Friday, July 10, 2009

German Grand Prix Preview

Thursday 9th July 2009

Actually there are THREE certainties in life - not just death and taxes. The three certainties are death, taxes and pre-grand prix F1 press releases. They are relentlessly the same.

Coming up to a grand prix, teams are filled with unshakeable optimism about their impending performance at... (fill in the name of the grand prix here). Their drivers are always looking forward to competing at.... (ditto) for some reason or other. Those in the bottom half of the grid are aiming to get one or two points from the race; those in the mid-grid and above will be aiming at a podium. Two or three will set their sights on a win.They all think their latest updates to the car will see an increase in performance and move them up to the position they really ought to be, yada yada yada.

It's difficult to know why they bother to peddle such umitigated tosh. Do they really think people read "Trulli Aims For Podium" and think they're going to be gripped by something outspoken and controversial.

"The Nurburgring is a track I know really well and I have had some good days there, particularly in 1999 when I finished on the podium for the first time in Formula 1," pants Jarno Trulli. "I am always optimistic and it would be great to fight for another podium 10 years on from that. We showed in qualifying at Silverstone that we are competitive, even though the race was frustrating as a result of the start, so I am hopeful for this weekend."

Obviously Kimi Raikkonen's pre-GP quotes are the best because either someone makes them up in their entirety, or Kimi must go into a deep trance and produce a PR voice that he never uses in post-race interviews. No mention of - "for sure" or "little bit".

So, we reach the Nurburgring for the German Grand Prix with Red Bull and BrawnGP virtually broken free from the championship and everyone else looking to hunker down and design the 2010 cars while maintaining a semblance of "we're still competing". For BMW and McLaren-Mercedes it's a no-brainer, for Ferrari it's more tricky because of the constant pressure of media expectation back home, while the Williams shows signs of being able to improve. Toyota have to keep on keeping on because they are desperate to get their first race win and justify their involvement in F1.

Though Sebastian Vettel thinks he will get a boost from performing in front of his home fans, it could actually be the reverse. Vettel can react under pressure, as we saw in Turkey, and the weight of expectation after his Silverstone win won't help. What's more, the Brawns should have it more to their liking at the Nurburgring where the corners are tighter and where there are far more braking zones - in which they excel, plus it is likely to be hotter than Silverstone producing more grip for Button and Barrichello.

It may well be the Red Bull of Mark Webber that is the stronger in Germany with one, maybe two Toyotas buzzing round. Last year Timo Glock managed to produce the accident of the season at Hockenheim, so the wide open spaces of the Nurburgring (plus home support) should give him a better result than 2008.

With the absence of inter-race testing the level of uncertainty about performance going into each new round is greater than ever, and Ferrari will be wondering where they shake out. Silverstone was a great race for Felipe Massa (on the less than optimal strategy), but a poor race for Raikkonen (on the optimal strategy). With big braking stops giving their KERS device a lot of energy toward the end of the lap they will be in a perfect position to use it down the start/finish straight during the race.

Presumably McLaren will shove theirs back on board for the German GP to give Lewis Hamilton a chance at a serious points score. Or even getting through Q1 into Q2. With Force India's Silverstone updates proving significant they look like being the slowest Mercedes outfit on the grid - not a great boost for the Mercedes employees thronging the grandstands (though powering the dominant GP team must be some compensation).

It's a year ago since Nelson Piquet Junior picked up The Surprise Podium of the Year, taking advantage of the Safety Car disruption brought on by the Glock accident to finish third. Chances of that happening again in 2009 are not great.

However the background music to the whole weekend will be the FIA seemingly reneging on their agreement to go back to the 2009 rules for 2010. As time goes on, more and more links are being traced between surprise F1 entrant Manor Motorsport and Allan Donnelly, Max Mosley's F1 race representative. With the FIA now insisting that EVERY team has to agree new rule changes, presumably the Donnelly-assisted team has to agree to everything too. Anybody spot anything there...?

Source : Planet F1

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