German Grand Prix: Weekend Preview

So soon after the controversy which gripped the British crowd at Silverstone, Formula One arrives in Germany, with all eyes firmly on Pirelli. The tyre manufactures have been under fire since the delaminations during the British Grand Prix and are now concluding preparations to the new Kevlar-belted tyres which make an appearance this weekend. Hopefully these more expensive construction tyres will provide exciting, but above all safe racing. Perhaps we can stop talking about tyres and focus on the ever improving battle between Mercedes and Red Bull, as the resurgent Silver Arrows look to impress on home soil.

Pirelli have frantically prepared the Kevlar-belted tyres which will feature this weekend.
(c) Sky Sports

Rosberg Ready To Continue Merc Resurgence

Undoubtedly, everyone at Brackley will have been encouraged by the team’s race performances in recent times. They appear to have reduced the offset gap between their dominant qualifying pace and their previously underwhelming race pace. It has taken several races, yet the W04 is now capable of challenging the Red Bull’s on both Saturday and Sunday.
In today’s press conference, Nico Rosberg insisted that it is “too early” to begin considering the German as a true championship contender, despite the undeniable pace of the W04 in its current guise. With a 50 point deficit to current championship leader Sebastian Vettel, this is an unsurprising analysis. However, with consistent results outperforming that of his fellow countryman, Rosberg could well be in the running during the final stages of the year. “Short-term I just want to annoy Sebastian and Red Bull race-to-race by being ahead of them,” he said. “That’s the most important thing, to be ahead of them and other teams and try to win more races. That’s what we’re focused on at the moment.”
In response to being suggested as a title contender, Nico claimed; “It’s too early to say that. We’re really focusing on getting our momentum, keeping it going and concentrating on one race to the next to get the most out of them – just as we have done in the last couple of races. Then we will see in a few races time.”
He concluded; “It’s a really nice time in my career. It’s new; I’ve never had a car as quick as this one is now and never been able to go out in qualifying knowing I can fight for a position right at the front. And now the car is getting better and better so the chances are higher on Sunday that I can keep my qualifying position. It’s very motivating.”
To boost the Mercedes charge, the team have brought an intriguing new front wing this weekend, which features many redesigned elements. It features a fully detached top flap, as well as an additional tier, (fifth element). Moreover, the wing has smaller IR sensors which are attached to the cascade wiglet. This should be more efficient at channeling air into the turning vein and suspension elements, creating more front downforce. Many of these features have been adopted from Ferrari’s front wing which first appeared at Silverstone. Other developments for Mercedes this weekend include modified brake ducts, new rear suspension elements and an improved floor. They are certainly looking to maintain momentum in the development race, especially now that they have the talents of Paddy Lowe in their arsenal.

The new Mercedes front wing, featuring a fifth tier and a fully detached top flap
(c) Sky Sports

Alonso Hopes For A Vast Improvement

In contrast to 2012, Ferrari have been a reasonably consistent team in this campaign. However, Fernando Alonso has failed to match the efforts of Red Bull and Vettel. Despite this, Fernando maintains a strong position in the title race, as Sebastian Vettel’s closest challenger, yet a dismal British Grand Prix meant that he was unable to capitalize fully on the Red Bull tribulations.
“We need to answer what is our real performance,” Alonso acknowledged. “We have been very good this year apart from the Silverstone weekend where we were not competitive, not good enough to fight with the top guys. So I am curious to see if it was only one race or whether we lost performance somewhere,”
Mercedes have arrived on home soil as the team to beat and Fernando has recognised that to challenge Sebastian’s current control of the championship, he will need to beat the Silver Arrows – which is a tricky task in itself. Alonso noted, “They are very strong. They have proven that they are extremely quick. Before it was qualifying, now they are also very quick in the race. I have no doubts that they will fight until the end. Nico and Hamilton will be tough contenders.”

Drivers Content With Pirelli Changes

With safety being a major concern for the drivers as they departed Silverstone, Pirelli realized that action had to be taken quickly. Most of the drivers have stated their satisfaction with Pirelli’s immediate response to their fears, after initial threats of a German GP driver boycott were quickly quelled in the wake of the British Grand Prix. However, many remain unclear on how the Kevlar-belted tyres will affect the pecking order, with teams such as Lotus and Force India thriving on the high degradation tyres. 

Sebastian Vettel was one of the drivers to publicly praise the Italian tyre manufacturer, stating; “I think it’s good that not even within a week’s time we have been able to get a different tyre for this race, which hopefully is safer for all of us. Obviously the last race was not what we want and not satisfactory, but it’s good that we have a new tyre here. How much better and how different it will be, it’s difficult to judge at this stage, but I’m confident it’s a step forward.” Meanwhile, Sergio Perez added, “I think it’s definitely important to change them for the safety, not anymore for the performance. It’s very important that we as drivers feel safe; there could have been a big accident in the last race weekend. So I think it’s a good thing that Pirelli are reacting to do a change.”   

Force India are expected to be one of the teams to take a slight performance disadvantage into this Grand Prix, by using the Kevlar tyre. Their ability to maintain tyre life has abetted their race pace so far this season and understandably, they are concerned about how a mid-season change of construction will affect their chances. Consequently, driver Adrian Sutil looked to defend the previously used steel-belted tyre. “As long as it’s for safety, they have to improve it,” Sutil acknowledged. “But it hasn’t been 100% that it was a real tyre issue. One says it’s a tyre issue that caused the punctures in Silverstone. Some people say it’s maybe kerbing or something like that. So it’s always hard to see where the problem is. But four punctures in a race is too much, so they have to get behind it. “I feel safe on these tyres and had no problems with them. I did some two-stop races, a two-stop at Silverstone, so for me the concern is not so much.”
With Kevlar-belted tyres to be used for the remainder of the season, both Lotus and Force India may be left to find performance from elsewhere if they are to continue to challenge. It will be interesting to see how both teams fair this weekend. 

Final Thoughts

The form book is hazy when it comes to the German Grand Prix. The last time F1 greeted the Nurburgring was in 2011, while Lewis Hamilton managed to defeat Fernando Alonso, to take a well earned victory. Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel struggled to P4, (which was a season’s worst performance at the the time). He is yet to win in Germany at any circuit and will be hoping for better fortunes this season. However, Mercedes are likely to be unassailable in Qualifying once again and if their updates work, we may well be looking at consecutive Merc victories come Sunday evening. Could it be Hamilton who wins his first race in a Silver Arrow, emulating the legend Sir Stirling Moss? Or will Nico Rosberg take his fourth career victory? Expect a titanic Mercedes vs Red Bull battle.

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