Mercedes on the rise ahead of home race as F1 strives to avoid repeat of Silverstone blow-outs

2013 German Grand Prix preview

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2013Formula One heads to Germany in an anxious state following the dramatic events of Silverstone.

It goes without saying the sport cannot afford a repeat of the embarrassing and potentially lethal tyre explosions which marred the British Grand Prix. The crisis has at least temporarily galvanised the FIA, FOM, teams and Pirelli to take action.

Pirelli has proposed a short-term fix which basically amounts to using the Kevlar-belted tyres they wanted to introduce several races earlier. Ferrari, Lotus and Force India previously blocked that move, claiming it would make their cars less competitive. We’ll find out this weekend if their fears had substance.

If, as expected, the change in tyres plays into the hands teams who were having trouble making their tyres last, then Sunday’s winners surely stand to gain the most. Degradation was a major problem for Mercedes in some of the earlier races.

It was clear at Silverstone – the first race since the test where tyres experience very high loadings – Mercedes had made progress with their degradation problems. That served to provoke fresh questions over how much their controversial Pirelli test helped.

Red Bull had lobbied hard for more conservative tyres so they will not be disappointed at the forthcoming change. However the revised tyres for this weekend will only be used on the rear axle, and it was the front tyres which Red Bull were having most difficulty with. They may be in better shape at Hungary, where further changes will be made to the front and rear tyres.

There is an ironic side to the haste with which F1 has had to overhaul its rubber for this weekend’s race, which follows immediately after the British round. The race was originally supposed to happen a week later but was brought forward to make room on the calendar for an extra round that never materialised.

Nurburgring circuit information

Lap length 5.148km (3.199 miles)
Distance 60 laps (308.6km/191.8 miles)
Lap record* 1’29.467 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)
Fastest lap 1’27.691 (Takuma Sato, 2004)
Tyres Medium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Nurburgring track data in full

Despite owning the famous Nordscleife, a popular destination for car manufacturers who wish to do testing and enthusiasts eager to tackle one of the world’s greatest racing circuits, the Nurburgring has hit financial trouble which nearly caused the cancellation of this year’s race. Some reports have claimed Bernie Ecclestone has waived FOM’s fee for holding this year’s race.

The financial jeopardy the circuit finds itself in is bad news for Formula One, as the Nurburgring is one of the better venues on the calendar. “I prefer the Nurburgring to Hockenheim,” says Mark Webber, “it?s got a bit of character about it, with some old school camber changes and old kerbs.”

Ecclestone’s presence in the paddock will also be a point of interest as he faces the threat of charges in Germany over an alleged bribery involving banker Gerhard Gribkowsky.

Recent events have served to underline that Germany’s star driver Sebastian Vettel is not the most popular figure among fans. But there is perhaps another German who outstrips him in that respect: Hermann Tilke.

Holding a virtual monopoly on Formula One track design, Tilke’s tracks and circuit modification work is, rightly or wrongly, widely viewed as sapping the challenge and character from Formula One. The slow, awkward section added to the Nurburgring in 2002 is seen as an example of this – though the track got off lightly compared to the other host of the German Grand Prix.

Perhaps the criticism levelled at Tilke is unfair. Formula One cars may not be at their most elegant as they pootle around the slow first sector of the Nurburgring, but it has opened up a new opportunity for them to change positions. And it bears remembering that when the new Nurburgring first appeared on the F1 calender in 1984 many considered it a sanitised and uninteresting alternative to the Nordschleife.

Germany Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Nurburgring, 2011Remarkably, Vettel has never scored a win on home ground (or even in the month of July, for that matter).

But the world championship leader, who turned 26 yesterday, is only making his third visit to the Nurburgring as an F1 driver this year. On both previous visits he was beaten home by his team mate, who tends to thrive on classic-style tracks.

Webber’s impending departure to Porsche gives him even less reason than he had before to keep the peace with his team mate. We could be set for quite a fight between the two this weekend.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso may have cut Vettel’s title lead to 21 points at Silverstone but Ferrari aren’t kidding themselves. They were concerned by their car’s lack of pace, particularly in qualifying, and know that without Vettel’s gearbox failure Alonso would be almost two wins behind his championship rival.

