Thursday, July 19, 2012

2012 German Grand Prix Track Preview

Great to be here on TheDailyHoon and great to be able to spew some F1 stuff for a bit.  My name's Conor but I go by Mack41 on most websites and for the rest of the season will be breaking down, to the best of my limited abilities, the races of the 2012 Formula 1 season for my enjoyment and hopefully yours.  The 2012 British Grand Prix weekend was wet and thrilling, the dry race much less so.  Not that it wasn't a good race, it was, but the preamble greatly overshadowed the on track action.

Hopes of a dry/wet grand prix never came to fruition, to the dismay of fans and frustration of the teams, who had prepped their cars in the wet for the majority of the practice sessions plus qualifying.  And what a qualifying session, a fight in every single round with Alonso setting pole .047 seconds over Webber with Schumacher lurking in third after a strong showing.  Due to the rainy qualifying, teams were allowed to choose any tire to start the race on.  Alonso's gamble on what turned out to be the better hard tire hurt his chances, as Webber was able to go onto the hard tires when the fuel load was at its lightest.   Webber's win ahead of Alonso inches the Australian to within 13 points of the championship lead.  Massa capped a fine weekend with a fourth, which brings us to this weeks German Grand Prix.

The German Grand Prix swaps between the Nurburgring and the Hockenheimring every year and this year returns to the Hock, for the first time with DRS and the first time on Pirellis.  Hockenheim held host to the German Grand Prix back in 2010, a weekend that will forever be remembered for the Radio Message Heard Round the World: "Felipe, Fernando is faster than you", one of the most blatant use of team orders ever.  Exactly a year after Felipe Massa's awful head injury he was in a position to win however, with Alonso in the title hunt and in need of any points possible and unable to get by his slower teammate on his own, the team had to move the Brazilian to the side and give the Spaniard a victory.

All that is in the past now and the teams prepare for the redesigned Hockenheim circuit, a once majestic, deadly, lengthy, blisteringly fast rip through the woods now neutered by hairpins and uncharacteristic short straights, this once giant of the calendar is a shadow of its former self.

Turn 1 is a fast fourth gear right, a bottle neck at the start, followed shortly after by the greater than ninety degree turn 2 hairpin.  The track makes a much less sever right left transition for turns 3 and 4 before unwinding on the longest flat out section of track, the left handed turn 5 Parabolika.  This turn is a DRS zone candidate but would make DRS use very risky due to the need for downforce through the turn.

The hairpin at turn 6 is the slowest point on the track and an ideal position for overtaking.  The cars zip down a short straight into the obtuse right hand turn 7 before hitting the tight turn 8, "Mercedes", and curving through the left right of turns 9 and 10.  Another short stretch leads into turn 11, "Mobil 1", and the stadium section.  The narrow and windy stadium portion is technically tricky and is surrounded by rowdy German fans.  Turns 12, 13, and 14 encompass the heart of the stadium section and the cars exit into the double left, turn 15 and 16 "SudKurve" to finish a lap.

The weekend is the first with Pirelli rubber and Hockenheim is historically tough on tires, due to the traction heavy layout, leaving teams with a lot of learning to accomplish in a very short amount of time.  At this time the weather forecast is predicting cool temperatures with highs in the low 70s, late rain Friday, and rain that could hit qualifying on Saturday.  Race day should be dry but a rain hit qualifying session will throw a massive wrench in teams strategy and understanding of the tires.  The relatively low and constant temperatures shouldn't intensify tire degradation.

That wraps up the circuit breakdown, don't get caught with your pants down when the lights go out on Sunday, tune in tomorrow for a team by team breakdown and predictions and discussion.


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