• German Grand Prix preview

Will a favourite step forward?

Laurence Edmondson July 22, 2010

None of the top three teams came out of Silverstone looking like an overall winner. Red Bull suffered a self-inflicted fallout between its drivers, Ferrari spent more time arguing with the stewards than it spent on the track and McLaren's crucial upgrade backfired. As a result none of them come to Germany as the clear favourite, but that's no bad thing as it makes the race even more unpredictable. They are all capable of winning but by an equal measure they are all capable of losing. That is what is making this season so irresistible to watch - well, that and great racing.

On Form

Lewis Hamilton is the only driver to have scored four consecutive podiums this year, and he could have had six had it not been for his wheel rim failure on the penultimate lap of the Spanish Grand Prix. At the last two races the McLaren has dropped off the performance of its rivals yet Hamilton's grid positions and results have remained constant. It's been very impressive and there's no reason to think anything will change at Hockenheim. Last time F1 visited the track Hamilton took a magnificent win and he has nearly always been competitive at the circuit in junior formula. If McLaren can unlock the potential of its blown diffuser, which Hamilton was keen to run at Silverstone anyway, then he could be a genuine match for the Red Bulls on pace.

Out of Form

Driving one of the most competitive cars on the grid, Felipe Massa has failed to score a single point at the last three races. He's undoubtedly been unlucky but he's also made some terrible mistakes and is still struggling to extract the best from his Bridgestones in qualifying. With tyres being a potential sticking point in Germany (see below) he could struggle again this weekend.

Fernando Alonso is under pressure to deliver © Getty Images
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One to Watch

In the other Ferrari, Fernando Alonso has also been the victim of bad luck, but has still managed to score points and qualify well. With Red Bull's drivers in self-destruct mode and McLaren pinning its hopes on its problematic blown diffuser, Alonso could well be in the prime position to take advantage. What's more the development of the Ferrari has progressed nicely over the last two races and it should be well suited to Hockenheim.

Talking Points

Vettel v Webber - Round 2 Red Bull left Silverstone split in two, after the decision to give Sebastian Vettel the updated front wing from Mark Webber's car deepened the rift between its drivers. To be fair to Vettel he did exactly what any other racing driver would have done in accepting a perfromance enhancing upgrade, but Webber's steely handshake and venomous glare in the paddock after the race suggested a much deeper problem between the pair. Away from the media's prying eye, team boss Christian Horner insisted his drivers had made up, but we'll have to wait until their first public appearance together (most likely Thursday's autograph session) to know if it is for real or just PR spin.

Bridgestone's tyre gamble After tyre problems resulted in the Canadian Grand Prix being heralded as a huge success, Bridgestone vowed to be more aggressive with its tyre selection in Germany. The teams will have to choose from the two extremes in the tyre range - the super softs and hards - meaning they will be using two very different compounds, designed to work in very different conditions. If it's hot the super softs might become a little marginal (especially on heavy fuel at the start of the race) and if it's cold the hard tyres will take a while to get up to temperature. Unfortunately we probably won't see a repeat of Montreal where the problem was not the tyres but the lack of grip from the track surface. However, we might see some interesting tyre strategies, with brave drivers pitting twice if the performance advantage of the super soft over the hard is sufficient enough to allow another visit to the pits.

Bernie's fire starting An underlying row in the paddock has been rumbling on for several weeks now. Allsport, which controls trackside advertising, has put pressure on the teams to remove all sponsor branding from their garages and the paddock, and in removing the sponsored truck cabs from behind the pits at Silverstone, the teams have in part complied. In a recent interview with the Evening Standard, Bernie Ecclestone outlined the argument: "The teams were putting sponsorship on property that belongs to us. I explained to them that's fine and maybe we wouldn't have a problem with that if we could put some things on their cars." However, it could just be Ecclestone toying with the Formula One Teams' Association, as he also said: "I like achieving things and I see myself as something of a firefighter and I never get tired of it. And if there are no fires, we light a few of our own."