They had little time to do much about it between the two races. And it’s doubtful the switch to less aggressive rear tyres will make the F138 more competitive.

McLaren

McLaren have finally bowed to the inevitable and admitted the focus of their season is now on preparing for next year.

Nonetheless Jenson Button believes the team are making gains with the MP4-28: “Our car is now better balanced and more driveable, so we?re hoping for a rain-free practice day in order to further develop the set-up during Friday?s two free practice sessions.”

Lotus

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Silverstone, 2013Lotus tested two updates at Silverstone, one on each car, but as trackside operations director Alan Permane explains their next step won’t necessarily be to put both on the E21:

“At Silverstone, Kimi [Raikkonen] ran with the [Drag Reduction] Device and Romain [Grosjean] rain with the new slimline bodywork package.

“The gains from both were roughly on a par with each other, so once we?ve confirmed everything on the data, combining the two ?ǣ which have been developed on parallel but separate development paths ?ǣ could well be the way forward. That won?t be for Germany, where we?ve yet to determine which package we will use. Watch closely when the garage doors open for first practice.”

Mercedes

Are Mercedes bona fide championship contenders after taking their second win in three races? Their scoring rate has more than doubled since their illegal test for Pirelli in May and they have moved up two places in the constructors’ championship in that time.

Toto Wolff expects the Nurburgring to be another strong track for the team. A home win is definitely on the cards.

Sauber

Sauber ended their point-less streak at Silverstone but their was little for the team to cheer about as they languished in the lower half of the midfield during qualifying.

“We take encouragement from our race pace in Silverstone, but it is clear we still have some work to do in order to qualify stronger,” admitted head of track engineering Tom McCullough.

Force India

Just when we thought Paul di Resta had broken his string of Saturday misfortunes at Silverstone with a fine fifth on the grid came the news he was being sent to the back of the field for being underweight.

Team mate Adrian Sutil ran in third for a significant portion of the race before losing out in the six-lap sprint to the flag. The team is clearly capable of scoring more points than it is at the moment and it’s probably only a matter of time until they do.

Williams

Williams’ season so far readers three 11ths, two 12ths, one 13th, five 14ths and a 16th – but no points. It’s hard to see that changing at the Nurburgring without some of their rivals suffering misfortune, or perhaps a little of the unpredictable weather the region is renowned for.

Toro Rosso

Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso, Silverstone, 2013The news of Webber’s impending departure from F1 means there’s real intrigue in the battle for supremacy at Toro Rosso, even if they face a serious rival to the seat in the shape of Raikkonen.

It was Daniel Ricciardo’s turn to shine at Silverstone after Jean-Eric Vergne’s excellent drive in Canada. But one of them needs to start consistently beating the other to be deemed worthy of piloting an RB10 next year.

Caterham

The little-seen contest between Caterham and Marussia was closely-fought as ever at Silverstone, with Charles Pic narrowly prevailing.

“We made some progress in Silverstone,” said Pic. “I put together the best qualifying lap of my season so far and in the race where we had better pace than we?d had for a couple of races, and we added a few new parts to the car, mainly around the floor.”

“We?ll have a couple more small updates for Germany and it?ll be good to continue the positive trend we?ve regained since last week in the UK.”

Marussia

Marussia still hold the upper hand over the rivals in the championship, though it will all be for naught if they remain without a commercial deal from Ecclestone.

They can’t take either conditions for granted, as team principal John Booth acknowledged: “Last weekend we demonstrated that a particular area of focus for us is qualifying, and we?ve spent the past couple of days taking a good look at all the data collected to see how we can improve.”

