was poor in some sections.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, set to meet officials from the southwestern Baden-Wuerttemberg region to discuss the track's future, also dislikes the venue.

He admitted stands for an extra 25,000 spectators were needed as well as a shorter distance between the car parks and the track, a new pit lane and improved VIP and media facilities.

According to German weekly Auto, Motor und Sport, Ecclestone will be presented with a plan to refurbish Hockenheim for 95 million marks (30 million), with the circuit shortened to 4.5 kilometers.

Hockenheim, a sleepy little town in southwestern Germany which comes to life only during the race weekend, is contracted to keep the German Grand Prix until 2001.

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