Will FRIC ban curb Mercedes superiority at home?

2014 German Grand Prix preview

Start, Hockenheim, 2012While Germany is in the midst of celebrating being the best in the world at kicking a ball into a net, Mercedes are eager to add to the national jubilation this weekend by further proving that they are the best in the world at making hybrid Formula One technology at their national grand prix.

Having taken eight victories from the first nine races of the season the constructors’ championship is almost certainly heading the way of the Brackley-based, Stuttgart-owned team – and no one is likely to keep the drivers’ title from going to one of their pilots.

The only potential wrinkle in their plan to add a home grand prix victory to their dream season is the FIA’s clamp-down on the use of front and rear inter-connected suspension (FRIC). With several of their rivals already planning to ditch the technology, the Silver Arrows face the threat of either a loss of performance or a potential protest should they run with the same set-up in Germany.

But the controversy is unlikely to detract from the fierce on-track duel for the title between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg which, as we reach the halfway point of the season, effectively begins anew.

This year is Hockenheim’s turn to play host to the single German round of the season. Once a giant of a circuit, the modern Hockenheimring is a fairly uninspiring, technical track that offers little in the way of challenge for drivers.

Fittingly, Hockenheim’s long, sweeping back straight will work to the advantage of the Mercedes-powered cars, while the famous Motodrom section at the end of the lap will place emphasis on mechanical grip and could well provide a clear illustration of how great an impact the loss of FRIC suspension will have on car performance.

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 Soft and Super-soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Hockenheimring track data in full

With Hockenheim often producing one of the largest race day-attendences on the calendar, this year’s engines could well find themselves drowned out by the crowd should Rosberg and Mercedes produce the result that the majority of fans will be hoping for.

After two race weekends where the issue of respecting track limits has been at the forefront, it is sure to prove a hot topic once again at Hockenheim. Sebastian Vettel was stripped of second place during F1’s last visit to the circuit in 2012 for passing Jenson Button off the track at the Spitzkehre.

With tarmac run-offs in abundance around the German circuit, particularly at the first and last corners, there may be further incidents and discussion this weekend if the stewards decide to pursue a tough line on track limit abuse.

Pirelli will bring their two softest compounds to Germany and with conditions expected to be relatively warmer than average, tyre strategy could become crucial. With only one long straight, fuel consumption is unlikely to prove too much of a problem while overtaking can be expected to take place mainly into the hairpin at then end of the long back straight where the sole DRS zone is placed.

German Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Red Bull now find themselves locked in a battle with Williams for ‘best of the rest’ after Valtteri Bottas beat Daniel Ricciardo to second spot at Silverstone despite starting 14th.

The technical nature of the Hockenheimring will likely suit the RB10 better than Silverstone. But with Red Bull having confirmed that they will be running without FRIC suspension this weekend and the long back straight working to their disadvantage, it remains to be seen whether the reigning champions will be able to challenge the Williams package this weekend.

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Silverstone test, 2014Hamilton’s home win at Silverstone slashed Rosberg’s lead to four points and the former champion is treating this race almost as a reboot of the championship. But Rosberg has every reason to be confident: in the last four races he’s only given points away to his team mate once, and that was because his car broke down.

He will be even more determined to strike back by winning his own home race for the first time this weekend and has an excellent record at the Hockenheimring. “It’s actually the circuit I’ve won the most races at during my career through all the junior categories,” he said, “so I know it suits my driving style.”

The Silver Arrows are likely to dominate proceedings once again and a home victory for Mercedes seems less a matter of ‘if’ and more a question of ‘which driver’. Only the potential for a protest over the team’s use of FRIC suspension is likely to spoil the party.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso and Ferrari may have claimed victory on F1’s last two visits to Hockenheim – albeit in controversial circumstances in 2010 – but it looks highly unlikely that they will be able to make it a Hockenheimring hat-trick wins this weekend.

Kimi Raikkonen will return to the cockpit this weekend after his heavy opening lap crash at Silverstone left him battered and bruised, forcing him out of the post-race test.

Lotus

Lotus are looking to turn around a disappointing run of results that has seen the team fail to score in the previous three grands prix.

The team will be bringing a significant upgrades package to Hockenheim, focusing on improvements to the E22’s front wing, cooling system and minor bodywork in a bid to improve overall downforce and reliability and add to their lowly points tally.

