Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Nurburgring, 2011

Nurburgring set for a close race even without rain

2011 German GP pre-race analysisPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Nurburgring, 2011
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Nurburgring, 2011

The stars seem to be aligning for Mark Webber to score his breakthrough success of 2011.

He’s on pole position for the third time this year, he’s usually been quicker than Sebastian Vettel this weekend – and he’s doing it all at the track where he scored his first F1 triumph two years ago.

But with Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and, of course, Vettel lined up behind him, it’s not going to be an easy run for Webber.

The start

Webber’s immediate priority will be getting to the first corner first. Which could be easier said than done: this may be his third pole position of the year, but he’s yet to lead a single lap.

Webber has gained just one place in starts this year and has given away 11.

However he will be less vulnerable at the start than he might have been. The run to turn one at the Nurburgring has been shortened by 240m as the grid has been moved forward to accommodate the extra cars added since 2009.

He made a controversial getaway from pole position here two years ago, banging wheels with Rubens Barrichello and being handed a drive-through penalty.

It would not have been a surprise to see Lewis Hamilton qualify second on the grid a few races ago. But McLaren came into this weekend with low expectations after under-performing at Valencia and Silverstone.

Hamilton credited several car upgrades for his fast lap in qualifying. But the 1.1s gap to his team mate shows Hamilton is on top form at a track where he has gone well in the past, but never had the results to show for it.

Alonso, fourth on the grid, is another driver to keep an eye on – he took the lead from this position at Barcelona, another track with a long drag to the first corner.

Ferrari showed good race pace in practice and Alonso was in scorching form at Silverstone.

The strategy

Assuming the race stays dry the good durability exhibited by Pirelli’s tyres this weekend should mean drivers have to make only one or two stops for tyres.

With the soft tyres proving very durable, and the medium quite slow, expect to see drivers leave the medium tyre for a very short stint at the end of the race.

Pirelli’s tyre mix of medium and soft compounds seems to be on the conservative side, especially given the cool temperatures. At the last race here Bridgestone brought their medium and super-soft compounds.

Of course all this will go out of the window if the anticipated rain finally makes an appearance this weekend.

The weather

This morning’s GP3 and GP2 races were run in mixed conditions, the latter seeing drivers switch from wets to slicks as the track dried out.

There are further showers in the area which could hit the track before or during the race.

But even without it today’s race promises to be an exciting encounter.

How do you think the German Grand Prix will unfold? Who do you think will win? Have your say in the comments.

2011 German Grand Prix

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