This weekend’s German Grand Prix will be a home Grand Prix for no fewer than six drivers, by some margin the largest contingent from any country in the 24 man F1 field. Three of them are in the top eight cars on the grid.
Eddie Irvine said at the weekend in a radio show I did with him that he thinks six – basically a quarter of the field – is too many and the quota should be reduced. He had his tongue in his cheek at the time.
The reason for the high number is of course the interest in the sport in Germany thanks to Michael Schumacher’s dominance of the sport in the 1990s and 2000s. This drew many German companies into the sport, like Deutsche Post and DHL and it got kids interested in karting, which inevitably leads to a new wave of F1 drivers. The same will happen soon in Spain.
So who do you rate among the Germans in F1 today?
The pioneer who started the German wave in F1, Seven times world champion and 91 times a Grand Prix winner, he dominated F1 in his prime and is now on a comeback. Rather like Lance Armstrong in cycling, he didn’t come back to make up the numbers, but he is struggling to be competitive this year and is being left behind by his team mate. He said today that he is here to win another title and that is his objective for 2011. He will be hoping he gets better results before bowing out again than the great American cyclist.
The young pretender, just 23 years of age, many believe he is a champion in the making. Has enjoyed backing from Austrian energy drinks company Red Bull for many years. He has a lot of talent and has five poles this season, but has shown some signs of pressure in races in recent weeks, not least thanks to his team mate. Has won seven of the 53 races he has started and has been on pole for 10 of them.
Now in his fifth season Nico is no longer a kid and is a mature Grand Prix driver. His performances this season underline this. He continues to improve and has had his strongest season so far at the wheel of the Mercedes. No win so far, but three podiums this season and generally in the top six in qualifying.
Another German who is having an eye catching season. Sutil has a reputations as a crasher, but this year he has got his head down in a good car and has racked up 35 points to sit 10th in the championship. He is the best placed driver not driving for a top team.
Driving for new team Virgin Racing is a bit of a comedown for him after racing at the sharp(er) end with Toyota, where he was fighting for podiums at times last season, but he deserves credit for getting on with it and for quietly dealing with the unreliability problems. He seems to be going quite strongly this season and has generally been faster than team mate Lucas di Grassi. He’s a very solid and reliable driver, unspectacular out of the cockpit, but a good racer, as he proved in his intense battles with Hamilton in GP2.
All photos Darren Heath
Has disappointed so far this season, after coming into F1 with a strong reputation from winning the GP2 championship last season. He has outqualified Rubens Barrichello three times in 10 events, which isn’t too bad, but he’s only finished ahead of him twice and has just 2 points to his name. Needs to take advantage of the improved Williams in the next few races to secure his position as a Grand Prix driver.