2013 driver form

Driver G avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 2.88 2.29 1 4 7/8 Form guide
Mark Webber 7 4.14 2 7 7/8 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 5 3.43 1 8 7/8 Form guide
Felipe Massa 9 6.71 3 15 7/8 Form guide
Jenson Button 10.25 10 5 17 8/8 Form guide
Sergio Perez 11 11.63 6 20 8/8 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 6.75 4.75 1 10 8/8 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 10.5 10 3 19 6/8 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 3.13 4.33 1 9 6/8 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 3 4.88 3 12 8/8 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 12 11 8 15 6/7 Form guide
Esteban Gutierrez 17.63 14.43 11 20 7/8 Form guide
Paul di Resta 13.25 7.43 4 9 7/8 Form guide
Adrian Sutil 9.25 9.17 5 13 6/8 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 15.63 13.2 11 16 5/8 Form guide
Valtteri Bottas 14.25 13.25 11 16 8/8 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 12.75 9.6 6 12 5/8 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 10.75 12.33 7 18 6/8 Form guide
Charles Pic 19.5 16.14 14 18 7/8 Form guide
Giedo van der Garde 19.88 17.5 15 21 6/8 Form guide
Jules Bianchi 19.13 16.14 13 19 7/8 Form guide
Max Chilton 20.5 17.38 14 20 8/8 Form guide

Are you going to the German Grand Prix?

If you’re heading to Germany for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you.

We’ve got a dedicated group and forum for people going to the race.

You can embed your pictures from the race via Flickr and videos via YouTube and other major video-sharing accounts. Join in here:

Over to you

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the German Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2013 German Grand Prix

Browse all 2013 German Grand Prix articles

Images ?? Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Lotus/LAT, Red Bull/Getty

Advert | Go Ad-free

41 comments on Mercedes on the rise ahead of home race as F1 strives to avoid repeat of Silverstone blow-outs

  1. crr917 (@crr917) said on 4th July 2013, 11:44

    Black helmets for the win :)

  2. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 4th July 2013, 11:49

    Typically cool temperatures + New rear tyres = Advantage Mercedes.

    Go Lewis!

  3. Traverse (@) said on 4th July 2013, 11:52

    Hamilton’s move to Mercedes looks like a stroke of genius now, not only are Merc performing at the highest level (it took them long enough), he actually looks genuinely happy and at ease within F1 now. It’s clear that Mercedes has an environment and team ethos that suits him, unlike McLaren who appear to have an all encompassing almost asphyxiating approach to drivers.

    I think this will be the year that Ham wins his 2nd WDC.

  4. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 4th July 2013, 11:54

    Great preview Keith.

    I hope Webber can finally qualify ahead of his team mate this weekend, at a track where he’s always been strong, and Vettel so far hasn’t (I would never bet against Vettel, though, certainly not on the basis of two races). I think Mark has driven well so far this year, and I would be sad to see him leave F1 without one or two more victories to his name. I think he currently has the momentum and the confidence to challenge for victory, provided he gets off the line better than in Silverstone. Hamilton has also gone well here in the past, so I’m expecting another Red Bull – Mercedes battle at the front.

    Ferrari and particularly Lotus seem to be in a slump even before this weekend’s changes to the tyres, so it’s questionable that they will be any quicker this weekend. At least the current forecast for Sunday is that it will be relatively warm with 25 degrees.

    I’m glad for Vergne and Ricciardo that their contest over Mark Webber’s seat seems to be playing out in an increasingly competitive Toro Rosso. I have a feeling they will be Q3 candidates here once again, and I think it won’t be long before they overtake McLaren for sixth in the constructors championship.

  5. Tayyib (@m0nzaman) said on 4th July 2013, 12:12

    With all the talk over tyres and safety the championship has sort of gone under the radar. Well not anymore its race 9 out of 19 and points are getting more and more important. Crunch time is now. Alonso has to drag a result out of somewhere, Ferrari wont have solved their problems from Silverstone in a few days, its imperative he either cuts into Vettels lead or stays within a win of Vettel. With Mercedes getting on top of their own problems they look like there going to be big contenders. Even if Alonso takes 3 points out of Vettels lead its okay he is still chipping away.

    Its a call to arms, its time to put pressure on Vettel, its time for Ferrari and Fernando Alonso to show they want this championship, they cant afford to concede more points to Vettel and for him to increase his lead. Forget next years rules, forget about testing its about this weekend and 10 more Sundays, its about the World Drivers Championship. Avanti Fernando

    AVANTIII ALOOOOOONSSSSO!

    • Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 4th July 2013, 12:29

      Avanti Alonso indeed! But the tyres, while they’ve dominated conversation, have also to my mind completely soured the championship battle. From Mercedes’ illegal test and subsequent (some would say entirely coincidental) huge gain in performance, to the construction of the tyres being modified for safety and having the side effect of helping Red Bull’s and Mercedes’ race performance and hindering that of Ferrari and Lotus, this championship is looking like it will be tainted for the remainder of the season.
      Instead of the best driver or best machinery winning, people will look back at this championship with all of its tyre controversy and see that Pirelli rubber was the defining factor in the championship outcome. Alonso and Ferrari have (and Lotus) have been penalised for getting their car to work best with the tyres. Pity those tyres were prone to delaminations and violent explosion at 200mph. I hope with the young driver test Ferrari and Lotus can claw back their performance, but a major reason that they will lose out on performance (the kevlar tyre construction) has been out of their hands.

      • Tayyib (@m0nzaman) said on 4th July 2013, 13:15

        I agree to an extent but the championship is still up for grabs I know Alonso will bring it the key is will Ferrari be able to support him. The test is going to be key to see what Lotus and Ferrari gain back in terms of speed. Yeah the Pirelli tyres have tainted it to some extent, I get the safety issue we cant have these brave guys get hurt or injured so they have to change the construction Personally I blame Pirelli for this mess. They brought tyres in 2012 and 2011 that didn’t violently fail, and peaople say kerbs but the kerbs have always been there and the drivers always use them so thats not an excuse for Pirelli. I thought it was just high loads and stresses that the left rear couldn’t live with as Hamilton said at skypad with Brundle. BUT to get back on track Alonso NEEDS to take a few more points out of Vettels lead.

  6. HiPn0tIc (@hipn0tic) said on 4th July 2013, 13:09

    I Think MERC and Nico are to target to beat…and the winning contenders

    • Thomas Shelley (@tomshelley) said on 4th July 2013, 14:05

      I think we will start to see Lewis pull ahead of Nico (as in the last two races). He will get beaten from time to time I am sure, but I think he is starting to find his mojo in this car.

      • Akin Aslan (@hamfanatic) said on 4th July 2013, 14:38

        Yes I agree that Hamilton is getting in a nice trend. He was faster in Canada and also in silverstone, in the latter just a bit unlucky. I think that Hamilton is getting on top of the car and the team, also he seems to be braking later .

        • PeterH said on 4th July 2013, 16:13

          I think that Hamilton is getting on top of the car and the team, also he seems to be braking later .

          yep, that illegal test helped him figure out those braking problems a lot sooner than he would have without the test.

          this & mercedes recent form just goes to highlight that they did gain an advantage & that the reprimand was far too lenient.
          the fact you can get away with an illegal test & gain an advantage is a total joke.

          also a shame pirelli have had such a big impact on the championship & may end up turning it on its head & been the deciding factor in who wins.

          hope there kicked out of f1 so they cant impact other title fights in future.

      • JCost (@jcost) said on 4th July 2013, 15:59

        +1.

        That quali pace at Siverstone certainly is not a one-off.

      • HiPn0tIc (@hipn0tic) said on 4th July 2013, 18:22

        I don’t. Nico has shown himself very fast and confident. Hamilton has shown quikness from time to time but not has regular has NIco

    • Jonathan Rooney said on 4th July 2013, 17:35

      I think Lewis under preforming before Canada can be down to a couple of things. Firstly, he has been struggling with brake balance and unpredictability, an area where he strives. Secondly, Lewis likes to have a prefect bubble around himself and not be distracted by his private life, therefore it didn’t come as a surprise to hear that he and his girlfriend have broken up. When Lewis has a perfect balance between his private life and his work i think he is unbeatable. The championship is still within reach!!

  7. anon said on 4th July 2013, 15:46

    It’s a long season and some tracks will suit different cars and different drivers. I wouldn’t write Rosberg off in the intra-team battle, but I think Hamilton does have a slight edge. Really though Hamilton should be blowing Rosberg away considering Mercedes dumped Schumacher to make room for Hamilton.

