2014 German Grand Prix preview
While 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
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 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.
Hamilton’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.
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 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 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.
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’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.
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.”
Fresh 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 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’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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2014 German Grand Prix
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Image © Daimler/Hoch Zwei