The new Hockenheim is a bit poxy compared to its super-fast predecessor, but you won’t find a better racing circuit anywhere in the world. The long straights and slow corners make overtaking possible, which bodes well for Sunday’s 67-lap race.
Two other factors will most likely come into play as well. The weather forecast is for unsettled conditions (it rained last night and before first practice this morning) and Bridgestone’s standard-spec rubber has never previously been raced on Hockenheim’s abrasive asphalt, thanks to the track’s omission from last year’s calendar, and could yet pose wear problems.
Lewis Hamilton’s first F1 race here
The teams tested here last week, when McLaren – and Lewis Hamilton in particular – held the upper hand. Lewis has never previously raced an F1 car here, but he knows the track well from Formula 3, when he contested the German-based Euroseries instead of the British Championship. His confidence is riding high after his win at Silverstone and he’ll be going balls-out to hit the Scuderia where it hurts in Mercedes’ back yard.
Ferrari will undoubtedly be quick because there’s only a fag paper separating F1’s top two teams at the moment. A tenth here, a tenth there. But the team needs to decide which of its drivers is going to fight Hamilton for the World Championship. Felipe Massa looked far from World Championship material at Silverstone, where he spun five times, and while he continues to take points off Kimi Raikkonen, the team is handing the advantage to Hamilton.
The F1 championship: everything to play for
With the championship so tight at the top, there will still be everything to play for after this race, whatever the outcome. For that reason, my focus will be on the various intra-team rivalries. Jenson Button, for example, needs to put one over his Honda team-mate Rubens Barrichello, who has out-raced him for the last four GPs; Nico Rosberg needs to reassert his dominance over rookie team-mate Kazuki Nakajima at Williams and Timo Glock needs to prove that he’s worthy of another year at Toyota by out-racing Jarno Trulli for the first time.
Before this afternoon’s on-track action starts, however, I’m heading up to the outside of Turn 2, where a statue has been erected in memory of the late, great Jim Clark, who was killed at Hockenheim 40 years ago in a Formula 2 race. I wonder how Jimmy would have fared in modern F1?
DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS
Lewis Hamilton 48 pts
Felipe Massa 48 pts
Kimi Raikkonen 48 pts
Robert Kubica 46 pts
Nick Heidfeld 36 pts
CONSTRUCTORS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS
Ferrari 96 pts
BMW Sauber 82 pts
McLaren 72 pts
Toyota 25 pts
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