The halfway point of the season has arrived as the teams head off on the first of two visits to Germany for round nine of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship. After the cosmopolitan city of Montreal, the setting could not be more different...
The halfway point of the season has arrived as the teams head off on the first of two visits to Germany for round nine of the 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship. After the cosmopolitan city of Montreal, the setting could not be more different for this race. The Nürburgring is nestled in the picturesque Eifel region of Western Germany in the shadows of its predecessor, the daunting, 14-mile Nordschleife.
The Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda team had a tough race in Montreal, both drivers ultimately retiring with a brake problem for Jacques and a gearbox problem for Jenson. The team subsequently embarked on an intensive test session at Silverstone. The aim of the test was to continue with the ongoing development programme and find a solution to reliability problems. It has been an exceptionally busy week for the team because, as well as a heavy testing schedule, the freight did not arrive back from Canada until Thursday, which meant that turnaround time between races was almost halved.
Altered for 2002, the Nürburgring now features a twisty complex of four corners at the start of the lap. Turn one is a hairpin that accounts for a lot of pushing and shoving at the start of the race. It is a medium to high downforce circuit where good traction is needed to get a strong exit from the slow turns. The track has a low-grip surface and the weather always plays a part in the Grand Prix weekend as the rain can move in from the mountains very quickly.
B*A*R's best result at the Nürburgring is eighth place for Ricardo Zonta in 1999. Last year's race saw Olivier Panis finish ninth and Jacques finish 12th. Jacques won his first ever F1 Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in 1996 and took the top step of the podium again the following year.
"I'm not a great fan of the Nürburgring as a track. Last year they changed the layout and I don't find it very interesting. Having said that, I have good memories of the Nürburgring because it is where I won my first grand prix and where I won my last. It is fun to go back there. We should be a lot more competitive there this year than we were last year. There are some opportunities to overtake, so I think it will be a good race."
"Canada was a difficult weekend for us, although it was good to be back in the car after my 'mini-break'. It's a case of onwards and upwards now as we've completed a good test at Silverstone and are looking forward to getting back in the points at the Nürburgring."
"The Nürburgring is quite a tricky circuit with very few overtaking opportunities. The new layout is good and the first corner is a good spot to out-brake other cars but it's also really difficult at the start as it's so narrow through there. Overall I enjoy the Nürburgring race. I had a good result there last year so I'm hoping for more of the same this time around."
David Richards, Team Principal:
"If I was asked to produce a mid-season report on the team's progress I would say that I'm pleased with the pace we have shown but frustrated that we haven't converted that pace into points. We have had a number of strong races this year but we need to start scoring points with both cars. The potential is there but we have to first get on top of our reliability issues. We will do this by effectively managing the processes involved in the design, manufacture and racing of the cars and this will require 100% effort from everyone. It is the only way to eradicate reliability problems."
"We go to the Nürburgring with fresh hopes for a good result and there is no reason why we shouldn't expect to be in the points at this event. B*A*R, Honda and Bridgestone have all been working hard as a team to get the best from the package so I fully expect to be delivering a positive end-of-season report in a few months' time."
Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director:
"With half of the season gone, it is a good time to reflect on the performance of the team. Certainly compared with 2002 we have made a huge step both with chassis and engine and continue to make improvements at every race. However, despite a very productive testing programme where we continue to rack up thousands of testing kilometres with little problems, our reliability at race weekends has been disappointing and the results have not reflected the pace of the car. Nevertheless we believe that we can and will change this situation and are committed to developing the car, introducing new performance parts right through to the end of the season."
"Technically, the Nürburgring is quite a challenging track with an interesting mix of corners and fast straights. Although a pretty fast track, it is one that sees the teams run a maximum downforce configuration on their cars. However the cars will need their best straight-line speed in order to be in a position to overtake, either at the end of the pit straight, or under braking into the back chicane, the two best passing points at this track."
"The smooth track surface of the Nürburgring does not present any particular tyre wear problems. Once again it is likely to be a two-stop race that allows plenty of scope for race tactics to gain an advantage over the opposition."
Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:
"We've been testing the latest upgrade of the engine at Silverstone which has gone well and we've had positive feedback from all three drivers. I'm encouraged for the weekend ahead at the Nürburgring and hungry for a points finish."