Preview 10: German Grand Prix
Ten things to look out for at this weekend's race at Hockenheim, including the 'will they or won't they protest over FRIC.
FRIC-ing hell! Following advice from the FIA's Charlie Whiting that they now consider the Front and Rear Interconnected suspension a movable aerodynamic device, all teams running it stand the chance of being disqualified. The only way round it was a unanimous agreement from all teams that they would run it till the end of the year and then remove it in 2015. However, after some of the smaller teams indicated that they weren't going along with that plan, McLaren came out and announced that they were taking FRICS off their car. If that's the case, then it's likely that all teams will follow suit.
Mercedes have the most sophisticated FRIC system so it will be interesting to see how this affects the pecking order of the top teams, with the current order being: Mercedes, Williams, Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Force India.
The weather for nearby Mannheim is going to be scorchio this weekend with the temperature reaching 31C on Friday and 32C on Saturday. But... on Sunday it's forecast for thundery showers all day, right from 8am in the morning through to 11pm at night. So the chances of a wet track during the race are very high.
Sebastian Vettel is looking forward to his home race naturlich. "I always enjoy the atmosphere at the Hockenheimring. When you arrive at track in the morning the circuit's already filled with fans and when you're in the car you can see lots of German flags in the grandstands. The signing session is always very busy too. It's those little things I really enjoy about Hockenheim. We get a lot of encouragement. During practice you know that the fans in the grandstands are there to support you and stand by you, no matter what. "
Perhaps the most local of the home boys is Force India's Nico Hulkenberg: "I know Hockenheim really well because it was my local circuit when I was growing up. For me the trickiest corner is turn one. It's so quick at well over 200 km/h and there is a curb on the exit where it's easy to make a mistake and run wide. The other big feature is the hairpin after the back straight. It's a heavy braking zone and it is easy to run too deep and lose time. It's also a great overtaking opportunity."
It will be the latest round of the 2014 saga that is Hamilton vs Rosberg, but last race it was Lewis's home race and this time round it's Nico's. Although hang on, didn't he call Monaco his 'home race'?
" It's actually the circuit I've won the most races at during my career," says Nico, "through all the junior categories, so I know it suits my driving style.
Lewis is aware of his responsibilities not to crash into his team-mate most races, but this race in particular. "This is the home Grand Prix for Mercedes-Benz, so it's important for the team and important for me. I've won twice before in Germany, but not at Hockenheim since way back in 2008. The aim is to change that this weekend."
Mercedes engineering boss Paddy Lowe is keen to put the troublesome gearbox of Nico at Silverstone behind them. "The main priority of the days since has been to understand the gearbox problem we saw with Nico's car and to make sure there is no recurrence moving forwards. As with any such scenario, a lot of work has been put into rectifying the issue and we head to Hockenheim with a remedy in place. We will also be bringing a number of other upgrades evaluated during the Silverstone test last week."
Jenson Button is probably the only current driver who raced on the old circuit before it was changed in 2002: "I remember racing at the old Hockenheim - four 200mph straights, a couple of fiddly chicanes and a stadium section where you held on tightly because the car didn't have any downforce. It seems like a different level of craziness compared with today, but it was a lot of fun. The re-designed circuit could never be as mighty as the old Hockenheim, but it's a fun little track, and it's been purposely designed to encourage racing. There are a couple of high-speed corners, but the circuit is largely made up of low-speed turns, so our car shouldn't be too disadvantaged. It's a race that often throws up a surprise or two, so I'm looking forward to the weekend."
Pirelli are taking Soft and Supersoft tyres to Germany, but there's a certain amount of guestimation "The only concrete F1 data we have is two years old," says Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director, "a time when the cars and the tyres were very different. So we expect the Friday free practice sessions to be extremely important, as the teams use the time to assimilate as much relevant information as they can. We've never been to Hockenheim with the Supersoft before, but we think it should be well-suited to the varying demands of Hockenheim. By Friday afternoon, we should have a clearer idea of how many pit stops we might expect."
Susie Wolff will have another go at putting in some serious laps and some serious mileage in a Williams FW36 this Friday in FP1. Despite her getting just four laps iduring the Silverstone FP1 in Valtteri Bottas's car, it did nothing to hinder the Finn's race pace and he finished in P2, having started the race way back in Oxfordshire. Race performance director Rob Smedley isn't getting carried away with the team's seemingly 'second-fastest' moniker. ""I think it's so tight in the midfield that it can swing either way and you can go from having the second fastest car to the fifth fastest car very easily," he told Autosport.