Formula 1: German Grand Prix Preview
The German Grand Prix is the tenth stop of the 2012 Formula 1 World Championship.
Held at the Nurburgring last year, this season the race returns to Hockenheim for the 33rd time in F1 history.
Fernando Alonso goes into the weekend with a 13-point lead in the drivers' standings. Mark Webber's Silverstone victory leaves him second, with Sebastian Vettel third.
Last time F1 visited Hockenheim, a team orders controversy surrounding Ferrari overshadowed the race. The Italian team were fined $100,000 for ordering Felipe Massa to hand the race lead (and win) to Alonso.
Such orders are now legal, but it'll take some unusual circumstances to lead to a repeat on Sunday.
As It Stands
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Fernando Alonso's consistent point-scoring and podium-visiting is, at this stage, keeping him ahead of the seemingly quicker Red Bulls.
Lewis Hamilton is 37 points behind the Spaniard in fourth, and is probably the last driver with even a slim chance of winning the title. The current Top 10 is:
|02||Mark Webber||Red Bull||116|
|03||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||100|
In the Constructors' Championship, Red Bull's 216 points gives them a commanding lead over Ferrari.
The battle for second is a much closer affair. Ferrari are eight points clear of Lotus, who are in turn two clear of McLaren.
Caterham, Marussia and HRT remain pointless.
The new circuit in black, the old in grey
Once a fearsome high-speed blast through the forest, the Hockenheimring is now a curious blend of old and new. Redesigned in 2001 (by Hermann Tilke, of course), much of the old circuit is no longer used, and is in the process of being reclaimed by nature (there's a nice photo of the remains of the Ostkurve here).
It's now a short lap, with 17 official corners (though I make it 12 or 13) and an expected pole time of less than one minute 15 seconds.
A lap starts on the pit straight (a fixture of the circuit since 1965) with a short run down to Nordkurve (Turn 1). This is a reasonably quick right-hander which can be deceptive—the run-off area on the outside will see plenty of use throughout the weekend.
A straight follows—the cars coming close to their top speed before braking hard for Turn 2—a tight, slow right-hander which takes us away from the old circuit and onto the new layout. Overtaking is possible here if a rival gets out of shape on the exit of Turn 1.
Turns 3 and 4 follow immediately, though I can only count one corner—a slight left on the exit of Turn 2 which points the cars towards the longest full-throttle section of the course.
It's not a "straight" as much as a long, graceful and ever-so-slight curve to the left which is perhaps the longest corner on the F1 calendar—Parabolika, or Turn 5. For practical reasons it can be considered a straight, and it does eventually become one.
Heavy braking follows for the extremely tight hairpin right at the end of the straight, Turn 6.
This is the best overtaking spot on the circuit, and has a mobile, cable-mounted camera which can "chase" the cars as they accelerate away down the straight towards Turn 7, briefly back on the original circuit. For a TV-viewer, it's one of the nicest sights of the year.
Turn 7 is a slight right-hand kink onto a new section of track. If a move didn't work into the hairpin, drivers get another opportunity under braking for Turn 8, a slow left which forms the first part of a broad chicane.
This corner may be referred to in commentary as "Mercedes," due to the presence of the Mercedes Grandstand on the outside of the corner.
The second part is a right-hander (officially Turns 9, 10 and 11), opening towards the exit to allow a fast transition back onto the old circuit. This time, the drivers remain there until the end of the lap.
After a short straight comes Mobil 1 (Turn 12), a fairly quick right which takes the cars into the stadium section. Next up is Sachs (Turn 13), a slow, slightly-banked 180-degree left.
Turns 14 and 15 are a very slight left-right double kink before Turn 16, a medium-speed right which seems to last far longer than it should.
Another, almost-identical right (SudKurve, or Turn 17) comes immediately after, sending the cars back onto the pit straight and the end of the lap.
The pit lane entry is on the inside between Turns 16 and 17, and the exit is just after Turn 1.
Tyres and DRS
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2012 will mark Pirelli's first racing visit to Hockenheim since 1991, which means everyone will be starting from a clean slate so far as tyre knowledge is concerned.
The yellow-marked soft and white-marked medium tyres will be used this weekend.
In addition, Pirelli will supply two sets of a new hard compound tyre for testing purposes during Friday practice. Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembrey said of the tyre:
The new hard tyre is not a big evolution, but it has a slightly wider working range, which should make it easier for the teams to get the tyres up to temperature and maintain them in the correct operating window.
We’re running them in Friday free practice only as with the championship so finely balanced, we feel that it would be unfair to suddenly alter one of the fundamental parameters that the teams have made a lot of effort to understand and get the most out of.
If a majority of the teams agree to a switch, the new hard tyre will replace the current version for the remainder of the season.
This will also be the first time DRS has been used at Hockenheim, and the zone will be in the only place it could be. One gets the impression it will be quite effective.
The detection point will be just after Turn 4, with the activation line coming 260 metres later before Turn 5.
It ends with braking for the hairpin at Turn 6.
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Hockenheim has seen its fair share of inclement weather over the years, but race day should be dry and bright according to midweek forecasts.
However, a shower or two may affect qualifying and practice.
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As always, the German Grand Prix weekend will consist of three practice sessions, qualifying and the race.
All times are local. The Formula 1 website has a handy tool to translate them to your timezone.