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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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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