2018 German Grand Prix: Vettel's best chance for an F1 win in Hockenheim?
Current championship leader Sebastian Vettel might already have a German Grand Prix win to his name, but with the Ferrari man's home town just hal...
Current championship leader Sebastian Vettel might already have a German Grand Prix win to his name, but with the Ferrari man's home town just half-an-hour away, a Hockenheim win would be a very satisfying triumph for the four-time champion.
Vettel's sole win on home turf came at the Nurburgring in 2013, where he fended off a late threat from team-mate Kimi Raikkonen (then driving for Lotus).
With the German Grand Prix only appearing on the calendar every other year since 2014 due to costs, Vettel hasn't had too many opportunities for home victories.
The Nurburgring and the Hockenheimring alternated as German Grand Prix hosts from 2008 to 2014, meaning Vettel hasn't had too many opportunities to take a victory in Hockenheim either.
At the races where Vettel has competed at the Hockenheimring, he's only been in front-running machinery for two of them; in 2010 and 2012. He finished on the podium in both races, but he ultimately out-paced by Ferrari on both occasions.
The 2010 race was a Ferrari one-two - a race which included the famous radio message to Felipe Massa: "Fernando [Alonso] is faster than you" - and his second place in 2012 became fifth when he was handed a post-race time penalty for overtaking McLaren's Jenson Button off the circuit.
The mixture of long straights and low and high-speed corners on this 4.574 km circuit means that the circuit is one of the more 'all-rounder' venues on the calendar, but with Ferrari producing one of their most competitive cars of the last ten years, is this Vettel's best chance to take his first Hockenheim victory?
The 'tier two' battle hots up
Prior to the triple-header, Renault looked well on course to secure fourth place in the Constructors' Championship, which would be their best finish since their return to the sport in 2016.
However, with the Enstone-based team being out-scored by both Haas and Force India in the last three races, the gap has reduced, and their advantage has been whittled down to 19 points.
Haas in particular enjoyed a very competitive spell - taking 32 points to Renault's 14 - and are now the main threat to Renault's position.
Speaking after the British Grand Prix, Renault's Nico Hulkenberg believed that a combination of updates - including a revised front wing - and lower-speed circuits which will better suit the R.S.18 will allow Renault to fight back against a resurgent Haas team.
"We still have a good package," said Hulkenberg. "We still have some stuff in the pipeline that will be released over the next few weekends [and] we have tracks coming up that will suit us better than them [Haas].
"These three races, these circuits [in the triple-header], really were kind of tailor-made for their car."
With the Hockenheimring's mix of high and low-speed corners, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner singled out the twisty final sector as an Achilles' Heel for the VF-18.
“We are a little bit worried about the tight sector of Hockenheim, as it’s very slow. Then again, we will work on it to do our best," said Steiner.
"For sure, the car is more competitive on high-speed corners. It’s actually very competitive on high-speed corners. We’ve had some issues on the slow-speed tracks.
"Let’s see what we can do on Friday to set the car up to get over our deficiencies on the low-speed portions. Maybe we’ll find a little bit of speed there and still be competitive.”
Force India's gradual rise through the midfield has also given them optimism about being able to reclaim fourth place, with both Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon believing that, if they extract everything from the car, they can be at the forefront of the midfield in Hockenheim.
Pirelli 'skip' a set for the German Grand Prix
As they did in China, Pirelli have opted to 'skip' a compound in their tyre selections for this weekend's race. They will bring the medium, soft and ultrasoft compounds, missing out the supersoft tyres.
This will be only the second time this has happened and, whilst the Chinese Grand Prix was mostly decided by which drivers pitted under the virtual safety car, it did create some differing qualifying strategies for the front-runners, where half of them started on softs and the other half started on the ultrasoft tyres.
This will be the first time that Formula One has raced in Germany since the regulation changes for 2017, so whilst the circuit is known to Pirelli, this will be the first time they have used the wider tyres at this venue.
“Germany is a bit of an unknown quantity, with no grand prix having taken place there since 2016," said Pirelli's head of car racing Mario isola. "In the meantime, a lot has changed on the cars as well as of course the tyre range, while the Hockenheimring itself is substantially unaltered.
"Once again, we’ve decided to incorporate a step in the tyres that we’ve nominated in order to provide a roughly equal performance gap between the chosen compounds. This contributed to a great race in China, with some interesting repercussions on strategy, so hopefully it will be the same again."
By: Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport ImagesWho do you think will take the victory at Hockenheim? Leave your comments in the section below.
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