Michael Schumacher Four years ago Michael Schumacher was the undisputed king of Hockenheim. He may not have won there as many times as at other venues (although four victories isn't bad), but in his prime he could single-handedly sell-out the stadium section. The same isn't true nowadays - there are still over 10,000 tickets for race day unsold according to reports - but many of those that have bought their place in the grandstand did so on the expectation of seeing Schumacher back at his best. Unfortunately for them, he is still a long way from the top step of the podium and it will be interesting to see how many of the 120,000 plus fans that turn up support one of the other five German drivers on the grid.

Weekend Timings

  • Free practice 1 0800 GMT / 1000 Local
    Free practice 2 1200 GMT / 1400 Local
    Free practice 3 0900 GMT / 1100 Local
    Qualifying 1200 GMT / 1400 Local
    Race 1200 GMT / 1400 Local

Trivia

  • Hockenheim was built in the 1930s as a test track for Mercedes Benz but didn't see its first F1 grand prix until the 1970s. It's first race was a motorbike event held on an unsurfaced triangular track
  • Legendary F1 driver Jim Clark died at the circuit in 1968 when his Lotus veered off the circuit and crashed into the woods. He was driving in a Formula 2 race largely to satisfy a contractual agreement with tyre company Firestone as he was also supposed to be appearing at Brands Hatch for a sports car event. The cause of the accident was never properly identified but was believed to be due to a deflating tyre
  • Two of the old layout's four chicanes were added as a result of Clark's crash. However, now the old circuit has been dug up, the location of his accident is almost lost in a wooded area

Fast Facts

  • The first German Grand Prix was held in 1926 at the Avus circuit in central Berlin
  • Ferrari holds the record number of wins by a constructor at the German Grand Prix, with a total of 19. It is also the highest number of wins by a constructor at any grand prix
  • The lap record of 1:13.780 is held by Kimi Raikkonen, set in 2004 in a McLaren

Circuit

Hockenheim used to be one of F1's fastest circuits, with four mile-long straights cutting through dense forests. The cars would reach speeds in excess of 220mph along the narrow track and then attempt to pass under hard braking into one of the chicanes separating the straights. In the early 2000s questions were raised about the lack of spectator viewing and the inherent dangers of the circuit, which was slightly ironic as F1 had originally moved there from the Nurburgring in the 1970s for similar reasons. As a result of the concerns, the new layout was opened in 2002 and, although it lacks the idiosyncrasies of the old version, it does provide good racing. The atmospheric stadium section at the end of the lap remains intact and is still a favourite among the drivers. Overtaking is most likely to occur at the Spitzkehre hairpin.

© ESPNF1
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Weather

Rain is very likely at some point on Friday, less likely on Saturday and dry weather is predicted for Sunday. A wet practice session will cause havoc for any team attempting to gather data on new parts and could make McLaren think twice before signing off on its blown diffuser before qualifying. A mixed grid as a result of rain would also be very welcome as overtaking is possible around the 2.6 mile circuit.

Betting

The Red Bulls are still the bookie's favourites with Sebastian Vettel (13/8) just getting the nod over Mark Webber (5/2). Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have reasonable odds at 4/1 and 5/1 respectively, while Jenson Button's recent qualifying struggles leave him at 11/1. Meanwhile Michael Schumacher is 50/1 to send the home fans into a frenzy and take his fifth German Grand Prix victory.

ESPNF1 Prediction

Although Red Bull won't have the advantage it enjoyed at Silverstone, it will probably still have the best overall package. However, with infighting between its drivers and McLaren working flat-out to close the gap over the last two weeks, Lewis Hamilton is in a prime position to beat them this weekend.

Laurence Edmondson is an assistant editor on ESPNF1

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Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1 Laurence Edmondson grew up on a Sunday afternoon diet of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell and first stepped in the paddock as a Bridgestone competition finalist in 2005. He worked for ITV-F1 after graduating from university and has been ESPNF1's deputy editor since 2010