The Formula 1 circus arrives at the Hockenheimring circuit in Baden-Wurttemberg state in Germany for round twelve of the 2016 season this weekend. The German Grand Prix became part of the Formula 1 World championship from 1951. This is the 62nd running of the event. The race was last held at this historic circuit in 2014. Since 2008, the Grand Prix has alternated between Hockenheim and the Nurburgring. It was cancelled last year at the Nurburgring due to financial reasons.
German Grand Prix Preview
Hockenheim hosted its inaugural race in 1970 and it was won by the late Jochen Rindt. The popular German raced under the Austrian flag and was killed in an accident five weeks later at the Italian GP. The race returned to the Nurburgring, until Niki Lauda’s accident there in 1976. Safety concerns about that circuit led to Hockenheim hosting the German GP from 1977 to 2008 (except for 1985 and 2007). From 2008, the race has alternated between the two venues. Two-time world champion Jim Clark was killed at an F2 race at this circuit in 1968. The modified circuit in 2002 saw the removal of the forest section which was a distinctive feature of the original track.
The Drivers and Teams
Ferrari have won the German GP a record 21 times (11 times at Hockenheim), followed by Williams and McLaren with nine and eight wins respectively. Michael Schumacher has won the German GP four times with all his wins coming at this circuit. Fernando Alonso (2005, 2010 and 2012) is a three-time winner at Hockenheim, along with Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet. Lewis Hamilton (2011, 2008) has won once each at the two venues. Sebastian Vettel won his first home Grand Prix at Nurburgring in 2013, but has a poor record at Hockenheim. Nico Rosberg is the defending champion who won his home race for the first time in 2014.
The 4.574 km long Hockenheimring has 17 corners (slow and medium-speed) and four fast straights, being one of the faster tracks on the F1 calendar. The circuit demands a medium downforce setup and the drivers are on full throttle for 65% of the lap. The fast and long straights will stress the engines and high fuel consumption will make fuel management a big challenge. As the track is only used every alternate year, at the start of the race weekend the surface is very slippery. As the weekend progresses and rubber gets laid on it, the grip improves.
Sector 1 (Turn 1 to Turn 4) starts with a high-speed right-hander, which in turn leads to a series of slow corners. The sector ends at Turn 4 which leads into the longest straight of the circuit.
Sector 2 (Turn 5 to Turn 11) starts with a long Parabolika straight which is a 1.14 km long straight ending with a heavy braking hairpin. This is followed by the right-hander at Turn 7 which is followed by the left-hander at Turn 8 (Mercedes Benz corner) and ends with another straight.
Sector 3 (Turn 13 to 17) enters the stadium section which takes the cars into the start-finish straight.
There will be two DRS zones. The DRS detection point is before T1, with the DRS activation point after T1. The second DRS detection point is at the exit of T4, with the activation point after T4. There are many good overtaking opportunities around this track such as at the hairpin of Turn 6 and on the long straights and DRS zones. The starters from the front row of the grid have won all but one race from 2002.
The Pirelli tyre choices this weekend are the white-striped mediums, the yellow-striped soft, and red-striped supersoft tyres. The supersoft tyre is the tyre of choice this weekend. Most drivers choosing eight or more sets out of the allocated 13 sets for each driver. The Ferrari, McLaren and Sauber drivers have chosen nine sets of supersoft tyres. The teams will be relying on the supersoft and soft compound tyres to give them an edge, strategy-wise. The medium tyres or any of the harder compound tyres have been used very sparingly inraces so far. Teams might go for a two-stop strategy due to the very low chance of rain for the race.
Lewis Hamilton (192 pts) will start the race as firm favourite. For the first time this season, the defending champion is leading the drivers’ championship. After a decisive change in momentum, Hamilton has won five of the last six races. He now leads Nico Rosberg (186 points) by six points in the WDC. Rosberg has also won five times this season, but has lost the massive 43-point lead in the title race he once held. Youngster Max Verstappen is the only other non-Mercedes driver who has won this season. The 18-year old Dutchman won at the Spanish GP, when the two Mercedes drivers ran into each other on the first lap. Australian Daniel Ricciardo (115 points) is a distant third in the drivers’ title race. It is a close fight for third position, with only fifteen points separating the drivers from third to sixth position.
Mercedes leads the constructors’ championship by a whopping 154 points over Ferrari. But the fight for second position between Ferrari and the fast improving Red Bull Racing is now very close. There is only one point currently separating the two teams. It is also a close fight for fourth between Williams and Force India; as well as for sixth between Toro Rosso and McLaren.
Another dominant performance from the Mercedes team at their home race is on the cards, unless reliability or other external factors temporarily halt their progress.