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German Grand Prix
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51st Race win for Michael at home ?
It would be the ideal event for Michael Schumacher to achieve his 51st race victory in front of his home crowd in Germany equalling the all time record of Alain Prost however given the conservative strategy he and his Ferrari team adopted at the British GP, it is unlikely that he will fight hard for the win here and rather go for maximising his points to ensure that he retains the big gap he has over David Coulthard in the championship fight. There is also the high speed crash that he suffered in testing at Monza last week although that is unlikely to affect a driver of such calibre.
The Hockenheim track is a high speed low downforce circuit and most of
the Formula 1 teams conducted their testing last week at Monza (test
times) which is a similar track. On 3 of the 4 days of testing, it
was the Michelin runners who set the fastest times and surprisingly it was
Jaguar's Eddie Irvine who set the fastest times on the last 2 days. We all
know though that testing is one thing, racing is another.
The race last year was an exciting one. It started with a first corner incident that eliminated Michael Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella. Later in the race there was a bizarre incident when a protestor went onto the track forcing the safety car to go out on the track while the marshals remove the protestor, once the safety car pits, Diniz drives into Alesi causing a huge accident and the safety car returns to the track. A few laps from the end it starts raining and Rubens Barrichello gambles on staying out on dry tyres, the gamble works and he wins after starting from 18th place!.
Ferrari: Have a massive 52 point advantage over their nearest
rivals and all they need is to keep scoring a few points per driver and
the Constructors Championship is won for the third year in a row. The are
also enjoying a very reliable car while neither McLaren nor Williams have.
Reliability 9.5/10 - Speed 9.5/10
Drivers: Michael Schumacher continues his amazing run this year with 6 wins, 4 seconds and a single retirement. At the British GP he drove conservatively as his closest rival was out of the race and he knew that any points scored would increase his point margin over Coulthard. He'll probably do the same here and if the leading car retires or runs into problems he could still win the race.
Rubens Barrichello has regained 3rd place in the championship but that was not purely due to his skill and effort. A number of cars ahead of him retired allowing him to finish in 3rd at Silverstone. His qualifying form has gone from average to poor qualifying outside the top 5 for the second race in a row when his team-mate was on the front row!. Even though he won last year here starting from 18th place (as a result of a wet qualifying), he could finish on the podium if the Williams and the McLarens suffer problems.
McLaren: Appear to have sorted out their starting problems although one race is not enough to reach that assumption. They also seem to have found a good set-up for their car but again Silverstone is considered their home track and this being a low downforce track might not suit them. Their second place in the Constructors Championship is under threat.
Reliability 7.5/10 - Speed 9.0/10
Drivers: David Coulthard has made 2 mistakes in the last 2 races (even if his incident with Trulli was not his fault, he was the biggest loser out of that). Certainly his McLaren failed him earlier in the season but those 2 were his faults and when he looks back at the season, they will be the 2 that stand out. Only a miracle will make him win the title but he can easily lose his second place to either Ralf Schumacher or Rubens Barrichello. This will be a tough race for McLaren, a win is unlikely but a podium is possible.
Mika Hakkinen heads into the German GP with a win from Silverstone. He seems to have found the ideal set-up of his car and if that proves to be the case here, then he could win. On the other hand, Silverstone might have been a one-off and he could go back to the average performances we've seen from him for most of the season. He could win but he might finish 6th too!
Williams: Taking into account their superior engine and the seemingly superior tyre on this type of track and one can easily assume that they will have a 1-2 finish. That is possible but their reliability is average and only once this season have they managed to finish both their cars.
Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 9.5/10
Drivers: Ralf Schumacher racing at home he'll be targeting his 3rd win of the season however this time the competition will most likely come from his own team-mate. First, second or a retirement for Ralf.
Juan Pablo Montoya has certainly cooled down in the last three race and apart from the French GP when he retired with an engine problem he has finished in the points. This is the race that he could win given that it is not too hard to learn in a Formula 1 car. He could qualify well and possibly win the race if his car doesn't give him problems.
Sauber: They were impressive at Silverstone finishing both
their cars in the points. Sure, several top runners dropped out but the
fact that Sauber don't test at Silverstone anywhere near the number of
times their rivals do indicates that the only thing that this team is
missing is a 'works' engine. It seems that Honda chose the wrong teams!
Reliability 8.5/10 - Speed 8.0/10
Drivers: Nick Heidfeld has finished in the points twice in a row and given that he is driving for a team that can only score points if one or more of the top runners struggle, this is an impressive achievement. He could once again finish in the points here but expect him to be out-raced by Raikkonen again - despite this being his home track.
Kimi Raikkonen continues to impress and if his car doesn't give him any problems he will impress even more here. He loves high speed circuits and he will enjoy this one. Don't be surprised if he gets too close to Rubens Barrichello in the Ferrari!
Jordan: They appear to have moved ahead of their direct rivals BAR although they seem to have dropped behind Sauber. This indicates that Honda appear to be giving up on this season and working almost exclusively on next year's engine. Let's hope Honda gets it right next year then!
