2012 German Grand Prix preview
The days of Germany holding two rounds of the world championship are behind it. But a rotation deal between its two tracks means the Hockenheimring, scene of this year’s race, and the Nurburgring, are only seen every other year.
Barring a single visit to AVUS in Berlin in 1959, these two tracks have shared the history of Germany’s round of the world championship.
The Nurburgring Nordschleife was the first home of the race on the championship calendar, but in 1970 Hockenheim appeared on the schedule for the first time as safety-conscious drivers forced a temporary relocation of the race.
They went back to an upgraded Nordschleife the following year but after Niki Lauda’s horrific crash in 1976 F1 never again raced at the Green Hell.
The new, shortened Nurburgring first appeared in F1 in the mid-eighties and became a regular fixture a decade later when the country went Schumacher-crazy. But even with Schumacher back in the sport, Sebastian Vettel winning the last two championship and Mercedes as potent a force as ever, Germany’s days of holding two rounds of the series are over.
Hockenheimring circuit information
|Lap length||4.574km (2.842 miles)|
|Distance||67 laps (306.5km/190.4 miles)|
|Lap record*||1’13.780 (Kimi Raikkonen, 2004)|
|Fastest lap||1’13.306 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)|
|Tyres||Medium and Soft|
*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix
Hockenheim has always been the lesser of the two venues when it comes to quality of the circuit. And so it remains: once a hair-rising high-speed blast through the forest, it was chopped into a spiritless but slightly more overtaking-friendly form a decade ago.
Ferrari’s preview optimistically asserts that “the Motodrom section is the nearest thing Formula 1 has to an Indy-style oval”. It’s a nice idea but of course the cars don’t come past nearly as often, nor as quickly, nor are seen for as long as on an oval track.
Sauber’s head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara thinks the tyre compound selection for this race could have been more aggressive: “Pirelli has allocated the soft and the medium compounds, which at first glance, look like a conservative choice.
“But temperatures can be high in Hockenheim in July, so we will see how this affects the tyres.”
After a slow (by their standards) start to the year, the season is coming to Red Bull. But at the moment it’s Mark Webber, not Sebastian Vettel, who’s spearheading their championship assault.
Silverstone was his second win of the season and it was swiftly followed by the extension of his contract with the team for another year. Webber will be emboldened by that vote of confidence, but he needs to consistently beat one of the toughest team mates in the business if he’s going to challenge for the championship.
For all of Sebastian Vettel’s success since joining the team, victory in his home race has eluded him.
This is an important weekend for McLaren as they are bringing what they describe as a “visible” upgrade. The MP4-27 worked well out-of-the-box but the team failed to get the most out of it with a string of pit lane and ‘operational’ errors for which the drivers were largely blameless.
Now those problems appear to be licked – the silver crew were the slickest operation in the pits in the last two races – but Red Bull and Ferrari have closed and overcome the performance gap.
This race will be Lewis Hamilton’s 100th career start.
Ferrari have emerged from their defensive, damage-limiting phase of their championship campaign and are increasingly confident in their predictions about their performance.
Fernando Alonso is clearly revelling in the F2012. Each of the last three races have seen him leading in the closing stages but struggling with tyre degradation – only in Valencia did he hang on to win.
It’s the home race for Mercedes and they can count on significant support around the track, not least at the Mercedes grandstand.
Nico Rosberg is optimistic about how the W03 will perform: “I think our car should suit this track much better than Silverstone. Hockenheim has long straights and short corners, which will be good for the Silver Arrow.”
The eternal question of 2012 is when will Lotus make good on the potential of their E20 and finally win a race. The car clearly had the pace to challenge the Red Bulls and Ferraris at Silverstone but Kimi Raikkonen ended up stuck behind Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean had a few stumbles on his way to sixth.
Qualifying remains the team’s key weakness but if either of the E20s can make it onto the second row their excellent tyre preservation may make them strong candidates for a victory which is starting to look overdue.
Force India have been chipping away at the advantage of their midfield rivals, but came away from Silverstone empty-handed.
Paul di Resta knows this track well having raced on it twice per year during his DTM career: “It’s a fun circuit with some challenging corners and it’s good for overtaking, especially the slow hairpin at turn six.
“My favourite part of the lap is the stadium, where you can really feel the energy of the crowd. The double right-hander onto the start/finish line is another special corner and it’s difficult to get it right. If you have lots of experience on this track you can gain a little bit of time through this corner.”
Silverstone was Sauber’s third no-score of the year. There were opportunities missed in all areas of the team’s performance, from the error of sending Sergio Perez out to qualify on intermediates to Kamui Kobayashi parking on his pit crew.
There are only minor modifications to the C31 for this year’s race but there’s plenty of gains for the team to find in other areas of its operation at present.
Jean-Eric Vergne held the upper hand in the opening races of the season but Daniel Ricciardo has been gradually taking the initiative of late. But as the German Grand Prix changes venues each year he won’t be able to rely on experience from 2011 to gain an upper hand.
Pastor Maldonado’s driving has been under scrutiny as a series of collisions and penalties have kept him from scoring in every race since his breakthrough Spanish Grand Prix victory.
He’s clearly quick enough to deliver podiums for Williams but the team came close to falling to eighth in the standings behind Force India in the last race. With the FW34 they should have more than 47 points on the board.
Dani Clos will be back behind the wheel of an F112 once again during practice only. Narain Karthikeyan will take over the car for the rest of the weekend as usual, but he admits to preferring the old Hockenheimring:
“The new Hockenheim circuit is quite different to the old one, which for my liking was more exciting. Before it was quick but now it is slower and a high-downforce track, it is also quite short, not too complicated and very stop-and-go.”
Timo Glock is the fifth home driver on the grid this weekend. Marussia’s Silverstone upgrade showed enough progress to give the team a more comfortable margin over HRT but not enough to make them a serious threat to Caterham.
2012 driver form
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