German Grand Prix Technical Preview

The German Grand Prix returns as Round 10 of the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship, after a one-year absence, in what is likely to be its final appearance on the calendar for the foreseeable future.

The Hockenheimring, not nearly as challenging as the old route through the forest, features a mix of cornering speeds, albeit slightly biased to the lower – medium end of the spectrum, together with multiple full throttle sections.

Downforce vs Drag

The part of the lap to Turn 8 favours a medium or even low downforce set-up, with Turns 3, 4, 5 and 7 all being flat-out. However, the remainder of the lap features very little in the way of straights, with a series of corners challenging the drivers, including the Stadium section. It is likely that Red Bull will aim to run lower downforce rear wings than both Mercedes and Ferrari in order to overcome its straightline speed deficit and improve its competitiveness in the first part of the lap.

Car Strengths Needed

A car with good traction and Aerodynamic efficiency will perform well here, as the majority of the lap is made up of low speed corners and straights. Those teams with a Mercedes or Ferrari power unit will benefit on the long flat-out run up to Turn 6.

Key Corners

Turn 2 is critical in setting up an opportunity to overtake heading down towards the Turn 6 hairpin. In addition, Turns 1 and 12, being the only high-speed corners on the track, will test the grid’s Aerodynamic downforce.

Tyres and Strategy

Given the absence of data from the current generation of cars and tyres at the Hockenheimring, an assessment of potential strategy options is difficult. Back in 2016, when Pirelli’s tyres were still fragile and subject to overheating, the race required a three-stop strategy to be competitive, using the SuperSoft and Soft compounds. The current tyres are more durable than in that period, with this year’s tyres a little softer than the equivalent 2017 tyres.

Given that the 2016 SuperSoft was capable of stints of up to 20 laps in the 2016 race, the UltraSoft should be able to run a similar distance, at least over the weekend, when temperatures are forecast to be lower than on Friday. The question then centres around which tyre can result in a one-stop strategy, the Soft or the Medium?

Both tyres have shown consistent performance through the year, and the selection of two or more sets of the Medium for at least one driver in every team suggests that the answer is not clear as yet. Of course, the front runners may choose to avoid the UltraSoft in the race completely, using the Soft to set their fastest time in Q2 and begin the race, before switching to the Medium.

Renault’s selection of ten sets of the UltraSoft tyre stands out as particularly aggressive, while its Soft/Medium combination guarantees that one driver will not run the preferred race tyre during practice.

Overtaking/DRS

The mix of slow corners and reasonable number of straights usually makes for good racing in Germany. For 2018, this will be assisted by the introduction of a third DRS zone along the pit straight which, like the additional zone in Silverstone, will be designed to move cars closer together in a bid to overtake into Turns 2 or 6, rather than providing a passing opportunity into Turn 1 itself.

Weather

Friday is expected to be extremely hot, but dry, with temperatures over thirty degrees Celsius, before cooler conditions set in for the weekend. This will make judging the long run data from FP2 particularly tricky for the teams, while the preparation for a flying lap may well need to be altered due to the temperature drop. Note that on Saturday particularly, but also on Sunday, there is the possibility of some rain showers.

Form Guide

In France and Austria certainly, and arguably in Silverstone as well, Mercedes had the outright fastest car over the weekend. However, all three of these circuits featured multiple medium-high-speed corners, and long-radius turns in the case of the first two, which seemed to suit the W09 better than the Ferrari SF71H.

Hockenheim has a very different circuit layout that could play more to the strengths of the Ferrari and Red Bull cars. In the midfield, Force India and Renault should perform more strongly than in recent races, thanks to the greater bias towards low-speed corners, while Haas should become relatively less competitive, with the VF-18’s high-speed corner performance hidden on this circuit.


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Lowe: Williams recovery my greatest challenge

Williams technical director Paddy Lowe was expected to take Williams to the next level, but the first effort at putting out a decent car under his watch has proved to be a disaster for the once mighty team, sinking them to their lowest level in memory.

Lowe arrived with pedigree, having started with Williams in 1987 before he joined McLaren in 1993 where he rose through the ranks to become technical director at Woking before he departed to join Mercedes in 2013.

Replacing Ross Brawn, he was part of the leadership that created the mega-team that the Silver Arrows has become.

His move to Williams early last year was expected to herald a new era of technical excellence at Grove, with highly rated Dirk de Beer joining the team from Ferrari. But instead of progress the team has been in sharp decline with very little light at the end of a long tunnel.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the FW41 lemon they produced, the fall-guys have fallen and now Lowe remains standing with nowhere to hide.

When asked if he was amid the toughest challenge of his impressive career, he replied, “In many aspects, yes.”

“There have been some other challenges I faced on different occasions, but this is a new challenge for me anyway. Through the years I’ve been fortunate in my career not to work in a team that wasn’t part or within reach of the front, performance wise,” the 56-year-old told Motorsport Network.

“That is where we were always playing, in the top ten and towards the front of top 10 or at the very front end. It is a new experience for me to work in a team, which has a lot of work to do to get back to where we want to be.”

