I’m interested in a few things which are developing for this weekend’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
One is the weather, which looks wet for Friday and Saturday and then quite cool on Sunday at just 22 degrees.
We could have another Montreal on our hands.
The weather will play a part in this. If Sunday is as cool as forecast, hard tyres will struggle to warm up on some cars in the race, Mercedes is likely to feel quite nervous about this and I imagine Felipe Massa is weeping into his beer, as he has struggled all year to get performance out of the harder tyres. Engineers tell me that the hard tyre, which Bridgestone call the 199, will work in marginal temperatures, but the tricky bit is getting the fronts to work.
Another problem for the faster cars, which could level the playing field a bit, will be that the super softs will not last very long in the early part of the Grand Prix on the cars which qualify on them in the top ten on the grid.
This will be exacerbated should it rain, as is being predicted, which will leave the track green and that has massive graining on the super soft written all over it, particularly as there are lots of accelerations out of slow corners. So, we could have some of the top ten runners pitting very early in the race, which gives a chance to cars inside the top ten who can look after their tyres longer and possibly some outside the top ten, who can make a free choice on tyres at the start.
That said, we have been finding that whatever tyre you start the race on, the opening laps with full tanks tend to wreck the tyres pretty quickly. No-one has yet made the tactic or starting on the harder tyre work for them, because it obliges you to stop twice on tracks where the softer tyre is marginal, as it will be here. Will we see someone make it work this weekend? There’s a big reward if they can.
In the championship fight we have McLaren battling Red Bull, with a more competitive Ferrari in prospect, at least in Alonso’s hands.
Then we have the situation where McLaren has to validate the exhaust blown diffuser in practice on Friday, which might be made more difficult in the conditions,
“We’re working on the premise that we’ll have blown diffusers on both cars to start with. In Silverstone Lewis wanted to keep the blown diffuser on on Friday night. But we made the decision there to switch them both back to the old diffuser, ” said McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh today in a Vodafone phone in session.
Williams managed to bring its exhaust blown diffuser to Silverstone and get it to work sufficiently well on Friday that they ran it for the rest of the weekend with a big upswing in performance as a result. This was quite a piece of work by Williams, which was noted with respect by other team’s engineers, particularly as many had suggested the team was losing its way technically. Williams divided it’s drivers’ programmes on the Friday in Silverstone, with Barrichello running the new configuration and Hulkenberg the old.
“We could end up dividing the drivers if there was a preference from one side of the garage to the other.” said Whitmarsh. “If I can I will avoid that but we’ll do it if we think it’s the right way to perform.
“There are advantages to running one car in one configuration and one in the other. But provided that in so doing you don’t end up rightly or wrongly accused of treating the two drivers differently,” he added with an ironic nod in the direction of Red Bull, who are on Red Alert for even the smallest sign of driver favouritism.