Reliability 5.5/10 - Speed 8.0/10
Drivers: Jarno Trulli continues to qualify well, in fact his worst qualifying so far was 8th this season and regularly out-qualifies a McLaren, a Ferrari and/or a Williams. But in race trim it appears that the Jordan is not up to it. Sure at Silverstone Trulli retired as a result of an accident but chances were that he would have been passed by the top runners who started behind him. A top 6 finish is possible but unlikely.
Ricardo Zonta replaces Heinz Harald Frentzen (story) for the second time this season. He did well in Canada finishing 7th. Last year in the BAR he wasn't much slower than Villeneuve (his team-mate at BAR) at Hockenheim and was running strong in the race until he made a mistake and spun. A top 10 finish is possible if he keeps his cool.
BAR: If Honda have given up on this season then BAR have no chance of finishing better than 6th in the Championship (their target was 3rd!) simply because they won't score any more points. Despite their intensive testing program that they have been running in the past month, they don't seem to be able to translate those tests into race finishes let alone point finishes!. If Jaguar get their act together they could grab 6th from them!
Reliability 7.0/10 - Speed 7.5/10
Drivers: Jacques Villeneuve must be living in a nightmare stuck in a team (of his own choice) that is not delivering a race winning car, even a point-finishing car. He is certainly unhappy and if given a competitive drive somewhere else he'll probably go but that is unlikely this year. A top 6 finish is possible but unlikely.
Olivier Panis was driven off the track at Silverstone by his own team-mate but it is doubtful that it will have a negative effect on the strong relationship between the two as Villeneuve apologised immediately for it. Whether he manages to out-qualify Villeneuve here would probably be irrelevant as they would be fighting for 11th and 12th (if not even further back!). In the race he could last the distance and finish a few positions ahead of his starting position somewhere in the top 10.
Jaguar: Are putting a serious effort into their car and they have been progressing gradually since Monaco. Sure it is much easier to improve when the car is very poor and it becomes much harder to improve further once you have an average car but the tests they have done at Monza indicate that they are heading in the right direction. With the Michelin tyres they could get among BAR and possibly even Jordan.
Reliability 8.0/10 - Speed 7.0/10
Drivers: Eddie Irvine continues to drive at his best and is certainly proving too strong for his team-mate Pedro. A top 10 finish is possible with a small chance of a points finish.
Pedro de la Rosa hasn't performed to expectations so far. In the last 2 races he finished outside the top 10!. Although he scored points in the Arrows here last year, expect Irvine to once again out-race him.
Prost: They appear to be improving as they seem to consistently qualify ahead of the Arrows and the Benettons and their car is certainly more reliable than either of those two. However moving further up the grid will be difficult!
Reliability 8.5/10 - Speed 6.5/10
Drivers: Jean Alesi recovered at Silverstone from his poor form at his home GP and ended up 11th in the race. He won't do much better than that here.
Luciano Burti suffered from a rare engine failure in his Prost at Silverstone but even if he did finish he wouldn't have made it into the top 10. Unlikely to do a lot better at this high speed track.
Arrows: They seem to be going backwards simply because their AsiaTech engines are not being enhanced while their rivals are improving. Expect the situation to remain the same for the rest of the season. It was good to see both their cars finish a race though!
Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 5.5/10
Drivers: Jos Verstappen finished in 10th place at Silverstone and that is ahead of both the Prost and Benetton teams. Given his car, that is impressive. If it does rain or if we have mixed conditions he could score some points otherwise he could finish 10th again.
Enrique Bernoldi is getting ready to switch teams or leave Formula 1. He is not staying close to his team-mate and that is what he will be compared with despite him being a rookie. If the Arrows lasts he'll finish outside the top 10.
Benetton: So their new 'big step' engines didn't make any difference on their grid positions. They claim that they have closed to the teams ahead in terms of time but not in terms of positions. Even thought they've finished both their cars, they only managed 13th and 15th, they are in a sorry state.
Reliability 6.5/10 - Speed 4.5/10
Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella managed to finish 13th at Silverstone, that is 2 positions behind were he finished in the 2 races before. Are they going backwards ?. Hockenheim requires straight line speed, the Renault engine won't help!
Jenson Button for only the second time this season he manages to out-qualify his team-mate at Silverstone (even though Fisichella had major problems with his car before qualifying). He needs to do a lot better if we wants to prove himself. His car is not helping though!
Minardi: With virtually no development on the engine side, they don't have any real chance of competing with their closest rivals. News of a Minardi Ferrari for next year could be their only hope.
Reliability 5.0/10 - Speed 4.0/10
Drivers: Fernando Alonso needs a better car to show us his good skills. He can only be compared to his team-mate but when his team-mate fails to qualify, he remains alone at the back!
Tarso Marques would have been out of Formula 1 (for the second time) if Alex Yoong had a superlicense. He will be out in time for Spa!