“So that creates some new challenges for me personally, and I am learning all the time. Some things you get right, some things, if I had my last year again, I would do differently. But I think that is the nature of life.”

“You face challenges and you learn from them and hope that that builds your experience to do a better job next time.”

Williams have huge pedigree in Formula 1 with 114 grand prix victories since their debut in the top flight back in 1975, their collection of nine Formula 1 constructors’ titles is only bettered by Ferrari.

Lowe cites this and winning potential of the team as his source of inspiration, “I think the more we get into understanding where we are, and why, and what is not working, I think the more positive that makes me feel about the progress that we can make.”

“We’ve got a great team, you know. There are some great creative people back at Grove. And I think if we can work in the right direction, which we are now turning round to do, I think we can make some really good progress.”

“I think as we get to this point of the year, which is common with all the teams, the focus goes very much more on the current car towards pieces and developments which are also relevant into next year,” said Lowe about his team’s mindset on this front.

“I think we are definitely moving into that mode now with this car, which should be common with the other teams I would expect.

“Because although the rules are changing for next year quite significantly, there are still many aspects of the car for which the development and the learning on this car will still carry across.

“So, for instance, we probably won’t do a lot of work on front wing endplates for the rest of this year, but that’s because it’s a big change for next year,” concluded Lowe.

Big Question: Is Paddy Lowe the man to revive Williams to become title contenders and race winners again?


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Epstein: The bigger the success Miami is the better for F1

Circuit of the Americas (COTA) chairman Bobby Epstein believes says the prospect of the Miami Grand Prix is good for the sport as his organisation bide their time ahead of negotiating a new Formula 1 contract for the United States Grand Prix in Austin.

The Texas track’s existing deal agreed with Formula 1’s former supremo Bernie Ecclestone runs to 2021 with an annual escalator clause.

COTA chairman Epstein would like to secure better terms from the sport’s new U.S.-based owners Liberty Media, as do other promoters in the global series who have long complained that high hosting fees make it hard to turn a profit.

Liberty’s eagerness to add a race in Miami, possibly as soon as next year, could see a change to the old business model with media reports suggesting that deal will have shared risk and revenues.

“I think there are nine or 10 circuits that have to renew their deals before we do,” Epstein told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“So I am sure by the time ours comes up, there’ll be a lot more precedents set. And you know, hopefully the sport will have taken off in the U.S. (by then) and the reliance on the promoter income might not have to be as heavy.”

Hockenheim, which hosts this weekend’s German Grand Prix and is in the last year of its contract, has already said it cannot continue unless any new deal is risk-free.

Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix, has a year remaining on its contract having exercised a break clause, while even countries like Azerbaijan that pay more than most are seeking revised terms.

Liberty see the United States as a key market for the sport’s growth and are keen to add at least a second race.

COTA is the country’s only purpose-built Formula One facility.

Epstein, who said he was not planning on starting conversations about a new F1 deal until much closer to the 2020 race, also has a MotoGP contract to renew but he was not worried about that, “MotoGP is a great event for us and we’re not going to lose it.”

COTA has drawn big crowds to the F1 race by putting on big-name concerts on the Saturday and Sunday to drive sales of family tickets.

Epstein said this year’s headliners Bruno Mars and Britney Spears meant sales were “on top of where they were last year” when Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder topped the bill.

He added, however, that the circuit was almost ‘maxed out’ as far as the concert crowd and future growth would have to come from increasing the sport’s popularity.

Miami, he said, might siphon off some fans but would be good in the long run, “I certainly think there’s a core group of the curious fans, just as we saw the first year of our event, who want to go experience the new.”

“And they will go to Miami and I hope Miami will be a great success because the bigger the success Miami is, the better it is for the sport. So that will lift all of us. At least that’s the hope.”

The Miami Grand Prix is by no means a certainty, but Epstein felt something would be sorted for 2020 if not next year.

The uncertainty has meant a 2019 draft Formula 1 calendar has yet to be published, with Liberty waiting on the Florida city before confirming any dates.

If Miami happens then it would be scheduled with Austin, Mexico and Brazil in a sequence for the later part of the season, with Canada retaining a June slot.

“I’ve a feeling they’ve got their schedule and calendar fairly well pencilled in,” said Epstein, who added that the date of the Austin race — on 21 Oct0ber — could change from next season.

“They’ve mentioned the possibility of a (date) change to us. Within three weeks either way of our existing date. It might be early November,” added Epstein.

Big Question: How important is the Miami Grand Prix for Formula 1?


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Giovinazzi set for Sauber duty in Hockenheim FP1

Ferrari reserve Antonio Giovinazzi will be back in a Formula 1 cockpit when he does duty for Sauber during the first free practice session of the German Grand Prix weekend on Friday.

The Italian driver, who made his Formula 1 race debut at the 2017 Australian Grand Prix, in place of injured Pascal Wehrlein, will do the FP1 session in place of Marcus Ericsson, with Charles Leclerc in the sister car meaning that both Ferrari proteges will be in action during the 90-minutes morning session at Hockenheim.

