F1 German GP Preview: Can Red Bull Continue To Take the Fight to Brawn?

Daniel ChalmersSenior Analyst IJuly 9, 2009

NURBURG, GERMANY - JULY 09:  Sebastian Vettel (L) of Germany and Red Bull Racing shares a joke with other German drivers in the paddock during previews to the German Formula One Grand Prix at Nurburgring on July 9, 2009 in Nurburg, Germany.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

After a long three-week break, the F1 action returns this weekend to the Nurburgring for the German GP.

The Nurburgring isn’t the best circuit on the calendar, but it’s certainly far from being the worst. It suffers a bit because of the Nordschleife which is right next door. The Nordschleife is one of the greatest and most gruelling race tracks in the world. It is a massive 14 miles long. It still holds some races today, but is considered far too dangerous nowadays for Formula One cars.

The new modern Nurburgring circuit isn’t just a patch on the original. People would probably like the track more if there wasn’t such a great historic circuit over-shadowing it. Most of the drivers though do seem to like it.

“The Nurburgring is a great circuit. It’s got a variety of different corners—some quite tricky, technical sections that need a good flowing rhythm and some faster bends, where the car needs to be well set up,” said Heikki Kovalainen.

The range of corners at the Nurburgring makes setting up the cars quite tricky.

“It's a circuit with a bit of everything: fast corners, slow corners, chicanes and heavy braking areas. We therefore use a very typical set-up as we have to compromise through the speed range, as we do for most circuits,” explained Renault’s Pat Symonds.

German fans used to come to the German GP in their thousands to support Michael Schumacher. He may not be around anymore but currently a quarter of the F1 grid is German. Sebastien Vettel, Nico Rosberg (he’s half Finnish as well), Nick Heidfeld, Timo Glock and Adrian Sutil will all be hoping to thrill their home fans.

And this year for the first time since the great man himself retired, there is a genuine chance of a home winner.

Sebastien Vettel has been a sensation in F1 over the past 12 months, and his career is going from strength to strength, with three victories already to his name. His dominant win at Silverstone has made him a potential title challenger again. He is getting German fans excited about F1 again, and he is likely to attract the biggest crowd this weekend since Michael retired.

You can bet that Bernie Ecclestone can’t believe his luck that another potential German superstar has arrived on the scene so quickly. A win for Vettel would revitalise German interest.

Vettel will be under incredible pressure to win this weekend. To ensure he closes in on Button in the title race again, and to become a hero in Germany. Along with the inevitable suggestions that he is the next Schumacher too, he has a lot to live up to this weekend.

Can he handle these immense expectations? We have seen Vettel crack under the pressure a couple of times this season in Monaco and Turkey. The pressure on Button at his home grand prix was pretty tiny in comparison to what Sebastien faces this weekend.

However Vettel feels, being at home will help his victory chances.

“I'd say it's like a soccer match when you play on your home ground. You always give 100 percent, but in a home race you're even more motivated, because at home you feel comfortable,” explained Vettel.

His potential success this weekend will very much depend on how the Brawn GP/Red Bull battle shapes up.

This weekend, we will find out whether Red Bull’s obliteration of Brawn in Silverstone was just a flash in the pan. F1 fans are dying to know whether Brawn will dominate, or whether Red Bull can now push on for a serious assault on the title.

In Silverstone, the Brawn didn’t work well in high speed corners, and struggled in the cool conditions. This however suited the Red Bull’s characteristics perfectly.

The Nurburgring’s mix of different corners should give a better indication of where Brawn GP and Red Bull stand against each other. Brawn GP are sure the track will be much better suited to their car. Red Bull are confident that their upgrades are making a noticeable difference, and that they can be quick on any track from now on, not just tracks with quick segments. This weekend will tell us who is right, and how the rest of 2009 could turn out.

However looking at the forecast for this weekend it would be fair to say that it could be an advantage to Red Bull. The whole of the German GP weekend is set to be cool, with a threat of rain for the race. Red Bull has dominated both cool races so far this season, and with Brawn’s recent form in cooler temperatures, Red Bull will automatically become favourites.

How will the other German drivers fare this weekend?

Williams and Toyota are both in the chasing pack behind Red Bull and Brawn GP. Williams in particular have made a good improvement in the last few races, and have now started picking up consistent points. Nico Rosberg will be looking to achieve that again this weekend. Toyota had a rough spell after failing to win in Bahrain but have recovered after that disastrous race in Monaco.

Timo Glock however has only picked up one points finish in the last four races, so will be hoping that he can regain his form at his home circuit. Both are possible podium contenders should any of the Brawn or Red Bull drivers hit trouble.

Ferrari will also be hoping to be podium challengers, after Massa showed good pace on the way to a fourth place finish at Silverstone.

BMW Sauber’s season has been a disaster so far, considering they were planning on challenging for the title in 2009. They will be bringing some updates to their car this weekend. Nick Heidfeld will hope that this is enough to give him a chance of a points finish in his home race.

Force India has been making great strides recently, and is starting to become a solid midfield team. Fisichella finished a very respectable 10th at Silverstone. The team are getting closer to their first point of the season. Adrian Sutil will fancy his chances at snatching that point in front of his home fans.

Let’s not forget that it is also a home race for Mercedes.

Mclaren have struggled at the last two tracks because of their fast nature, which brings out the worse in this year’s challenger. They will be bringing a host of updates this weekend. The Nurburgring should suit them better too.

Renault are bringing modifications to their car as well. They really need them too, as their season appears to just be going backwards at the moment. A 2008 style turnaround looks very unlikely at present.

Toro Rosso has been struggling at the back for a few races now. They haven’t got the recent Red Bull updates on the car, and only have half the budget of their sister team. They may well be hoping that the Eifel Mountain’s micro climate waves its magic and brings some rain.

My prediction this weekend is for a Red Bull victory.

The predicted cool conditions are going to have a major impact on the result. Although I think it will be much closer than Silverstone was. There are more aspects of this track which will suit Brawn, unlike at Silverstone where nothing appeared to suit them.

There are three or four heavy braking zones, which will make the tyre warm-up issue less severe than at Silverstone, and there are more slower corners.  I still fancy Red Bull to have the slight edge but Brawn will be far more competitive. I think Brawn would be ahead if the weather prediction was for boiling hot weather. Brawn will have to hope they get that in Hungary.

It should be a very fascinating and revealing weekend. A little bit of star dust (rain) would make it even better.

Will the German fans have something to cheer? And will the result spice up the championship fight?


My top-eight prediction...

1.       Mark Webber

2.       Jenson Button

3.       Sebastien Vettel

4.       Rubens Barrichello

5.       Nico Rosberg

6.       Nick Heidfeld

7.       Jarno Trulli

8.       Adrian Sutil

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