- German Grand Prix - Preview
The return to the 'ring
The first set of back-to-back European races sees the teams making a swift dash from Silverstone to the Nurburgring for this weekend's German Grand Prix. Amid tyre rows and test changes, new life has been breathed in to the championship as Sebastian Vettel failed to score in Britain and Fernando Alonso cut his lead to 21 points. Germany has yet to deliver a Vettel victory, and on recent form the leader is likely to face stiff competition from another home favourite in the shape of Mercedes.
On FormHe might not have got on the podium in the British Grand Prix but Lewis Hamilton was back to his best at Silverstone and was unfortunate not to make huge inroads in to the deficit to Vettel. Having struggled to match team-mate Nico Rosberg over one lap recently - with his issues put down to a lack of confidence under braking - Hamilton was in a class of his own in qualifying as he took pole position by a massive 0.452s from Rosberg with a lap which Vettel himself described as "something special". At the start of the race he retained his lead and immediately broke the DRS gap before appearing to be in complete control until his tyre failure. After such an early first pit stop Hamilton recovered well to fourth place to cut the gap to Vettel to 43 points, but victory should really have been his and Vettel will be wary of the resurgent Mercedes.
Out of FormIt's been a barren run for Romain Grosjean since the optimism of Bahrain. When Grosjean took third place at Sakhir it appeared he had learned from his troubles in 2012 and was starting to show signs of emerging from the cautious approach he had taken to the start of the season. However, since then Grosjean has failed to score a point, with his Monaco troubles well documented, and although Lotus has not been in great form itself, it's disappointing to see such a slump. He couldn't be blamed for the contact with Mark Webber at the start of the British Grand Prix, but from that point on he tamely slipped down the order and really does look like a driver devoid of confidence.
One to watchIt's been a tough run of Saturday's for Paul di Resta but he's always responded with impressive recovery drives on each Sunday. He was outspoken in his criticism of Force India in both Monaco and Canada, but his exclusion from qualifying for being underweight at Silverstone came after the media sessions so his feelings were less well known; if predictable. Starting from positions of 17th, 17th and 21st di Resta has still managed to score points on each occasion, and he showed at Silverstone that he has the capacity to perform strongly in qualifying too as he originally took fifth place on the grid before his disqualification. A clean Saturday could really set him up for big points this weekend.
Talking PointsPirelli's changes
The finish to the British Grand Prix might have been thrilling, but the conditions which delivered such a final ten laps were more than a little concerning. Pirelli has taken immediate action to try and ensure there is no repeat of the failures seen at Silverstone - with the FIA allowing it to make changes even without the agreement of all the teams - and a Kevlar belt will be used rather than the steel one which has been used so far this season. Only the rear tyres will be changed, but for any teams not performing well this weekend the tweaks could give them fuel to criticise Pirelli once again.
Young Driver Test
The Young Driver Test at Silverstone this month first came to the fore at the FIA International Tribunal when Mercedes was banned, but few could have foreseen how big an event it could become. FIA president Jean Todt has said the teams will be allowed to run their race drivers solely for the purpose of tyre testing for Pirelli, but policing such an allowance could prove very difficult. Ultimately, the test will give teams an unexpected opportunity to allow their race drivers to test tyres and at the very least the move ensures Mercedes really is missing out by not being allowed to run.
Red Bull vacancy
Red Bull is unlikely to make an announcement any time soon on its second driver, but it's still a hot topic as the three main contenders now have the opportunity to prove their worth. Kimi Raikkonen is unlikely to be fazed by such limelight and will be more worried about whether he can strike a deal that makes sense financially and will put him on an equal footing with Vettel. However, if the team does go down the Raikkonen route it could leave itself a little exposed should the pair both decide to leave the team in a couple of years' time. Daniel Ricciardo put on a good show in Silverstone and if he can replicate that performance over the next few races he may emerge as the most sensible choice.
Agreements and contracts
One thing that the recent tyre drama has highlighted is the lack of cohesion and direction in Formula One. Bickering between teams is inevitable, but without a Concorde Agreement and therefore a proper system of governance in the sport it can get out of hand. The sport is likely to weather the storm this year but in 2014 - when new regulations will no doubt throw up various interpretations - a single binding contract between the teams, the commercial rights holder and the FIA will be crucial to overcome the inevitable teething issues. At the moment there are bilateral agreements in place with 10 of the team, while Marussia remains in the cold for reasons that are not yet clear.
- Despite an average speed of 200km/h in qualifying, there are just three corners taken above 250km/h on the circuit.
- 61% of the lap is spent at full throttle, with the longest period being for 10.7s Drivers will change gear on average 60 times per lap
- Only two of the last eight races at the Nurburgring have been won from pole position
- Ferrari holds the record number of wins by a constructor at the German Grand Prix, with a total of 21. It is also the highest number of wins by a constructor at any grand prix
- This will be the 17th grand prix held on the GP circuit at the Nurburgring
- The race has been held under three different titles: the German Grand Prix, Grand Prix of Europe and the Grand Prix of Luxembourg.
- The original Nurburgring was built to help solve unemployment issues in the Eifel region following World War One. A workforce of approximately 25,000 constructed the 14.2 mile circuit at a cost of 14.1 million Reichsmarks. The Nordscheife is now a toll road open to the public with a lap costing €26 a pop
- The first F1 race on the new circuit was held in 1984 and won by Alain Prost, but he was beaten by a young Ayrton Senna earlier that year in a race that pitted F1 drivers old and new against each other in identical Mercedes 190Es
CircuitAlthough the modern circuit pales in comparison to the original, the Nurburgring is still a decent race track in its own right. Modifications to the opening part of the lap in 2002 created an obvious overtaking opportunity and more exciting starts, and with two DRS zones - one on the start/finish straight and the other on the long back straight into the NGK chicane - it's likely there will be a lot of passing opportunities on Sunday. The high-speed sector two requires a good balance but traction and stability under braking are also rewarded in sectors one and three.
WeatherOnce again it looks like a Friday practice session could be affected by rain this weekend, with FP1 in danger of being on the receiving end of a few showers. However, the rest of the weekend looks set to be dry and sunny - with temperatures encouragingly warm for the Nurburgring - and the teams should be able to carry out their running with no concerns over the weather from FP2 onwards. That said - a bit like Spa - the weather in the Eifel mountains can be a tad unpredictable.
FIA driver stewardA regular as an FIA driver steward, Emanuele Pirro will resume the role at the Nurburgring this weekend. The former Benetton and Scuderia Italia driver first took up the role at the title-deciding 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
BettingAlthough he has never won a Formula One race on home soil, Sebastian Vettel is the favourite to rule the 'ring this weekend with odds of 6/4. After his fighting performance at Silverstone, Lewis Hamilton is 15/4 ahead of Fernando Alonso at 4/1. Despite winning the two of the last three races, Nico Rosberg is only fourth favourite with tempting odds of 7/1 to win again. Kimi Raikkonen is also tempting at 11/1 and should be in good shape if the temperatures remain high over the weekend. However, the best odds of all are with the Force India duo at 16/1 for a podium after threatening a top three finish at recent races.