F1: German Grand Prix preview

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarFriday, July 18th, 2008

 
 

Will the German Grand Prix turn into another wet-race thriller? With showers predicted throughout the weekend, it’s a possibility that the teams are preparing for.

McLaren will certainly be looking to do well at a track which represents the home grand prix for its engine partner Mercedes.

And the team will also be looking to capitalise on its good result at Silverstone and to give title challenger Lewis Hamilton a firmer grasp on the lead than the slender countback advantage he currently holds.

Ferrari will be in a fighting mood following a weather and tyre strategy at Silverstone that is widely agreed to have been disastrous and to have potentially cost Kimi Raikkonen a podium if not a win.

BMW is another team with a strong German connection that will be looking to put on a good show for the home fans.

Hockenheim is one of the classic European circuits, although changes made in 2002 to remove the long forest section are thought by some to have stripped it of its character. Others, however, point to more exciting racing and a better safety record.

The circuit’s characteristics include long, sweeping, low-speed corners and fast straights. Balance and downforce will be the key performance factors, as will raw engine power.

It is also possible that tyre wear will be an influence in what is shaping up to be an exciting and hotly-contested race.

Lewis Hamilton, quoted in the McLaren team preview, said he wouldn’t let his recent Silverstone win make him complacent.

“Pressure always exists because you need to win consistently. In Formula 1, you’re only as good as your last race and Silverstone already felt like an old memory by the time I was testing at Hockenheim on Tuesday.

“Generally, however, a race win briefly takes the load off everyone’s shoulders because it allows you to push forward without looking back at the problems you may have faced in the previous race. But you can never get complacent and we’ll be pushing hard again in Germany next week.”

This is his first visit to Hockenheim in a Formula One car, although he has raced at the circuit previously in Formula 3 EuroSeries and in GP2.

“It’s actually quite a straightforward circuit to get into, and it helps that our car just feels so awesome at the moment.

“There’s a bit of everything around here and it’s quite fun to throw the car into some of the high-speed corners, like Turn One and Turn 12 — the high-speed right-hander into the stadium section.”

He said his appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed the previous Sunday had given him a real buzz: “It’s an event I love because, unlike a grand prix, it lets you get closer to the fans, and I always get a real boost from their enthusiasm and positivity.

“It’s also a place where you can meet other racing drivers in a really relaxed atmosphere -that’s not something you experience during a race weekend either. On the Monday I’m going to Farnborough, which should also be pretty cool.”

Asked for his assessment of the team’s progress so far this season, McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh said: “While we remain encouraged by the pace we’ve recently shown and the victories we’ve achieved, there’s a feeling that we could still be doing more to consistently score strongly.

“Several opportunities for victory, most notably in Istanbul and Montreal, have slipped through our fingers; we’ve suffered a few penalties – which we took squarely on the chin – and, through no fault of his own, Heikki has finished out of the points on several occasions, either due to us being unable to provide him with a suitable car or through circumstances that were largely beyond his control.

“So as we head into the second half of the season, our primary objective must be to work harder to iron out these imperfections, to provide our drivers with race-winning machinery at every opportunity and to sharpen our focus on the world titles – both of which are still achievable for us.”

Meanwhile, over at Honda, Jenson Button’s in fighting form: “It is so incredibly competitive in the midfield pack at the moment that it is almost impossible to make predictions.

“Our test at Hockenheim was successful, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that relates to our performance this coming weekend.”

He said he was looking forward to racing on the Hockenheim track: “There are good overtaking opportunities and you can see some great battles, which makes the racing exciting for the fans who always pack the grandstands here.

“The track can be quite a challenge if the heat and humidity levels are high, and the medium to slow speed corners put quite a bit of stress on the tyres.”

Honda team principal Ross Brawn added: “Our first podium of the season was of course a big morale boost, however it would be unrealistic to expect a repeat of this result in dry track conditions.

“Following the test at Hockenheim last week, we will be introducing the next step of aerodynamic, mechanical and engine performance upgrades for the RA108.

“The test allowed our engineers to gain a better understanding of our recent lack of qualifying pace, so we will be aiming for an improvement on our grid positions as the foundation for a strong race performance.

“With changeable weather predicted for the weekend, it could be an interesting race.”

At Red Bull the team have been busy analysing the data gathered at the recent Hockenheim testing session.

Following that Mark Webber, who had been evaluating race set-ups and carrying out tyre comparisons, said: “We ran reliably which was a good thing because it meant we got through a lot of work. It’s been hard work, but productive.

“Now we have plenty of data to study for the next race, which I think will be as close as ever, but we will of course be trying to repeat the form we showed on Friday and Saturday at the British Grand Prix.”

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