The German Grand Prix hits Hockenheim this weekend, and the teams in the running are well aware that a slip in their driving could cost them the championships. Fernando Alonso, interviewed after his second place finish at Silverstone in the rain a few weekends back, pointed out that the three races leading up the summer break are crucial not for deciding who will win the championships, but for eliminating some teams permanently from the running – and so the Grosser Preis Santander von Deutschland looks set to be a critical date on the race goer’s calendar.
With the fans already travelling to the campsites around the Hockenheim course, the merchandise stalls up and the F1 gifts out on display, there’s a festival atmosphere in the build-up to the time trials.
Germany’s been basking in a heat wave for the last few weeks and Australian Mark Webber reckons that could make things interesting. The German race could get pretty hot, with soaring temperatures and super-heated engines, which in Webber’s own words, is likely to make things “interesting”.
Alonso’s Ferrari will be well represented in the F1 gifts sold around the event this weekend – and with good reason. The car and the team have been played down routinely by the driver and by the builders – and both have been making a quiet splash in race results ever since the start of the season. Now, coming up to the summer break, it looks like Ferrari might be prepared to shed the kid gloves and start throwing its weight around a little more. Hockenheim isn’t the best place to let the raging bull out of the cage, mind – and the prancing horse might not fare so well here either, with high top speeds and good traction being major requirements for the circuit – Neither of which are attributes of the 2012 car.
McLaren has a different kind of problem – as anyone who listened to Lewis Hamilton’s dispirited interview post his disastrous British Grand Prix will know already. Diehard fans are still clinging to their Hamilton F1 Gifts with as much pride as ever – but unless the driver and the car can come up with something special in Hockenheim, Alonso’s predication about the three races prior to the summer break being more likely to seal some team’s doom rather than ensure others victory may come true for the British.
To add to the spice of the pre-race build-up, the Hockenheim race will be Lewis Hamilton’s 100th as a pro driver. So clearly he wants to celebrate that in a markedly different fashion from his outing at Silverstone a few weeks back.
Also, Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher could be looking to get his 92nd F1 victory on home turf – and there will surely be a large contingent of local fans in the crowd who want him to do just that. Schumacher himself plays down the idea that there can be such a thing as a home advantage in F1: but of course that could just be the old fox playing cagey.