The Event Formula One returns to Europe for the twelfth round of the Championship this weekend and the second visit of the year to German soil. The famed Hockenheimring is the venue and will celebrate its 30th German Grand Prix on raceday having...
Formula One returns to Europe for the twelfth round of the Championship this weekend and the second visit of the year to German soil. The famed Hockenheimring is the venue and will celebrate its 30th German Grand Prix on raceday having made its first appearance on the calendar in 1970.
Built by Mercedes in 1939 as a dedicated test facility, Hockenheim has had a chequered history over the years, its legendary but arguably dangerous layout through the Rhine forest finally succumbing to major modifications in 2002 to improve safety standards.
Williams cars have raced on the classic track a total of 27 times over its history, collecting nine victories, nine pole positions and nine fastest laps making it the most successful Formula One team to have ever competed in Hockenheim.
Between the races
The two week break between France and Germany afforded the team a four day test in Jerez, Spain, last week. Nico and Alex carried out two days apiece, during which the pair completed an intensive schedule of tyre compound testing as well as brake and cooling work and set-up options in preparation for this weekend's event as well as the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Mark, meanwhile, has enjoyed a fairly quiet week. On 19th July, he attended an RBS sponsor day at Silverstone but is now using the time before Germany to concentrate on his fitness in preparation for the Mark Webber Pure Tasmania Challenge in November and is hoping to get out on his kayak more regularly to add a new dimension to his usual training programme.
Making the car go faster
Following the tyre overheating issue experienced on Mark's car in France, the team, together with Bridgestone, has been working hard in Jerez to resolve the problem and to eliminate any potential for a re-occurrence at future races. In conjunction with the continual development cycle, both FW28s will also benefit from updated bodywork, diffusers and front wings in Hockenheim.
Hockenheim from a technical perspective
Many would argue that the major facelift in 2002 left the 2.8 mile Hockenheimring a bland expanse of tarmac. The passage through the heart of the Rhine forest may have been re-engineered, but that which remains still demands exacting standards of driving and engineering precision.
Like so many of the tracks on the calendar, the circuit is a conundrum, one at which the drivers and their engineers spend most of the weekend searching for an often elusive set-up which can accommodate the low and medium speed corners as well as the high speed straights.
Measuring 1.38km, the sweeping Parabolica is the longest straight of the lap and will see the engines rev at full throttle for 17.1 seconds at speeds of 320kp/h. With the cars running at full throttle for up to 70% of each lap, Hockenheim ranks only second to Monza in the speed stakes and demands engine durability.
Located in the southern part of Germany, ambient temperatures are predictably high and promote track temperatures in excess of 50°C. As a result, the thermal loads placed on the tyres, particularly the rears, will be especially high at this race, while the physical pressures exerted on the drivers are as equally demanding.
"I expect we'll experience similar temperatures in Germany to those we had in Magny-Cours. The track itself is pretty featureless and is not one of the most exciting places we visit. However, it has provided some interesting races in recent years thanks to the long back straight which flows into the hairpin and which provides good overtaking opportunities."
"The stadium section is obviously a famous feature of the Hockenheim circuit and, because it's the only part of the track which hasn't changed in the last few years, it proves a popular spot for the spectators. Given Michael Schumacher and Ferrari's recent form, I don't think there'll be any shortage of German fans there to cheer them on."
"Although our results didn't reflect it at Magny-Cours because I wasn't able to complete the Grand Prix due to a tyre issue and Nico started the race with a 10-place grid penalty, it was clear that we were just on the fringe of the points and improving our performance. Of course it is frustrating, it would be good to be running a bit closer to the front, so that is exactly what I'll be trying my hardest to do at Hockenheim."
"It will be great to race in Germany in front of people that I know and people that speak my language. I really enjoy the track and have great memories of it having won many races there over the years. After a promising test in Jerez last week, I'm confident that we can achieve a good result in another of my home races."
Sam Michael, Technical Director, WilliamsF1:
"After the French Grand Prix, we've been working hard at the factory, in the wind tunnels, and at the test in Jerez, to further understand and improve the performance of the FW28. In particular, we've been working closely with Bridgestone to resolve the tyre issue we suffered in France due to excessive inside shoulder temperatures on the rear left tyres."
"Good progress was made on this at Jerez and we have now changed the set-up to ensure this doesn't happen again. Jerez marked the final test before the summer testing ban and we made some good progress testing various mechanical and aerodynamic parts, some of which will be run in Germany this weekend."
"Hockenheim is an interesting circuit, with mainly slow and medium speed corners, leading towards a softer set-up as the requirement for high speed stability is reduced. Due to the many traction events, the circuit is also quite hard on tyres, so the tyre companies are usually wary of blistering and make adjustments to the compound accordingly."
"Hockenheim has a great overtaking section at the hairpin so often provides some good racing action for the fans during the Grand Prix. Strategy will either be a two or a three stop on Sunday and can play a crucial role at this event."
Simon Corbyn, Head of F1 Race Engineering, Cosworth:
"Cosworth simulations predict that the CA2006 engines will be at approximately 70% full throttle per lap at Hockenheim this year. In terms of full throttle time, we expect Hockenheim to be the second most demanding circuit on the 2006 calendar after Monza. It is therefore a track that is a tough test of engine reliability, but also one where strong engine performance can be a significant factor in overall car performance."