This weekend is the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, which alternates as host of the race with the Nurburgring. The last time the F1 teams raced there in 2012, HRT was still an active competitor, which shows how much has changed since the last German GP at Hockenheim.
The shorter Hockenheim track was inaugurated in 2002, but this is only the second time that Pirelli has raced on the circuit. The last time the race was held there, it was a two-stop strategy that won, but the tyres are very different and more robust today. Against that, the likely removal of the Front-Rear interconnected suspension systems (FRIC), due to a mandate from the governing body the FIA, is likely to impact on the strategy with more stops likely as the tyre wear will be less consistent across the four corners of the car. This could force an extra stop. It is one of a number of big question marks hanging over the F1 teams as they embark on this important race.
It is a short lap at Hockenheim, the cars come around every 76 seconds or so. The first part of the lap has two long straights and only two corners and it is notoriously difficult to warm the tyres up for a qualifying lap on a cool day.
Pirelli has chosen the Supersoft and Soft tyres this year.
Hockenheim – 4.574 kilometres. Race distance – 67 laps = 306.458 kilometres. 17 corners in total. A shortened version of the classic Hockenheim track, the circuit has a mixture of all types of corners.
Aerodynamic setup – Med/High downforce. Top speed 320km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 310km/h without.
Full throttle – 65% of the lap (medium).
Time spent braking: 15% of lap. 7 braking zones. Brake wear- Heavy.
Total time needed for pit stop: 16.8 seconds.
The German Grand Prix is the tenth round of the 2014 FIA F1 World Championship.
It has been dominated by the Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton so far; they have won eight of the nine races with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo taking his first Grand Prix win in Montreal.
Ferrari is still some way off, but the trend is improving as they have reduced the performance gap to Mercedes, Red Bull also. Williams has had a driver on the podium for the last two races and a pole position in Austria, so they are also a form team, expected to go well again in Germany.
As far as drivers’ form is concerned; Fernando Alonso has won the German Grand Prix three times, all at Hockenheim, Lewis Hamilton twice (including once at Hockenheim) and Sebastian Vettel once.
The German Grand Prix at Hockenheim is often held in warm conditions, although there have been some wet races too. This year’s forecast is for very warm weather, in the high 20s and low 30s
Likely tyre performance and other considerations
Pirelli tyre choice for Hockenheim: Soft (yellow markings) and supersoft (red markings). This is a similar combination to what we saw in Monaco, Canada and Austria.
Pirelli predicts a difference in performance between the two tyre compounds of around 0.8 seconds per lap, enough to make the crossover in strategies interesting, with a number of possible ways to divide up the race.
With high temperatures forecast this weekend we are likely to see some thermal degradation, which means that the tyres overheat and suffer a sudden drop off in performance beyond a certain point, usually when they are around 70% worn.
This effect will be exacerbated by the removal of the FRIC suspension systems. Friday practice will be more essential than ever for the teams to do their homework and establish the fastest tyre strategy combination for Sunday’s race.
Hockenheim has several slow corners and the acceleration out of these causes longitudinal sliding, while some of the medium and higher speed corners put a lot of energy into the tyres and increase the degradation.
Number and likely timing of pit stops
Depending on the thermal degradation and the effect of the removal of the FRIC suspensions, it is likely to be a two-stop race, possibly a three stop if the negative effects are significant. A two stopper would pit around Lap 18 and again around Lap 41.
Chance of a safety car
Since the new Hockenheim track was opened in 2002 there have been two safety cars in eight Grands Prix.
There was a safety car in 2004 for a crash at the start, another in 2008 due to an accident.
Recent start performance
The start of the Grand Prix is absolutely vital in terms of executing the ideal race strategy. A few places gained means a team has more options, while a few places lost usually means switching to Plan B and being more aggressive to make up ground.
As far as 2014 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season, on aggregate (taking away positions lost from positions gained), as follows –
Net gained positions
11 Maldonado, Ericsson
6 Raikkonen, Hamilton
Net held Position
Net lost positions
6 Button, Grosjean
5 Kvyat, Ricciardo
3 Vettel, Perez
Melbourne Notes: Kobayashi, Massa eliminated in a first corner accident; Perez, Gutierrez pitted at the end of Lap 1; Bianchi, Grosjean started from pit lane.
Malaysia Notes: Perez started from pit lane, Bianchi pitted at the end of lap 1
Bahrain notes: Vergne pitted at the end of lap 1 after contact
China Notes: Sutil lost power at start and dropped 8 places, retiring soon after.
Monaco notes: Maldonado did not start, Ericsson started from pit lane, Perez crashed Lap 1.
Canada Notes: Gutierrez started from pit lane; Bianchi and Chilton crashed lap 1; Ericsson pitted lap 1
Austria Notes: Grosjean started from pit lane
GB Notes: Raikkonen and Massa eliminated in 1st lap accident
Pit Stop League Table
Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in two seconds this season by some F1 teams. Ferrari’s 2.0s is the fastest stop so far.
The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the British Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it.
1. Mercedes 28.329secs
2. Red Bull 28.483
3. Toro Rosso 28.575
4. McLaren 28.645
5. Lotus 28.831
6. Williams 29.104
7. Caterham 29.507
8. Force India 29.579
9. Sauber 29.956
10. Marussia 30.353
11. Ferrari 34.410
The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from several F1 team strategists and from Pirelli