Germany’s Hockenheim circuit is the venue this weekend for round eight of the 2012 GP2 Series.
The revised 4.574km Hockenheimring, designed by Hermann Tilke in 2001, no longer has the fast sweeping straights running through the forests. It now comprises 17 corners, a number of which are relatively tight but it still boasts the famous concrete Stadium section where all the fans gather to watch the racing.
This weekend Pirelli will be providing the P Zero White medium tyres and P Zero Yellow soft tyres for the race as the circuit is not especially taxing on tyres. This weekend, weather permitting, will see the first time the new tyre regulations will be used when all the teams will be supplied with an extra set of Pirelli tyres, giving each driver five, instead of four, sets. The extra set will be in the weekend’s softer compound allowing the drivers to test them in the free practice session as well as allowing the teams to introduce new tyre strategies for the races. Additionally, for the first time, the teams can now opt for a pitstop in the Sprint Race as well as the mandatory stop required in the Feature Race. This rule came into effect at Silverstone but the wet weather conditions saw wet tyres used for much of the weekend.
Although the Silverstone weekend was ultimately disappointing in terms of results for Racing Engineering Fabio Leimer’s pole position and dominance of the Feature Race until the confusion caused by a Safety Car deployment and Nathanaël Berthon’s pace in the Sprint Race means that both drivers will be looking to finish at the top this weekend.
Below Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering, looks back at Silverstone and forward to Hockenheim:
Thomas, Silverstone was a rather difficult weekend for the Racing Engineering boys. Especially Fabio's dominance in qualifying and the race must have made the lost victory a very bitter pill to swallow.
Motorsport at the top level is hard, sometimes cruel, there is only one winner. There are often many more factors behind each situation than seem obvious on TV screens from the outside. Everything needs to be right to achieve a victory and there are many aspects to be prepared for, controlled and monitored during an event. Unfortunately, there are also many external parameters that can’t always be under the control of the teams and drivers. Changes of climatic conditions, accidents, penalties, pit-stop problems, misunderstanding of team orders, safety-car periods etc. are examples of the factors that have and will continue to influence motorsport and will keep the result uncertain until the chequered flag, which is what makes it exciting and interesting for everyone. Most of the teams prepare strategies before the race in order to be ready to face different scenarios but, even then, it is not possible to predict exactly what will unfold.
Talking about such preparation, how do you prepare a weekend at Racing Engineering?
At Racing Engineering we want to provide our drivers with the best professional solutions to the technical challenge of setting up the cars and to be able to adapt ourselves to each situation. All the preparation is done in a methodical way and the decisions to be taken during a race have been previously studied, discussed and agreed on. We have taken a series of decisions during Silverstone's feature race as a group and it was based on numerous parameters including tyre wear, the weather forecast, reviewing lap times of several cars on track and the gaps between cars etc. but obviously not everything can be anticipated, no one could predict that a safety car would be deployed on lap 19 when Fabio just passed the pit entry. I guess it might be fairer for the sporting results, if the Safety-Car could be deployed in a way that doesn’t affect the classification, but we understand that safety is more important and therefore it is not always possible to deploy it while giving the same opportunities to react to all the drivers and teams. In our case, 2-3 seconds earlier would have certainly given enough time to Fabio to pit, keeping the order of the leading cars and confirming the strong performance that Fabio and the team have shown this weekend.
We know that Racing Engineering is usually very strong in wet conditions and Fabio was really dominating qualifying and the race on a wet track. Now it looks like there is a big chance that it might rain at the Hockenheimring this weekend. Do you prefer rain or shine?
Generally it is better to have dry conditions, if you are confident with the preparation done as it leaves fewer possibilities for unpredictable events and any gambles. Also the work for the team is simply more pleasant when it's dry. But having said this, we know we have been strong so far under wet conditions and therefore believe we can achieve good results regardless of the weather conditions. For Nat his first race weekend in the rain with the GP2 car was two weeks ago in Silverstone and certainly it wasn’t easy for him. He had to learn quickly, which should have its effect next time he races in these conditions.
With the Hockenheimring being a rather fast race track, what are the expectations for this race weekend? Where do you see the Racing Engineering drivers and who do you think will be their biggest competitors this weekend?
There are very few opportunities to set a fast and clean lap in qualifying, so it will be as hard as always. Many drivers and teams have shown a good potential on some occasions this season, so we expect the top 5 drivers and teams to be fighting for the top spots in qualifying and races, even though both Lotus GP drivers have been handed grid penalties for race 1. The track layout itself is a combination of slow areas, such as the "stadium", and some long straights, which means the set-up is therefore a compromise. It is also the first time we will race at Hockenheim with the Pirelli tyres, so there will be some new aspects to analyse regarding performance and tyre wear. Taking all this into consideration and knowing that Fabio has always qualified in the top spots this season with us, we will continue to work into this direction and consequently expect him to be in the top 5. Nathanaël hasn't been able to show all his potential so far in qualifying, but we believe he will improve during the next events and hope to see him scoring points again in both races.