McLaren

McLaren enjoyed their best result of the season since Melbourne at Silverstone with Button missing out on a podium by less than a second. With McLaren believing that the Hockenheim circuit will suit the MP4-29 better than Silverstone, another strong result could help transform their year heading into the second half of the season.

The team were the first to announce that they would be running without FRIC suspension this weekend and will be hoping that this loss will not undo some of the progress the team has made in recent races.

Button will have a new voice talking to him over team radio from this weekend onwards, with Tom Stallard taking over on the pit wall.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Silverstone, 2014Force India are anticipating a potentially strong weekend with the expected warm temperatures and soft compounds at Hockenheim likely to work in their favour.

Nico Hulkenberg is aiming to keep his record of points finishes at every race in 2014 alive around his home circuit.

“I know Hockehneim really well because it was my local circuit when I was growing up,” he said. “It’s always a busy race and the fans make a special atmosphere. They always show lots of support for the German drivers.”

Sauber

Sauber’s fruitless season continues with the team having not looked any closer to that elusive top ten finish last time out at Silverstone.

Despite suffering a heavy crash at the conclusion of the two day post-race Silverstone test, Giedo van der Garde will step in for Friday practice duties for the fifth time this season.

The team made it clear they did not appreciate the inconvenience. “The amount of wreckage we brought back poses additional work we didn’t need in the preparation for the German Grand Prix,” said head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara.

Toro Rosso

A double points finish last time out in Silverstone capped off a good weekend for the two Toro Rosso drivers in which both cars also reached the final session of qualifying.

Daniil Kvyat will likely be looking forward to racing an F1 car around Hockenheim for the first time after demonstrating impressive speed around the circuit in junior formulae.

“I have good memories of racing here, including getting pole position in Formula Three last year,” said Kvyat. “It’s a nice flowing circuit with some fast straights, some heavy braking, especially for the famous hairpin where you can overtake, fast corners and the stadium section with its big crowd.”

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, Williams, Silverstone, 2014Fresh from his career best finish at Silverstone, Bottas will race around the Hockenheim circuit for the first time this weekend. He has previous F1 experience here, having taken part in practice in 2012 and managing 28 laps before crashing at the Sachs Kurve.

Felipe Massa has a unique opportunity to help put the memories of the 2010 team orders debacle well and truly behind him by securing his first podium for over a year at the circuit where he last came closest to winning at.

After a disappointing end to her first run in Friday practice at Silverstone, Susie Wolff will return to the cockpit this weekend to participate in first practice for the final time this season.

Marussia

Marussia may be four points ahead of Sauber in the constructors’ championship, but the Anglo-Russian team have their sights set on catching the Swiss team on the track at Hockenheim.

“I hope we can demonstrate that we have further developed the MR03 over the past few weeks and gain a little more on the Saubers,” says team principal John Booth.

Caterham

Caterham’s new owners have wasted no time in shaking up the team that continue to languish at the bottom of the championship, with a number of personnel being cut from the team and reserve driver Alexander Rossi having now departed from the team’s driver roster.

As far as short-term progress goes, it’s unlikely that Caterham will be any closer to matching their Marussia rivals despite the fact that both Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson enjoy the German circuit.

2014 driver form

Driver G avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 7.00 4.33 3 6 6/9 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 5.22 3.71 1 8 7/9 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 2.78 1.29 1 2 7/9 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 2.11 1.63 1 2 8/9 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 6.89 5.22 3 9 9/9 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 9.00 9.50 7 12 8/9 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 14.11 10.83 8 14 6/9 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 18.00 14.40 12 17 5/9 Form guide
Jenson Button 9.00 8.11 3 17 9/9 Form guide
Kevin Magnussen 8.89 8.63 2 13 8/9 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 8.78 6.56 5 10 9/9 Form guide
Sergio Perez 11.78 8.43 3 11 7/8 Form guide
Adrian Sutil 16.11 13.40 11 17 5/9 Form guide
Esteban Gutierrez 17.11 15.40 12 19 5/9 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 11.00 9.50 8 12 4/9 Form guide
Daniil Kvyat 10.67 10.50 9 14 6/9 Form guide
Felipe Massa 9.00 9.29 4 15 7/9 Form guide
Valtteri Bottas 8.89 5.63 2 8 8/9 Form guide
Jules Bianchi 18.11 14.83 9 18 6/9 Form guide
Max Chilton 19.11 15.75 13 19 8/9 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 19.11 15.00 13 18 6/9 Form guide
Marcus Ericsson 20.33 16.60 11 20 5/9 Form guide

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33 comments on Will FRIC ban curb Mercedes superiority at home?

