Michael Schumacher may be long gone from F1 racing, but his lasting impact in increasing the number of German drivers in the sport is clear to see. Five of the 20 drivers in F1 this year have their home race at the Nurburgring this weekend.
And one of them is hotly tipped for victory following his runaway Silverstone success: Sebastian Vettel.
After the British Grand Prix there were two competing explanations for how Red Bull had managed to beat Brawn so comprehensively, and what might be in store for the rest of the season.
One holds that Red Bull have made a major step forward in performance that Brawn will struggle to match. The other claims Silverstone was a one-off; a freak of low tyre temperatures which exposed one of the BGP001′s few weaknesses.
There’s probably an element of truth in both explanations. But Ted Kravitz’s story about Christian Horner congratulating Adrian Newey on the Red Bull pitwall – and Newey bursting into tears – suggests Vettel’s team believe they have cracked the performance secrets of their RB5.
That would fit a pattern we’ve seen before with other Newey cars, particularly the 2005 McLaren MP4/20, which hit their stride once the teams had nailed their sweet spots.
Brawn, meanwhile, have a stockpile of new parts to throw at the BGP001 in an effort to stay ahead in the championship. These include the unused development parts from Silverstone (left on the shelf as the team grappled with its grip problems) as well as freshly-designed components for this race.
The other Germans
Timo Glock stands out as the next best chance of a home win for the German crowd. He led at Bahrain and was in scintillating form in the rain in Malaysia. But since then he’s often lagged a little too far behind his team mate.
Nico Rosberg has started to find consistency with the Williams, scoring in the last four consecutive races. But despite the promise the FW31 shows in practice, it has rarely looked like getting on the podium.
BMW’s Nick Heidfeld goes into the weekend with hopes that the team’s new developments for the F1.09 will pull the car further up the grid. They include revisions to the teams ‘double diffuser’ – a development BMW were among the last to introduce in the first place.
As discussed here last week Adrian Sutil’s Force India team are on a definite upward trajectory. A win may be out of the question – but their first ever points might well feel like a victory.
In the years since Michael Schumacher left F1, Germany has lost its privilege of having two rounds per year, and now the future of the Hockenheimring as an F1 venue is in doubt. Crowd numbers have inevitably suffered.
But this weekend Sebastian Vettel races at home for the first time since becoming a Grand Prix winner – and off the back of his last win. Will he become Germany’s new F1 superstar?