Text: Alex Yoong / Photos: | posted July 20, 2012 07:35
Since 2007, the German Grand Prix has been shared between Hockenheim and Nürburgring, and this year sees the race return to Hockenheim. In its modern configuration, the track is not the high speed challenge it used to be. It was shortened for safety and crowd reasons, as they condensed the track into a smaller area. Unfortunately by doing that, the track lost all of its character and is more of less like any other modern Formula circuit. Wide and smooth surfaced with lots of run of area and mostly slow to medium speed corners.
Having said that, it still is difficult to be quick here as the wide corners actually make it tricky to know exactly where to place the car, especially as conditions change and the line changes with it. Drivers have to be very precise and not overcook the slow technical corners, or risk losing time down the long straights.
The German GP is also the half-way point in what is F1's longest ever season. This makes it a good time to have a half term report on the drivers and teams, so lets take a closer look at the championship leaders and stand out performers of 2012 so far.
Fernando Alonso is leading the championship and rightly so. His wins in Malaysia and Valencia in a car that was not the quickest in the field were bold as well as brilliant. More impressive has been his ability to get points, even when his car was one of the slowest on the grid at the beginning of the year. He has been very measured in not trying to be too clever and racking up the points with the championship always his target.
Mark Webber is the only other driver other than Alonso who has won more than twice this season and his 'softly softly' approach means that he is now second in the championship. There have been a couple of races though, where I feel he has not got the most of the machinery under him and it is still too early to say if he is completely back to the form that almost won him the championship in 2010. If he can get through these next two races on the podium, then you have to say that he is back and will be there challenging for the championship to the end.
Sebastian Vettel has actually been driving very well and if he had not had the alternator failure while leading the European GP, he would be right with Alonso. Capable and quick as ever, he will be fighting Alonso for the title to the end.
Lewis Hamilton really needs to get two good results from these back to back races in Germany and Hungary. He is starting to lose touch with the leaders and with the field being so tight, there is no way he can afford another bad race. He did win here quite brilliantly in 2008 and if the car and team are on top of the tricky Pirelli tyres then he should be right there. Another bad race though will indicate that the team are really struggling with setting up the car for the tyres and his bid for the title looks tough despite there being a long way to go.
The inconsistant Maldonado is another driver that deserves a mention as his brilliant win at Spain was one of the drives of the year. Its clear the Williams, like the Sauber is very good and you wonder how much further up the two teams would be if they had recognized race winners in their cars. Nonetheless Spain was a great weekend for Maldonado and I would not be surprised if he had another performance like that this year and took another win. The only problem is I also wouldn't be surprised if he crashed four more times.
Let's also have a mention for Lotus as they have really got a race winning car and two good drivers to deliver that result. Hockenheim will probably be hot and if they can sort out their qualifying issues, don't be surprised if they finally get their first win of the year.
Filipe Massa is a driver that started the year under huge pressure, but since Ferrari improved their car at Monaco, Massa has been very good. I can see him keeping the Ferrari second seat for another year if he can keep this up. The driver under the most pressure now is now Button. He has really lost his way with managing his tyres and with the team seemingly confused, it could be awhile before we see him back at his best.
Given the conditions, I foresee home hero Vettel in the Red Bull winning at Hockenheim given the car's superior low speed traction. He's got the best conditions and most importantly, the temperament to this round.