  1. Michael C said on 16th July 2014, 21:23

    I shouldn’t think Merc’s FRIC is worth the second or so that they are ahead of Williams’ race pace at the moment but its likely the gap will reduce a little just because Merc seem to be the subject of the FIA’s whinging. It would be ironic if the lead extended though! The FIA would say “FRIC IS MANDATORY FROM HUNGARY!! ROAAAR!!”

    • Scepter (@scepter) said on 17th July 2014, 2:06

      Ideally that would be the best scenario, FIA orders the teams to take off the FRIC, for the Mercs lap the field, a couple of days later there’s a mandate FRICS legal for the remainder of the season.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 17th July 2014, 6:38

      Well, but since both Williams AND Red Bull also are supposed to have very advanced FRIC systems, its well possible that instead it brings other teams a tad closer to these two and Mercedes “from the back”.

    • JCost (@jcost) said on 17th July 2014, 9:02

      I hate this mid-course changes but I wouldn’t mind to see it slashing Mercedes advantage… #GoLewis.

      • Ylli Beli (@yllib) said on 17th July 2014, 9:37

        i think the whole idea of FRIC is to bring the all the teams closer to the mid field, thus bringing more show and spectacle,
        This is a very studied move by FIA, because as you see, teams failed to agree to push the ban for next year. that means that we will have teams gaining advantage( which i suppose will be mid field and slow teams)

  2. Octopotent (@octopotent) said on 16th July 2014, 21:50

    The glorified bathtubs that are silver will go round in the prescribed amount of circles first I think.

  3. Bradley Downton (@bradley13) said on 16th July 2014, 21:52

    @willwood

    Marussia may be four points ahead of Sauber in the constructors’ championship

    Four points?! Have I missed something…

    Also, there appears to be a rather high possibility of rain on Sunday that could come into play, and I’m already fed up with the FRIC talk that’s going to dominate the weekend. I highly doubt it will make enough of a difference to change the order at all, but if I’m proved wrong I’ll happily admit so.

    • hunocsi (@hunocsi) said on 16th July 2014, 22:56

      @bradley13 I only read about max. 20% possibility of rain, that shouldn’t matter too much.

      I don’t think so, Red Bull, Ferrari, Williams, Force India and McLaren are pretty close, any small change could mean a lot. But the Mercedes probably won’t be caught though.

  4. According to Scarbs, its not going to make a blind bit of difference to the competitive order and/or Mercs domination.

  5. Breno (@austus) said on 16th July 2014, 22:01

    I dont see Red Bull doing very well here unless they qualify on the second row, because with those straights, they are unlikely to pass the Mercedes-powered teams; of couse, if it rains they would be looking good.

    With the FRIC ban, Force India might make “gains”, since they werent running FRIC (AFAIK).

  6. https://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/will-gray/gray-matter-f1-expensive-complex-monster-fia-ban-111856381.html

    “.. it is believed teams are starting to use clever valve set-ups to activate certain movements solely for aerodynamic benefit – specifically making the rear of the car drop at high speed to reduce the angle of attack of the rear wing and cut downforce.”

    If that is the case (and the above is a rumor rather than a fact at present) then you’d have to wonder why Charlie Whiting did not simply issue a clarification banning the specific practice in question while leaving “old school” FRIC intact.

    On the other hand Charlie has a record of fairly odd behavior, such as signing off on Merc’s illegal tyre test last season. So the fact that he has not behaved as you’d expect him to in the case of the (hypothetical) FRIC rules infringement does not mean the infringement has not occurred.

    • Eric Morman (@lethalnz) said on 17th July 2014, 5:52

      definitely some strange dissension from Charlie at times, but once he is pushed over the line he has to react or look stupid for not making a stand,
      this is one of those times i expect they have taken it to far,
      you cant blame the teams for not trying when they know sometimes it is allowed.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 17th July 2014, 12:22

      While I agree the timing seems odd for FRIC to be banned, it is likely the case that teams have developed it into the questionable zone of legality. As to the Pirelli (not Merc’s) tire test Whiting allowed that because he knew waiting for a consensus amongst the teams as to which of them should test would have stalled what was crucial to F1, namely fixing tires that were delaminating and exploding, therefore not an odd decision at all. Merc was not a top 3 team when Pirelli used them, and the advantage Merc was accused of gaining never came true, but now they are the top team and the banning of FRIC stands to potentially punish them the most.