    Had Vettel been able to fight Hamilton for the entire race on Sunday I think Vettel would have eventually caught Hamilton. Also, Hamilton is harder on his tyres than his team-mate so we didn’t get to see how that would have played out.

    • Sankalp Sharma (@sankalp88) said on 4th July 2013, 17:28

      “Had Vettel been able to fight Hamilton for the entire race on Sunday I think Vettel would have eventually caught Hamilton.”

      I kind of agree with that actually. We never really had a Vettel vs Hamilton battle for the lead on the harder tyres. Although Rosberg was keeping Vettel in his sights, Vettel was comfortably responding to any pressure.

      • Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 4th July 2013, 18:21

        We never really had a Vettel vs Hamilton battle for the lead on the harder tyres.

        Perhaps you didn’t watch Austin last year and the victor of that battle.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 4th July 2013, 18:54

          There was also Spain 2011 on the super hards.

        • Sankalp Sharma (@sankalp88) said on 4th July 2013, 22:01

          @younger-hamii

          Really, :/ you are going to bring up an example not relevant to Silverstone 2013, when one of the drivers in question is driving for a different team and the tyre compounds have also changed. By the way, speaking of Austin last year. You do remember the circumstances under which Hamilton overtook Vettel. Both of them were basically cancelling each other out until Kartikeyan decided to ruin it for Vettel.

  8. PeterH said on 4th July 2013, 15:58

    Mercedes will dominate the rest of the season thanks to there illegal test clearly giving them a big advantage.

    Shame that what could have been a great season got destroyed by Pirelli :(

  9. Robbie (@robbie) said on 4th July 2013, 17:08

    I am less convinced than many that Mercedes has gained advantage because of the Pirelli test. I think their stronger points tally since Monaco is as much to do with Ferrari and Lotus not nearly being the force they looked to be early in the season, as anything. I think that LH having the first blowout last weekend indicates he was still the hardest on the tires, and the fact that the last safety car saved NR from having a similar blowout because it allowed him to pit for new tires, indicates to me that Merc has a lot of work to do and is being helped by Ferrari and Lotus not being where they should be right now. Of course more durable tires are going to help Mercedes, but they will help everyone else too, so I think Mercedes is about to have some stiffer competition aside from Red Bull.

    • Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 4th July 2013, 17:33

      For the sake of the Championship, I can only hope you’re right! I think there is some truth to your stating that Ferrari and Lotus have fallen back since Monaco, for whatever reason thus making Mercedes look better. However I still find it too much of a coincidence that a car that ate its tyres in Spain can improve to the point where they had such a strong showing in Canada and Britain, after three days testing.

      Remember too that Ferrari who are seemingly one of the easiest cars on their tyres had a blow out with Massa, and I think came close with Alonso as well last weekend.

  10. btmak said on 4th July 2013, 17:17

    1, im a Hamilton fan but I think his dominance at Silverstone was because it’s a track he is comfortable with. I still think rosberg will have the upper hand for the next few races until Lewis finds his groove in the car.
    2, if by some miracle, Webber wins yhe championship, does anyone think he’ll stay in F1? possibly a win could change his mind

  11. Deej92 (@deej92) said on 4th July 2013, 18:14

    Hamilton had a good win around the Nurburgring in 2011 and with a strong Mercedes I would expect him to be on the front row, and perhaps convert it into his first win at Mercedes. Vettel doesn’t seem to have the luck at whichever German track, but with the gearbox problem apparently fixed, he should extend his lead if Ferrari’s Silverstone form is anything to go by. I am just glad we have the Nurburgring coming up which I much prefer to the 2002-spec Hockenheim.

  12. Michael Brown (@) said on 4th July 2013, 19:22

    Increased performance after illegal tire test? Good ruling FIA.

  13. svarun (@svarun) said on 5th July 2013, 2:38

    Those who still believe that Mercedes did not gain a performance advantage is ridiculous.
    A 3 day ,1000km test with 2013 spec and race drivers and probably just 1 car on track.
    They must have got lots of data and therefore have got their tyre problems sorted.
    WDC 2013=tainted and not in the spirit of the game(includes pirelli’s mess)
    Bring on WDC 2014.

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.