Giovinazzi drove during Barcelona F1 testing, after the Spanish Grand Prix in May, for Sauber on day one of the in-season testing and then for Ferrari a day later.

Last year the 24-year-old Italian did seven FP1 sessions with Haas and has recently been linked to a return to the American team as a possible replacement for wayward Romain Grosjean, if not this season then as a contender to do so next year.

Ferrari ran out of seats this season for their drivers as the Maranello bosses were keen to place both Giovinazzi and Leclerc on the grid. They opted for the latter with Sauber who has done a stellar job, setting himself up as the first Ferrari Drivers Academy (FDA) graduate to step up to the Scuderia.

At the time Haas were committed to both their current drivers, however, However Guenther Steiner and Gene Haas may well think twice when considering their line-up for next season because Giovinazzi would come with a substantial discount on their Ferrari engine deal.


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Hulkenberg: I’m German, I’m a machine, I just do my job!

Nico Hulkenberg’s career to date has been something of an enigma, highly rated and respected among his peers yet he has never stood on a Formula 1 podium thus far in his career but that could change soon as he sees Renault as a force for the future.

In an interview ahead of the German Grand Prix weekend, Hulkenberg was realistic when summing up where he and Renault are in the pecking order this season, “At the moment we’re still quite far away.”

“In Canada we were lapped by the top six guys, which is obviously a lot, a big gap. But you need to see the progression since Renault came back. From last year to this, we’ve made really good improvements.”

“The big teams are doing a very good job and they have huge budgets, huge resources, so it’s hard… it’s also naïve to think that you can just catch them up like that over one or two years.’

“It takes time, because it’s in every detail. We’ve made good progress and we’re not lifting off the throttle, we will keep on pushing.”

Hulkenberg has normally had the better of his teammates, but Carlos Sainz’s arrival in the team was a wake-up call for the German who had to raise his game relative to the pressure he was getting when Jolyon Palmer was his teammate.

But The Hulk has his own opinion, “I don’t really agree with that. I think last year, yes, I was more comfortable, let’s say I was always clear. But I don’t feel that having a team-mate closer to you makes you find extra stuff.”

Looking back at last year, I’m pretty confident that there was not one instance in qualifying or the race where I underperformed because of that.”

“I don’t see it because of my own ambition, my own challenge is to always get the best out of me and my car. I don’t need someone to push me to do that. I’m German, I’m a machine, I just do my job!”

Renault have lagged behind Mercedes and Ferrari in the power unit stakes, but the goal is to slug it out for victories and titles in the future, how far ahead that is only time will tell.

Hulkenberg might have been an option for Mercedes and Ferrari at some point, there was talk at some point of a deal to drive for Maranello but nothing ever materialised. However, Renault came calling and the rest is history.

“I’m very happy here,” admitted the 30 -year-old, “I can see that they want what I want, and that everybody is pushing in the same direction and that, for me, is important. To be able to see and feel the progress.”

“It takes that kind of time, the same for Ferrari years and years ago, for Red Bull and for Mercedes. When they came back in 2010, Mercedes started to dominate only when we changed to the new regulation cars, but before that there was a four-year time period leading up to being the best in the game.”

“You need to be in the right car to be winning and win races and to go for the championship. Of course, I feel I have what it takes, and I am confident I can deliver if I have the right car one day. So far, I haven’t, and that’s why I haven’t even been on the podium. Those are the facts. That’s the nature of this sport.”

Formula 1 has been dominated by Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull for the past half dozen years, with no other team coming close to victory.

Knowing this, he rationalised, “What are the alternatives? If you don’t like it you can walk away, but this is Formula 1, the best there is in the world. This is the best of racing, the best drivers are here, the best engineers.”

“This is where I want to compete and challenge other people and challenge myself. Even if I’m upset or not happy that I don’t have the winning car, the alternative is to leave – and I don’t want to do that. I love what I do and I’m good at it; I’m still chasing that dream, wanting to win races.”

“Right now, I have an excellent opportunity with Renault to work our way up there over the next few years and that’s very exciting for me and gives me a lot of motivation.”

Asked during the interview if this was the most enjoyable period in his career, Hulkenberg replied, “I think so, yeah. I feel good, I feel confident, and I’m probably doing the best driving of my whole career.”

The Hulk has made 145 grand prix starts since his debut at the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix and scored 447 points. He won the Le Mans 24-Hours on his first attemptin 2015 with Porsche.

 

There was a school of thought that said when Carlos [Sainz] came into the team, it would be good for you because he would be the best team-mate you’ve had to date and that it would push you to another level. Have you felt that?

Going back to the performance gap between the top teams and those in the midfield, that’s something that’s existed for quite a bit of your career…
Yes, always.

Do you feel that a lot of you have missed out on big achievements because of that performance gap? If there had been a cost cap in place then it would have shrunk that gap.

 


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F1: Lowe: My greatest challenge

As his team goes into the final double header before the summer break, Paddy Lowe admits that turning things around at Grove is one of the greatest challenges of his career.
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