For the most successful drivers in Formula 1, there are three achievements they especially covet: the world championship, naturally, victory in the Monaco Grand Prix – and a win on home ground.
Sebastian Vettel can tick off the first two of these. But the one they call ‘Baby Schumi’ is yet to score a win in front of his home crowd.
But with six wins from nine races so far this year, he stands an excellent chance of changing that at the Nurburgring next weekend.
First among the drivers trying to stop him is his team mate, Mark Webber. Distinctly unimpressed with Christian Horner’s use of team orders at Silverstone, Webber is returning to the scene of his own maiden triumph two years earlier.
Can Webber out-qualify Vettel again this weekend? Or was his pole position in Silverstone aided by the one-off restriction on exhaust-blown diffusers – and the lifting of the restriction will see normal service resume at Red Bull?
The resurgent Ferrari of Fernando Alonso promises to be an equally serious threat. Ferrari won’t have to worry about the hard tyre compound here, and Alonso’s race pace when the track was dry at Silverstone was very strong.
The pair shared the front row in Germany last year. The prospect of Vettel on pole position at home with Alonso behind him on the grid in a Ferrari that’s faster over a race distance is an intriguing one.
What should we expect from McLaren? They seemed to be especially harmed by the temporary exhaust-blowing restriction at Silverstone and will be glad to see the back of it.
But they didn’t run well in Valencia either and the rear wing upgrade tested at Silverstone was rejected.
Mercedes’ home race coincides with an upswing in performance for the team, who have moved up to fourth place in the constructors’ championship. The exhaust upgrade introduced at Silverstone appears to have been a step in the right direction.
Renault need to emulate that to keep pace with their rivals, and will test a significant change to their car in practice on Friday: a departure from the radical forward exhausts they’ve been using all season long.
Six home drivers
This is the race with the largest contingent of home drivers. Nick Heidfeld, Adrian Sutil and Timo Glock join their countrymen from Red Bull and Mercedes.
It’s also the only race on the calendar that alternates venues: Hockenheim last year, Nurburgring this year.
With several medium-to high speed corners this is what we’ve come to recognise as a ‘Red Bull track’. If Ferrari are competitive again here it will be a further sign that they are in good shape for the second half of the season.
Whether there’s still time to stop Germany’s new F1 hero from romping to a second world championship is another matter.
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2011 German Grand Prix
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- McLaren: Surprise win in Germany for Hamilton
- Red Bull: McLaren and Ferrari ahead in Germany
- Ferrari: Alonso beats Red Bulls despite cool weather
- Mercedes: Three-stopper costs Rosberg a place
- Force India: Sutil helps team overtake Toro Rosso
- Renault: Petrov dissatisfied with strategy
- Sauber: Kobayashi out in Q1 but claims points
Image ?é?® Red Bull/GEPA