German Grand Prix: Nurburgring Preview

After all the action of last week’s British GP, Round 11 of the Formula 1 World Championship draws near. Here’s how the Nurburgring can deliver as much excitement as Silverstone did.

A sold-out event taking place at the spiritual home of Motorsport is never going to be easy

Alonso wins, cheered on by capacity grandstands at Silverstone

to compete with. Add on top all of the politics, controversy and a redesigned track,  it’s clear to see Germany has a hard act to follow. Luckily, the Grand Prix circuit of the Nurburgring has a lot to offer. If there are any fans that can match the enthusiasm of the British, its Germany’s. With F1 legend Michael Schumacher, reigning-champion Sebastian Vettel, Nick Heidfeld, Nico Rosberg, Adrian Sutil and Timo Glock all taking to the track, the home fans won’t be short of native drivers to cheer on.

One big change, which is more of a return to the season’s norm, is the return of exhaust-blown diffusers. Ruled out just minutes before the start of the British GP, a unanimous team decision sees the downforce-generating tech reinstated for the German GP. This will shake-up team performances and, in theory, generate race results more similar to those prior to the system’s ban – with a few exceptions.

Ferrari attributed Alonso’s maiden victory of 2011 to a major mid-season upgrades package, rather than a drop in performance from other teams. If this is the case, then Ferrari, who have already shown improvements in recent race weekends, should be contenders for a second win in a row.

Michael Schumacher too, could perform well around a circuit on which, one of the corners

Michael Schumacher collides with Kamui Kobayashi

bears his name. Schumacher utilised the DRS system for the first time this season at Silverstone. His unfamiliarity with the drag-reduction system could be to blame for his clumsy collision with Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi. Despite losing his front wing and then taking a stop-and-go penalty, the seven-time world champion finished an all things considered outstanding 9th place. Combined with an impressive 6th place finish from team-mate Nico Rosberg, Team Mercedes look to be in with a shout of a podium finish at their home Grand Prix.

On his chances for Germany, Schumacher revealed his “extra motivation” for his home race. “We saw some improvements over the Silverstone weekend with our new exhaust system. We definitely want to show our home crowds our best level of performance possible”.

The championship-leaders Red Bull looked unphased by rule changes during qualifying last week. Mark Webber headed Sebastian Vettel on the grid, but lost out to him on the first straight. Suggested unrest after Team Principal Christian Horner’s team orders at the weekend were recently put to bed, as Webber publicised his contract talks with Red Bull for 2012.

McLaren were caught out by late rule changes at the British GP, which resulted in a poor qualifying. Drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button put in great performances to overcome this, but were hampered by more race day errors from their team. Unless McLaren brings a new upgrades package to Germany similar to that of which Ferrari brought to Silverstone, the English duo could struggle to contend.

Red Bull are becoming part of the podium furniture in 2011

The past three Grand Prix of Europe, Canada and Monaco have consistently seen Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull achieve podiums, with Red Bull being the most prevalent of the three teams.

This suggests that it will be the usual suspects celebrating in Germany. However, it’s difficult to rule out Mercedes. With two German drivers, they’re a team that will be desperate for success next weekend.

McLaren too, are in dire need of some major points to keep their title hopes alive. Even though they don’t quite have the car to compete at the moment, they certainly have two drivers who can get every ounce out of the under-performing MP4-26.

Another factor that will affect the result is the Nurburgring circuit itself. Different

The Nurburgring GP circuit

to Silverstone, it has far fewer high-speed corners. The superior downforce of Red Bull’s RB6 at high speeds gave them the edge around the fastest circuit of the season last Sunday, but the twists and turns of the German GP should bring more of the grid into contention for podium places.

Rewind one year, and Red Bull did not dominate the German Grand Prix in the way they’re expected to next weekend. In 2010 it was Ferrari who came home with a  1-2 lead by Alonso, with Vettel trailing to 2nd place Massa.

Ferrari dominates the German Grand Prix, 2010

Ferrari’s recent improvements approaching a race they dominated last year makes them my tip for this year’s German GP. Unarguably Fernando Alonso is the stronger driver of the two Ferrari men this year, and is more likely to take the top step of the podium. It is a mistake to accredit Alonso’s win at Silverstone last week to Red Bull’s pit-stop errors. The two-time world champion was piling the pressure on Vettel, and in my opinion, an overtake was imminent. Massa reaffirmed the effectiveness of the upgrade package Ferrari brought to Silverstone, claiming it will stand them “in good stead for the second half of the season”. With that said, Alonso is clearly back in the running for the driver’s championship.

As for the remaining podium place, it’ll undoubtedly be a Red Bull. I’d like to think McLaren or Mercedes could take 3rd, but for me, the performance just isn’t there for them at the moment.

Regarding the rest of the grid, expect the Saubers to pick up some good points; especially Sergio Perez, who has made a strong return after his accident in Monaco last month. Jaime Alguersuari has picked up points in the last two races, and I predict the Toro Rosso driver to continue his run of form.

Renault recently announced new upgrades for Germany. Vitaly Petrov admitted Lotus Renault had been “off the pace” recently. Nick Heidfeld welcomed the upgrades package to the uncompetitive Renault RS27, and relished the chance to “take the fight to Mercedes”, who overtook Lotus Renault in the Constructors Championship last weekend. With the team also planning to replace their front-facing exhaust system for a conventional rear exhaust, I expect Renault to turn their season around and fight for points in amongst Mercedes, Sauber and Williams – who bring new front and rear wings to Germany.

After being outclassed all season by new team-mate Paul di Resta, Force India driver Adrian Sutil is keen to outperform di Resta on home soil, “I’ve lost out to him a couple of times and have maybe been a bit unlucky or whatever” Sutil confessed.

Heikki Kovalainen will be the best of the back markers as per, despite the Fin’s concerns that Team Lotus’ goals have been “too optimistic” for 2011.

Lastly, a quick mention to Daniel Ricciardo who brought his HRT home in one piece on his debut last week. The Australian rookie was quoted saying he found his 1st taste of F1 “boring” as he was consistently faced with a series of blue flags around Silverstone. Hopefully he’s all settled in now and can enjoy next week’s race a little more.

My predictions?


1st – Sebastian Vettel

2nd – Fernando Alonso

3rd – Felipe Massa

Race Result:

1st – Fernando Alonso

2nd – Sebastian Vettel

3rd – Felipe Massa

And by the way; the weather forecast?



About Mike O'Keeffe

I live and breath racing. Especially, F1. Here you'll find an ocassional word or two on the ins and outs, the highs and lows and the controversies of motorsport's pinnacle.
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