It should be business as usual for Jaguar Racing at Hockenheim, as a fully fit Eddie Irvine will be back behind the wheel of his R1 after missing the Austrian Grand Prix. Test driver Luciano Burti did a solid job at the A1-Ring, but he'll have...
It should be business as usual for Jaguar Racing at Hockenheim, as a fully fit Eddie Irvine will be back behind the wheel of his R1 after missing the Austrian Grand Prix. Test driver Luciano Burti did a solid job at the A1-Ring, but he'll have to get used to watching from the sidelines again.
With Spa and Monza to come, Hockenheim is the first of three tracks where top speed is critical. The four long straights, linked by chicanes, are the key to overall lap times.
Speed is derived from a combination of pure power and aerodynamic performance. Some cars are inherently more 'slippery' than others, but at Hockenheim all teams run with ultra low downforce settings, which means they use the smallest wings we'll see all year.
This specification makes for a compromise on the rest of the circuit, and drivers have to scrabble through the chicanes and the stadium section with far less grip than they would normally like to have. Generally tyres are less of an issue than at other tracks, although last year Mika Hakkinen crashed out after suffering a puncture. Brakes are always an important consideration, as the cars go from 200mph to just 60mph three times a lap.
Eddie Irvine won last season’s race after both McLarens hit trouble and his temporary Ferrari team mate Mika Salo followed team orders and let the Ulsterman past. Once again the race is likely to be a McLaren v Ferrari contest, although Michael Schumacher is the underdog on his home track; he won the race once for Benetton, but he has underperformed in his Ferrari days.
Hakkinen bounced back to form in Austria and it will be fascinating to see how his battle with David Coulthard unfolds. Mika won from pole in 1998 and took pole again last year.
Although it's logical to assume that the usual suspects will dominate the first two rows, Hockenheim's unique nature means there could be an interloper or two.
Jordan has shown well in Germany in recent years, and both Heinz-Harald Frentzen (who started second last year) and Jarno Trulli could be quick in qualifying. However, the team seems to have lost a bit of form of late.
Jacques Villeneuve and BAR have won the 'best of the rest' race in the last two grands prix, finishing fourth behind the McLarens and Ferraris. The car has been fast in a straight line, and Honda power will certainly play its part.
Williams has a good record at Hockenheim, even during bad years - Villeneuve was third in 1998 and Ralf Schumacher fourth last year. It remains to be seen how the latest BMW package performs in terms of outright speed, but Ralf could be a contender. Jenson Button is new to the track and may take a while to get used to its quirks.
Benetton seems to go well on the same tracks every year, and on that basis Hockenheim should be an average weekend. The team scored a famous victory with Gerhard Berger in 1997 (its last win, in fact), but hasn't come close since. Giancarlo Fisichella qualified second with Jordan in 1997, but started seventh and 10th on his last two German outings with Benetton.
This year’s Arrows has shown itself to be one of the most slippery cars on the grid: drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Jos Verstappen are always among the fastest through the speed traps. Reliability has been the team’s weak point, and neither driver has a great record at the track, although Verstappen have bad memories of the 1994 race when he Benetton burst into flames during his pit stop.
As for Jaguar, the team's likely form is something of an unknown. Cosworth will have a revised spec engine this weekend, and much is expected of it. Last year Rubens Barrichello qualified sixth for Stewart, so that could be a good omen. Eddie likes the track, and won the F3000 race back in 1990, while Johnny Herbert hasn't had much luck, apart from fourth for Benetton in 1995.
The German Grand Prix is rarely very exciting, with most interest usually provided by retirements rather than battles at the front, but the local crowd always ensures that there is a good atmosphere.