This weekend's German Grand Prix and the Hungarian event just seven days later are the last two races before the three-week summer break. Hockenheim and the Hungaroring are usually very hot and recently the temperatures in Europe have been...
This weekend's German Grand Prix and the Hungarian event just seven days later are the last two races before the three-week summer break. Hockenheim and the Hungaroring are usually very hot and recently the temperatures in Europe have been soaring, so we can perhaps expect to see the on track battles become heated in more ways than one.
While it's now a shadow of its former self, Hockenheim is still a fairly technical and challenging circuit. There are a lot of slow and medium speed corners which need good traction but on the other hand the long flat-out section requires plenty of top speed. As a compromise downforce tends to be on the medium to low settings.
"Although the track layout has changed over the years, one main characteristic remains: it is a track quite conducive to overtaking, regularly producing great races," said Honda's Gil de Ferran. "It is an interesting combination of slow and medium speed turns which, like the previous few races, will provide many challenges for us to cope with, particularly temperature and stresses on the rear tyres."
The track surface is quite abrasive on the tyres and the dark asphalt can get very hot. "Hockenheim has less of a tendency to promote graining than Magny-Cours, but it requires the use of rubbers that are capable of resisting high temperatures and will not be prone to blistering," explained Michelin's Nick Shorrock.
The gap in the drivers' standings between Renault's Fernando Alonso and Ferrari's Michael Schumacher is getting smaller each race and likewise the gap between those two teams in the constructors'. Naturally, the protagonists head to Hockenheim full of fighting talk.
For Alonso victory on Schumacher's home ground would mean more than 10 points. "We know that at this stage of the season, we have to be finishing in front of the Ferraris," he said. "But I think that a win in Germany could be worth more than ten points because of the psychological aspect. I try to win all the races -- but it would mean a lot to take the victory here."
As for Schumacher, he's aiming for a hat-trick. "We go into Hockenheim on the back of two straight wins and it is no secret that we want another," he remarked. "We want to turn the championship red and Hockenheim ought to be the next step. Naturally, we also need the supporters on our side as they are very important."
The German GP is also a home race for BMW Sauber and team driver Nick Heidfeld. This week the FIA banned BMW's nose-mounted vertical wings, which may have been a disappointment for the team but a bit of a relief for those who don't want to see half an ironing board nailed to the front of a car.
"Our sporting objectives for Hockenheim are the same as for recent races: we aim to make it into the top ten qualifying and hope to get into the points on Sunday," said BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen. "In the battle for fifth place in the constructors' championship, we'll have to pull out all the stops."
Toyota can also claim Hockenheim as a home event as the team is based in Cologne, and it's Ralf Schumacher's back yard. "I had a good race at the circuit last year and worked my way up from 12th on the grid to 6th place thanks to good strategy work from the team," said Schumacher Junior. "We did well in France and we should hope for another strong result on Sunday."
Williams suffered in France with tyre issues and spent time on the test track at Jerez with tyre partner Bridgestone recently to sort the problem out. Like many other teams Williams comes to Hockenheim, Nico Rosberg's home race, with a revised bodywork package, including updated front wings.
"It will be great to race in Germany in front of people that I know and people that speak my language," said Rosberg. "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."
With one grandstand named after Mercedes it's not hard to guess which other team counts Hockenheim as a home event. McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen are trailing behind in the title fight but despite some less than startling performances recently the team insists that it is improving. Pedro de la Rosa remains in the second race seat for this weekend.
"It was great to be back racing in France, and I am really looking forward to getting back out there again in Germany this weekend," he commented. "The car felt quick, and hopefully we will demonstrate that a bit better at Mercedes-Benz's home race. I last drove at Hockenheim in 2002, so I have been on the revised layout."
Super Aguri will finally roll out its new car in Germany, the SA06, and test driver Sakon Yamamoto will take over the second race seat from Franck Montangy. Takuma Sato shook down the SA06 at Silverstone last week and the car is described as lighter, with a new aero package and gearbox and a 'striking' new red and white livery.
"As the German Grand Prix will be the debut race for the SA06, it is possible that we are going to face a few teething problems, but I have every confidence in the capability of the car and the team," said team principal Aguri Suzuki. "It is going to be Sakon's debut race and I believe that his experience as third driver up to now should help him perform well in the race."
There's a vast amount of debate going on about whether Michael can snatch the championship back from Alonso this season and these next two races have the potential to make a big impact on the situation. There's still a long way to go but what happens in Germany and Hungary could change everything. Then again, nothing might change at all.