      • While I agree the timing seems odd for FRIC to be banned, it is likely the case that teams have developed it into the questionable zone of legality.

        No doubt, but in that case the logical course of action would be to ban only those developments which have moved into the questionable zone of legality. By making the choice one between “no rules at all on FRIC” and “a complete ban on all FRIC” Whiting is presenting the teams with an unfair and unnecessary choice. It sound as if he accepts that some teams have crossed the line into illegality but that he does not want to clip those teams wings, so he’s threatening ALL teams with a massive inconvenience unless they drop the whole subject.

  7. karter22 (@karter22) said on 16th July 2014, 22:58

    Fernando Alonso and Ferrari may have claimed victory on F1′s last two visits to Hockenheim – albeit in controversial circumstances in 2010

    Why am I not surprised?? Why wasn´t a similar piece done on Silverstone and “the wing issue” not mendtioned?? That can be overlooked but of course… never forget the issue with the red team… Now we see which way the wind blows.

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 17th July 2014, 0:05

      Probably because the wing issue wasn’t in the last 2 races there? Nor really that controversial if you understood the situation. Nor did it even decide the eventual outcome.

      • karter22 (@karter22) said on 17th July 2014, 1:03

        Well, @matt90 , I just can’t find sense in beating the same drum over and over and over! It gets tiring after a while, it’s not like it was something forgettable, I’m pretty sure nobody will ever forget it so why bring it up? Why the constant reminder? It’s rather tasteless to be honest.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 17th July 2014, 6:40

          Well, its relevant because Alonso mentioned having won the last 2 races here and hoping he would do well. One of those was Massa’s win before the TO.

          • karter22 (@karter22) said on 17th July 2014, 11:50

            @bascb It still is rather tasteless and it shows certain animosity towards the red team. Always seizing the oportunity to take a shot at them.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 17th July 2014, 12:00

            I think you need to broaden your focus, @karter22, it is not about a shot at them any more than taking a shot at Vettel to mention he had his podium stripped last time round

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 17th July 2014, 14:26

            It isn’t at all. It’s valid to bring it up because having won the 2 previous races is a stat which flatters Alonso- it makes it look like he’s better around here than he actually is. I think remembering one of the biggest controversies in the sport is far from tasteless. Tasteless is (besides the original act itself) people wanting to forget it ever happened because it upsets their sensibilities.

  8. SauberS1 (@saubers1) said on 16th July 2014, 23:02

    I can’t agree decision of FIA.

  9. HoHum (@hohum) said on 17th July 2014, 0:11

    One look at the tyre choice for this race has been enough to dull my enthusiasm, there are only 2 chances of a decent race happening, rain for a significant period of the race leaving the teams with more tyres than they need to finish, or a safety car around lap fifty leading to a non-stop all new tyre sprint to the finish.

    Seeing the normal finishing order scrambled by a mid season rule scare might appeal to some but not me.

  10. Jay Menon (@jaymenon10) said on 17th July 2014, 1:09

    Correct me if Im wrong….doesnt Mercedes run an extreme version of FRIC where the car’s weight is actually supported by high pressure hydraulics? Essentially the car’s suspension system is a network of hydraulic tubes and reservoirs.

    Does anybody know?

  11. Sven (@crammond) said on 17th July 2014, 6:25

    the Spitzkehre hairpin

    That´s a bit redundant, “Spitzkehre” means hairpin.

  12. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 17th July 2014, 6:29

    The team made it clear they did not appreciate the inconvenience. “he amount of wreckage we brought back poses additional work we didn’t need in the preparation for the German Grand Prix,” said head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara.

    I must have missed this quote at the time, but I find it incredibly strange that Sauber were so openly hard on van der Garde after his shunt, particularly as he is bringing in much needed cash. Also, the driver of car 21 hardly makes things easy for them from a damage repair perspective.

  13. Jason (@jason12) said on 17th July 2014, 9:12

    The Driver Firm table is totally meaningless.
    That’s the only thing that would explain Vetted topping it.

  14. antifia (@antifia) said on 17th July 2014, 13:50

    Incidentally, if Rosberg manages to win the title this year, it will be the first time since 1972 that a country will have the honour of being simultaneouly the best in the world at kicking a ball into a net and the best at driving a car around in circles real fast. ;)

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