Lap record: 1m 29.468s – Michael Schumacher, Ferrari (2004)
The German Grand Prix alternates between Nurburgring and Hockenheim and this year returns to the Nurburg circuit. A fast and flowing 15-turn circuit, the GP-Strecke layout made its debut in 1985 before hosting the Luxembourg and European Grands Prix between 1995 and 2007, before circuit management struck the alternating deal with their counterparts at Hockenheim. With a broad mixture of corners it makes finding the ideal car setup quite difficult, with changes making the car faster in one section but slower in another. Many of the corners are cambered, allowing the drivers to carry more speed into them. The weather can play a huge part in how the race shapes up – the track is located quite high in the Eiffel mountains and changes in climatic conditions can occur very quickly.
Race strategy highlights from last year
Last year’s race at Hockenheim was won by Fernando Alonso, who left with a commanding 34-point lead in the Driver’s Championship after a race which seemed to suggest Ferrari were getting on terms with their tyre wear problems. Most of the top ten finishers ran the same race, starting on the soft tyres on a two-stop strategy and taking the medium tyre for the rest of the afternoon. Kamui Kobayashi went the opposite way from outside the top ten, starting 13th on the medium tyres and stopping on lap 22, he ran two laps longer than anyone else and moved up through the order as a result. His second stop on lap 43 gave him 24 laps to do on the soft tyres, but Sauber’s 2012 car was superb at managing tyre wear and the Japanese duly recorded his best F1 finish at that stage of his career. Mercedes struggled with their season-long tyre temperature problems and were forced to stop three times, Schumacher dropping three places from start to finish ending up fourth, while Rosberg managed to scrape into the points from 17th on the grid.
What to look out for in 2013
Last time F1 raced here in 2011, the top five qualifiers finished in the top five positions, albeit in a slightly different order, and all stopped three times with the same tyre usage – softs in the first three stints and a very short stint on mediums at the end. Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa even stopped on the last lap to change tyres and complete the requirement to use both tyre types. While the same type of tyre – soft and medium – are being used this year as in 2011, the compounds and construction are different which should lead to a quicker race and more pit stops across the field, though a three-stop race is expected to be the norm. Adrian Sutil, Kamui Kobayashi and Vitaly Petrov all scored points from a two-stop approach in 2011, Kobayashi having another storming race by climbing from 18th to ninth at the chequered flag. This year, two-stoppers are potentially possible but they will find themselves vulnerable to a faster three-stopping car on track.
Who has the best record in Germany?
Not home favourite Sebastian Vettel, that’s for sure – the triple World Champion has never won in Germany, with second in 2009 and third in 2010 his best finishes in the German Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso’s three wins (2005, 2010 and 2012) put him at the head of the current crop of drivers for success in Germany, while the Spaniard has two podium finishes to add to his haul. Lewis Hamilton has won here twice (2008 and 2011), while Mark Webber will have particular fond memories of the Nurburgring for it was here four years ago that the Aussie finally recorded his first Grand Prix victory, a win taken in typically dogged fashion as he was forced to battle back from a drive-through penalty incurred for a clash with Rubens Barrichello at the start.
How important is pole position?
Whether at the Nurburgring or Hockenheim, being on the front row is vital for only once in the eight races held since 2004 has the winning driver come from outside the top two, that coming in 2005 when Kimi Raikkonen, who had started on pole and led comfortably, suffered a hydraulic system failure which handed Alonso the lead. Across the complete history of the German Grand Prix the race has been won from pole position on 15 of 39 occasions, but the majority of these races were held on either the Nordschleife, the fearsome 14-mile 170-turn monster that almost claimed the life of Niki Lauda in 1976, or the 4.2mile Hockenheimring which featured several lengthy straights and led to extended slipstreaming battles. On a more conventional circuit the benefit of being at the front is that drivers behind have less opportunity to pass, though with DRS and Pirelli tyres making only their second appearance in a Formula One race at the Nurburgring, it’s entirely possible for a driver outside the top two to be in with a shout of victory this year.
Tyre wear: 8/10
A three stop strategy is expected to be the norm in this race, though if ambient temperatures are moderate some cars could make it on two. Strategists will have to make the call during the race according to how the wear rates develop.
Medium settings needed as the track is relatively fast with some exciting high-speed changes of direction, particularly at the Turn 8 / Turn 9 section, which requires the driver to go flat through a sixth-gear left-hander before hanging on as you crest the hill and turn right on the approach to Turn 10.
Average speed: 7/10
Were it not for the tight infield section at the opening part of the lap, this rating would be higher still. Laptimes used to be around 10 seconds faster with a shorter section of track that linked Turn 1 to what is now Turn 4. Cambered corners help maintain higher apex speeds, in particular in Turns 5, 6, 7 and 11.
Track difficulty: 5/10
Not an especially challenging track though the amount of elevation change will be a new experience for some of the rookie drivers. The biggest challenge comes in the Turn 9 right-hander and finding out whether your setup is nailed – if you can do it flat, it is.
The race will feature two DRS zones, one across the start/finish line into Turn One and the second on the run between Turn 11 and Turn 13, which includes the flat-out kink at Turn 12. These and the braking zone into Turn 10 will be the best places to stage an overtaking attempt.
A Grand Prix in Germany is always well-attended and in many ways the crowd is not dissimilar to the British spectators - knowledgeable, partisan but acknowledging of a strong performance by a driver other than the home favourites. Early forecasts don’t suggest there will be any rain, but this can change very quickly here.
Driver’s eye view: Giedo van der Garde, Caterham F1 Team
"Germany is going to be a great race, partly because the track is relatively near home for me so there will be a lot of Dutch support there, and because it’s a track I’ve always gone well at. Throughout my career I’ve won races there in all categories – I know that’s not going to happen this year but, as a rookie, when you go to a track you know really well it means you’re on it right from the first lap and that helps us maximise the time we have in every session, as long as the weather stays dry which it looks like it should! It’ll be the first time for me around the Nurburgring in an F1 car but I last raced there in a GP2 car back in 2011 so I know quite a lot of what to expect. Like Spa the weather can change very quickly so we have to pay very close attention to the forecasts and, even though the track is used a lot outside F1 weekends, the grip levels still improve quite a bit over the weekend so the long run work we’ll do on Friday will be very important for the race. The track itself is mostly made up of low to medium speed corners – apart from T5 there’s not a lot of really high speed stuff but despite that it’s still a very good track to drive on. You can build up a good rhythm and that’s one of the keys to a good lap."
Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director
"We’re bringing the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tyres to the Nurburgring, which is a circuit that we’re racing on for the first time since 2011 of course. This is actually the same nomination as we had in 2011, but of course the compounds are now a lot softer and faster, so in theory we should see a quicker race with slightly more pit stops. Germany is the third of a series of races, following Canada and Great Britain, where the weather is traditionally uncertain, so ambient temperature will have a noticeable effect on wear and degradation. However, the Nurburgring is generally a smooth and flowing track where tyre life tends to be quite extensive. We are not expecting a massive performance gap between the two compounds either. From past information, this also seems to be a race where it’s going to be reasonably likely to see the Cinturato Green intermediate and Cinturato Blue full wet in action at some point over the weekend. If this is the case, it will obviously have a profound effect on race strategy."