F1: What does Red Bull have left in the tank for Germany?

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarWednesday, July 8th, 2009

 
 

At Silverstone three weeks ago Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel deprived formerly-unassailable championship leader Jenson Button of an emotional first victory in front of his home fans.

And, as the F1 caravan heads to Germany’s Nurburgring for the midway point of the season, fans are wondering whether Button will be able to return the favour.

His loss of form at Silverstone, where cool and changeable conditions left him simply unable to get enough heat into his tyres, coincided with a major leap forward by Red Bull.

But Brawn is wanting to make a point at the home grand prix of its engine supplier Mercedes – a partnership to which it owes its place on the 2009 grid. And it is bringing new aerodynamic parts to the Nurburgring that it never got a chance to try at Silverstone.

However the Red Bull car had made such a leap pre-Silverstone that some commentators were predicting a serious title challenge. The team were clearly overwhelmed with their success at the British Grand Prix and it’s safe to assume they won’t have been idle for the past three weeks either.

Bring it on.

The future of the Nurburgring as a F1 venue is currently in doubt after its partner Hockenheim, which joins with it in sharing the German Grand Prix hosting duties, said it no longer felt able to pay the asking price.

Attempts to patch up the situation were abandoned after Bernie Ecclestone pointed out to The Times how that Hitler chap wasn’t quite such a monster as people seemed to think.

That doesn’t go down well in Germany. As a result, the German Grand Prix is just the latest in a whole series of European races to come under threat.

Silverstone, Magny-Cours, Spa-Francorchamps – Ecclestone hasn’t felt he can threaten Monza or Monaco yet, but surely it’s only a matter of time.

So, dear reader, enjoy while you can the current 5.148km layout, dating from 1984 with further reprofiling in 2002, which still poses significant challenges for the cars and drivers.

According to Brawn GP, the lap has “a good range of low to high speed corners and “significant undulation change which is unusual for most modern circuits.”

Team principal Ross Brawn said of the race: “The team is looking forward to returning to the race track at the German Grand Prix next weekend and the Nurburgring should be a good circuit for our car and play to its strengths.

“We have several new aerodynamic parts from Silverstone which were not used in qualifying and the race due to the issues that we faced there, along with additional improvements scheduled for the Nurburgring, which should position us well going into the weekend.

“Whilst coming away with third and sixth placed finishes from Silverstone was still a good outcome from our home Grand Prix, we would be the first to admit that the result did not meet our expectations.”

But he said the team had always expected that it would have to fight to maintain its dominance as the season progressed.

“Everyone at the factory and at Mercedes-Benz High Performance Engines in Brixworth is looking forward to that challenge.

“As a team, we have a good history of going away from a race, thinking about the outcome, identifying where we need to make improvements and then coming back stronger.

“As the home Grand Prix for Mercedes-Benz, we will be hoping to come away from the race in Germany next weekend with a successful result.”

Button added: “The Nurburgring is a tricky circuit but there are two key characteristics which should be good for our car.

“It is a relatively slow circuit with a lot of medium-speed corners which are one of the strengths of the BGP 001. The Nurburgring is also one of the heaviest braking circuits on the calendar so you need a car which will be good through the four heavy braking zones.

“With the extra week’s break, everyone has been working extremely hard to get the best package for the race and we’re looking forward to showing what the car can do at the Nurburgring after a disappointing weekend by our standards at the British Grand Prix.”

He said that the last stint of at Silverstone showed that the pace of the car was still competitive, something that had left the team feeling confident for its next race.

“I’m sure we will see a really intense fight with our closest competitors and hopefully a great race for the fans.”

Over at McLaren, the prospect of not being the star attraction at Mercedes’ home grand prix must be quite a bitter pill and the team is stressing the longevity of its relationship with the grid’s most popular engine supplier in its preview.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh says: “This is our team’s second home race of the year. Having had such a fantastic and close relationship with Mercedes-Benz for 15 years means we meet many old friends in Germany and we really enjoy the fantastic support we receive.

“Not only from the many thousands of Mercedes-Benz employees who attend the race, but also from the hugely vocal crowd that always plays such a large part in making the atmosphere at a German racetrack so unique.

“While we can’t expect to match our previous record in Germany, where we’ve won the race for the past two seasons, we’re still pushing hard to develop MP4-24 into a more competitive proposition.

“Make no mistake, we’re hugely proud of having the Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star on the front of our cars – and nothing would make us prouder than getting back to the front again as soon as we possibly can.”

Lewis Hamilton added: “It’s a fantastic circuit, a little older than a lot of the current tracks we currently visit and with quite a different feel to what we’re used to: it’s fast and flowing with some good spots for overtaking.

“And it’s in a fantastic part of the world too; deep in the forests of western Germany, where the fans seem to live and breathe Formula 1. It’s always an amazing party atmosphere whenever we race in Germany.

“While we aren’t expecting any major upgrades for this weekend, I’m still looking forward to the race. It’s an honour to be part of the Silver Arrows and, while our results haven’t recently shown it, we’re still pushing incredibly hard and are all hopeful of moving closer to the front before the end of this difficult season.”

Mercedes boss Norbert Haug revealed that Mercedes intends to commemorate the 75th anniversary of its iconic Silver Arrows racing brand with a parade on the racetrack and an exhibition at the paddock entrance.

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