The absence of Michael Schumacher is largely responsible but, depending who gets the second Spyker seat, there could conceivably be five home drivers on the grid.
But the battle for wins is likely to be between the same four drivers on a circuit that on paper doesn’t favour either of their cars over the other.
So who will win? Here are my thoughts – make your podium predictions below.
One common theme this season is that the Ferraris have excelled on tracks with lots of high-speed corners (Catalunya, Silverstone) but McLaren have prevailed at tracks with short, sharp turns (Monte-Carlo, Montreal).
The Nurburgring then is an interesting proposition – the first sector is tight, slow McLaren territory. The second has several high-speed corners, favouring the Ferraris. And the third has the fastest straight (Ferrari) and Veedol chicane (McLaren).
TV times – Britain
European Grand Prix Qualifying live
Saturday 21st July
Qualifying starts at 13:00
European Grand Prix Race live
Sunday 22nd July
Race starts at 13:00
European Grand Prix Race highlights
Sunday 22nd July
Monday 23rd July
McLaren are leading both championships but under heavy fire from Ferrari, who were the class of the field in the last two rounds. On top of that, Mercedes top brass will be out in force at the Nurburgring, so this is not the weekend to let Ferrari go out of sight.
But the enormous distraction of the FIA’s investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Mike Coughlan cannot be underestimated.
Between the drivers, Fernando Alonso put Lewis Hamilton in the shade at the Briton’s home track and he will be hoping to further cut Hamilton’s championship lead.
Renault have BMW in their sights but they aren’t catching them quickly. Heikki Kovalainen has got on terms with team mate Giancarlo Fisichella and this inter-team battle si becoming ever more fascinating.
Ferrari boss Luca Montezemolo has complained that Ferrari have won more races than McLaren yet trail them in the championship.
The team clearly has a pace advantage right now yet niggling problems like Kimi Raikkonen’s in Spain and Felipe Massa’s in Britain is compromising their charge. It’s interesting that Ferrari’s prodigal reliability in years past was credited to the efforts of the now discredited and sacked Nigel Stepney.
The team need to repeat their one-two from France but expect the competitive McLaren pair to get in among them and perhaps even cause Montezemolo further frustration.
Raikkonen has a score to settle with the track where he’s retired twice while leading – in 2003 and on the final lap in 2005.
If one team will be hoping the Nurburgring delivers wet Eiffel weather it must be BMW. Easily the third best team this year they haven’t much chance of winning in normal conditions unless the front runners suffer some unlikely quadruple misfortune.
Robert Kubica has had the beating of Nick Heidfeld since the Pole’s return two races ago. Heidfeld needs a strong result at the track where he scored his maiden pole position two years ago to strengthen his position in the team and guarantee his place for next year.
The team’s most promising qualifying performance of the year at Silverstone ended ignominiously. Ralf Schumacher went backwards and retired, and Jarno Trulli pulled out with handling problems – quite unusual in Formula 1.
If they don’t get a handle on these wayward performances soon the congested midfield will leave them behind and they could have a pair of very high numbers on the front of next year’s cars.
Red Bull are awaiting a heavily revised RBR3 but in the meantime their drivers looked resigned to more inconsistency and unreliability. Even Honda now seem to have an edge over them.
The Nurburgring will be an interesting test of whether Alexander Wurz has solved his qualifying problems – he’s got no excuse for not leaving the Super Aguris, Spykers and Toro Rossos behind in the first session.
If either driver can qualifies on the sixth row then, with a full tank of fuel at the start, more points could be on the cards.
Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
Vitantonio Liuzzi didn’t even complete a lap last year so he can afford to set his sights high for a change. But it’s likely to be another weekend of scrapping around for places in the mid teens and hoping the car lasts for both him and Scott Speed.
At the time of writing Adrian Sutil will be partnered by persons unknown this weekend as the team has dropped Christijan Albers so quickly they didn’t even have time to name a successor.
Christian Klien is considered likely but test driver Markus Winkelhock is trying to drum up funds to become the fifth German on the grid for only German race this year.
Super Aguri are clearly suffering in the development pace race – not only because they’re a small outfit but because their car is already fairly developed to begin with, being Honda’s ’06 machine in all but name and colours.
Having slipped towards the rear of the midfield only a big first-lap shunt or a wet race is likely to offer them a crack at the points. But keep an eye on how the close Sato-Davidson battle pans out.
Predict the podium for the Grand Prix – leave your comments below.