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A trip into the unknown: How the F1 teams will approach the German Grand Prix

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A trip into the unknown: How the F1 teams will approach the German Grand Prix
Jul 4, 2013, 9:38 AM

Nurburgring hosts the German Grand Prix on alternate seasons with Hockenheim.

Nurburgring hosts the German Grand Prix on alternate seasons with Hockenheim. So the read across on data is two years old. Some fundamentals about strategy planning do not change, such as the circuit characteristics and the pit lane loss time, which are unchanged, but the cars themselves are two years more advanced and the tyres are a different story altogether.

After the series of tyre failures at Silverstone last weekend, Pirelli has been forced to come up with a short term solution for this weekend, which is a revised rear tyre construction, tested briefly by teams at the recent Canadian Grand Prix. Because of the weather in Montreal, there was very little running on the tyre, but teams have a basic understanding of the dynamics.

However the whole weekend is going to be a learning experience for everyone and the strategy will unfold as the track mileage increases and teams learn more about the performance of the stop-gap tyres. Pirelli is bringing soft and medium compound tyres, as it did at this track in 2011.

The Nurburgring circuit has a range of corners which test the car, from a low speed hairpin to some fast corners. There are a couple of overtaking places. The weather can change quickly and wet races are common.

The start is always crucial at Nurburgring, as the first corner is very wide with many possible lines and the run down to it is quite long; from pole position to the braking point before Turn 1 is 515 m.

Track characteristics

Nurburgring – 5.148km kilometres. Race distance - 60 laps = 308.623 kilometres. 15 corners in total. A cut down version of a classic circuit. Offers a mixture of corners without having any particularly striking feature. Only used on alternate years.

Aerodynamic setup – High downforce. Top speed 313km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) - 303km/h without.

Full throttle – 64% of the lap (medium). Total fuel needed for race distance – 150 kilos (average/high). Fuel consumption – 2.5kg per lap (high)

Time spent braking: 18% of lap. Brake wear- Average.

Loss time for a Pit stop = 17 seconds (average)

Total time needed for pit stop: 21 seconds

Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.35 seconds (high)

Two DRS zones 1) After Turn 11; 2) After Turn 15

Form Guide

The German Grand Prix is the ninth round of the 2013 FIA F1 World Championship.

As far as drivers’ form is concerned; Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton have won the German GP at the Nurburgring. Fernando Alonso has won three times at Hockenheim and Hamilton has also won there. Alonso also won a European Grand Prix twice at the Nurburgring.

Sebastian Vettel has never won his home Grand Prix. He turned 26 this week.

The momentum is with Mercedes and Nico Rosberg, who has won two of the last three Grands Prix and described himself as the "favourite" going into this weekend.

Weather Forecast

The weather at Nurburgring can be very unpredictable, as it is close to the Eiffel Mountains. It can be cold and rainy or hot and humid.

The forecast is for dry conditions with temperatures around 21-23 degrees.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Nurburgring: Soft (yellow sidewall) and Medium (white sidewall) This is a similar combination to what we saw in China, although the construction has been changed, due to the changes in specification of the rear tyres.

It is likely that the new tyres will be more durable than the old ones, but how much and how this affects the performance gap between soft and medium only practice mileage will tell.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

With so much to be learned about the new Pirelli tyres it is hard to make predictions before any running has been done in practice.

Last time the F1 cars raced at the Nurbrurgring, Lewis Hamilton won the race with a three stop strategy, pitting on laps 16, 31 and 51.

Chance of a safety car

Safety cars are rare at Nurburgring. However extremely wet weather has been a cause of Safety cars there in the past with the 2007 race an extreme example. In dry conditions it is an open circuit with lots of run off areas. So for marshals it’s relatively safe to recover a broken car.

The chances of a safety car are only 20% and 0.4 per race.

Recent start performance

As far as 2013 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season, on aggregate, as follows –

Gained

+13 Massa




+12 Van der Garde*****



+12 Gutierrez



+11 Perez



+10 Sutil***



+7 Maldonado



+7 Di Resta



+4 Chilton



+3 Button



+2 Vettel



+2 Hulkenberg**


+1 Pic


+1 Alonso



Lost



-2 Raikkonen

, Rosberg


-3 Bianchi******


-5 Bottas



-5 Hamilton



-8 Ricciardo



-8 Grosjean


-13 Vergne ****



-16 Webber*



*Webber dropped from second to seventh after a clutch problem in Australia
** Hulkenberg did not start in Australia *** Sutil suffered puncture from contact with Massa in Bahrain ****Vergne retired following collision. *****Van der Garde and Maldonado made contact in Monaco. ******Bianchi started from pit lane in Monaco after stalling

Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds by F1 teams. The performance gap is shrinking at the front: there were less than 1/10th of a second between the second and fourth fastest stops in Silverstone.

The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the British Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it.

1. Red Bull 24.092 secs

2. McLaren 24.357s

3. Ferrari 24.400s

4. Lotus 24.428s

5. Mercedes 24.635s

6. Force India 24.807s

7. Sauber 24.863s

8. Williams 25.244s

9. Marussia 25.701s

10. Caterham 26.191s

11. Toro Rosso 26.229s

The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several F1 team strategists and from Pirelli
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