The German Grand Prix heralds the fourth round of back-to-back races on the 2005 calendar, with Hungary a week later followed by the three-week summer break. Not that it will all be holidays on the beach, but the gap between the Hungaroring and...
The German Grand Prix heralds the fourth round of back-to-back races on the 2005 calendar, with Hungary a week later followed by the three-week summer break. Not that it will all be holidays on the beach, but the gap between the Hungaroring and the inaugural Turkish GP on August 21st will give the teams a reprieve from F1's recent gruelling schedule.
Hockenheim is not quite the power circuit it used be before being redesigned a couple of years ago but it's still enough of a challenge to keep the teams and drivers on their toes. Downforce is higher than it previously was at the old track and it basically rates as medium settings, but it depends if a team favours straight line speed or grip in the corners.
"For ideal lap time, we would run medium downforce levels but the requirement to achieve competitive top speeds on the long straight and to be able to overtake or defend a position into Turn 6 means we in fact run medium-low downforce -- similar to Canada levels," explained Renault's Rod Nelson, Fernando Alonso's chassis engineer.
It's still a circuit that demands a good engine: "Although the long forest straights of Hockenheim were removed from the layout in 2002, the circuit remains a challenging one for the engines," said BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen. "In 2004, the full throttle percentage per lap was 62 percent, while the longest full throttle section was 1,047m."
The slow and medium speed corners require good traction and put the emphasis on rear tyres. "The nature of the track and the high temperatures would take their toll on softer tyres, so our partners focused on compounds from the middle sector of our range during pre-German Grand Prix tests," said Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier.
Presumably -- although not definitely -- the on-track battles in Germany will again focus on Renault and McLaren. It's entirely possible another team may spring a surprise and challenge for the victory and podium places, but although a lot of testing went on last week it would be a big job for anyone to be up to the pace of the two top teams.
Juan Pablo Montoya finally took his first win for McLaren in Britain and, naturally, is hoping for another good result this weekend. "I am really looking forward to racing again this weekend in Germany," he said. "I enjoy racing at Hockenheim, I have performed well here and won in the past and I am aiming for a strong result like at Silverstone."
Championship leader Alonso did a good job at Silverstone, which Renault had considered one of its least-favoured tracks, but knows that Hockenheim won't be any easier. "McLaren will be very motivated to succeed at one of their home races, so we know it will be a big fight," said the Spaniard. "We just need to do the maximum possible."
BAR and Toyota showed well in practices and qualifying last time out but don't seem to have the staying power over a race distance. Jenson Button's BAR was best-of-the-rest at Silverstone behind the Renaults and McLarens and the Englishman, who finished second in Germany last year, is hoping for a strong performance at Hockenheim.
"I think that we will face the same challenges that we experienced at the British GP, but having completed two days testing in Jerez where the car felt good, I'm looking forward to the race and hope to be more competitive and have both cars finish strongly in the points," Button commented.
For Toyota's Ralf Schumacher, as for brother Michael and also Williams' Nick Heidfeld, Germany is a home race. "Hockenheim is my home Grand Prix so I would love to pick up another good result after my points in the last two races," said Ralf. "I'm a fan of the revised track they introduced three years ago, so I'm looking forward to another race there."
Williams has had a tough time lately but Heidfeld remains optimistic. Like some other drivers, he preferred the old-style circuit. "I find the unique atmosphere in Hockenheim very special, it feels a bit like the atmosphere you find in a football stadium," he said. "The track is ok, but I must say I preferred the old layout as it was unlike any other venue."
Ferrari got both cars in the points in Britain but sixth and seventh is hardly where the Scuderia wants to be. Michael is not expecting a sudden improvement this weekend. "We're not trying to hide the fact that we're a little bit on the hunt for our performance right now," he conceded. "We're taking it step by step now, and are working as best we can."
Jacques Villeneuve believes Hockenheim should suit the Sauber better than some other tracks. "I am looking forward to racing there because the revised layout will suit our car better," said the Canadian. "The C24 is currently at its best in slower corners and Hockenheim hasn't really got any fast corners anymore."
Robert Doornbos, who up until now was third driver for Jordan, has replaced Patrick Friesacher at Minardi and will make his F1 race debut this weekend. "I can't hardly wait to get started on Friday," said the Dutchman. "This is the chance I've hoped for… I feel fit and ready to make this next step in my career."
McLaren has the speed at the moment but Renault has the consistency, both of which have been keeping the gap between Alonso and Raikkonen fairly static. With two more races in quick succession, will the status quo at the top of the standings be disturbed? We'll find out the answer soon enough.