Hockenheim will this weekend host the German Grand Prix, marking the halfway point in the 2012 Formula One season. Following on from an eventful British Grand Prix at Silverstone two weeks ago, we should see further upgrades from the main protagonists, and there will be more than enough for fans to be watching out for.
As is usual at most Grands Prix, all eyes will be on the home contingent to perform. With no less than five German drivers lining up this weekend, local fans will be spoiled for choice. But at this crucial stage of the season, there are several other factors to consider.
Recently there has been speculation regarding the security of Felipe Massa’s seat at Ferrari. Shortly after the British Grand Prix, Mark Webber revealed he had held discussions with the Maranello outfit before confirming he would remain with Red Bull for 2013. Massa will need to continue his, albeit slight, recent improvement in form if he is to continue at Ferrari going forward.
Reigning Champion Sebastian Vettel will arrive at his home Grand Prix having not won since Bahrain in April. Despite him having broken numerous records, perhaps the most elusive for Vettel; who only lives thirty minutes from the circuit, he has yet to win his home Grand Prix. “I haven’t won the German Grand Prix before and of course, I would like to!”
Celebrating a milestone of his own this weekend is McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. Going into his 100th Grand Prix, he will be looking for an improvement on his last two races, which have seen him not finish at Valencia and unable improve on a poor qualifying performance at Silverstone.
“Unbelievably, next weekend will mark my 100th grand prix. That’s incredible, because I still remember my first as if it were only yesterday – I guess Formula 1 has that effect on you!”.
With so-called “silly season” in full swing, Hamilton is himself subject of speculation regarding his future with McLaren. It is widely expected he will announce his intentions during the mid-season break, following the Hungary race at the end of July.
Teammate Jenson Button meanwhile, is sensing the importance of a strong team performance ahead of the upcoming back-to-back races. “The final back-to-back before we head into the summer break will be important for the whole team: coming off the back of a couple of disappointing weekends, it’s important that we capitalise on the opportunities available in Germany and Hungary.”
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren Team Principal, is also looking forward to the two races leading up to the mid-season break, keen to move on from recent disappointments: “There is a huge resolve within the operation to ensure that our aggressive development strategy is upheld across the summer: we are determined to narrow the gap to the championship leaders before the start of the summer break.”
In a somewhat confusing statement, Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn said: “The German Grand Prix will be our second home race in two weeks following the British Grand Prix at Silverstone last weekend, and we are looking forward to racing in front of our home fans and Mercedes-Benz colleagues once again.”
With a 40% chance of showers forecast for both Practice sessions on Friday and a 60% chance of showers for Qualifying on Saturday (depending on which sources you believe), tyres are bound to have a huge impact on proceedings this weekend.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director, is hoping to bring an experimental compound for teams to evaluate this weekend: “the weather in Germany at this time of year can be almost as unpredictable as it is in England: when we were at Hockenheim for the GP3 Series two years ago we saw plenty of rain, although it’s been very hot in the past too. The new hard tyre is not a big evolution, but it has a slightly wider working range, which should make it easier for the teams to get the tyres up to temperature and maintain them in the correct operating window.”
Additionally, this will be Pirelli’s first outing as tyre supplier at Hockenheim, but he doesn’t seem fazed by the prospect: “Coming to a circuit that is new to us always holds a different challenge, as we don’t have any of our own previous data to compare it with. But the progress that has been made with simulation is incredible: these days you can learn so much about how a tyre will behave on a circuit without even going there.”
The result of this weekend’s outing at Hockenheim could prove to be influential on the overall season. Going into this weekend, the top four in the Driver’s standings seem to hold the answer as to who will be crowned Driver’s Champion, barring any unusual developments. To that end, Lewis Hamilton will need a good result in both Germany and Hungary in order to maintain contact with current leader Fernando Alonso.