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Hockenheimring: The Inside Line

Hockenheimring: The Inside Line

Paddy's Perspective

"Silverstone saw a fantastic win for Lewis on the occasion not only of the 50th British Grand Prix, but also the 60th anniversary of the first Formula One victory for Mercedes-Benz. While this brought cause for celebration, the main priority of the days since has been to understand the gearbox problem we saw with Nico’s car and to make sure there is no recurrence moving forwards. As with any such scenario, a lot of work has been put into rectifying the issue and we head to Hockenheim with a remedy in place. We will also be bringing a number of other upgrades evaluated during the Silverstone test last week, so we look forward to the next race in the hopes of both improved performance and a more robust package from a reliability perspective. Germany is the home race for Mercedes-Benz and we aim to put on a good show for all of our colleagues who will be attending. It’s a good circuit and one at which we expect our car to be strong, but as always performance will be dependent on getting the car set up correctly from the outset and understanding the tyres – which are unusually soft for this race in terms of compound selection. The Championship battle is very close between Nico and Lewis, with an exciting contest between the two very much on the cards, so we can expect an entertaining weekend ahead."

Hockenheim: On the Pit Wall

Venue Familiarity

Having alternated with the Nürburgring as the venue for the German Grand Prix in recent seasons, Hockenheim has not been visited by the teams for two years by the time we reach the race weekend. Unlike in Austria, which was a circuit that had not been visited for over a decade, data from 2012 will still be relevant to the teams in terms of providing a useable baseline. However, there are still elements which will provide more of a challenge than at those circuits which featured on the 2013 calendar. These include anything from tyre behaviour to procedural elements such as pit lane speed limits, with additional work necessary to cover off any areas in which historical data is lacking.

Tyres

Continuing the theme of venue familiarity, tyres will be a focal area during the early sessions of the weekend. While the tyres used here in 2012 may have been similar in behaviour to the current crop, they operate quite differently with different temperature ranges. 2012 also represents the only previous visit Pirelli have made to Hockenheim thus far as a Formula One tyre supplier. Given that both P2 and Qualifying were wet at times, the information available to them will be relatively sparse compared to other circuits. Correlation with data from the current season is also a difficult task, as information must effectively be interpreted twice – inevitably adding a margin of error. Furthermore, where 2012 saw the medium and soft compounds nominated for Hockenheim, this year Pirelli have gone one step softer with the softest allocation available – the soft and supersoft. This is significant in that, while most teams employed a reasonably straightforward two stop strategy in 2012, the prime was widely seen as the better race tyre. This would imply that the 2014 allocation could prove somewhat on the soft side, with bias traditionally towards the harder compound at this circuit. Of course, Austria provided a similar scenario without any major concerns, but those teams that are marginal on tyre usage may struggle more here than they would elsewhere.

Circuit Layout

The Hockenheim circuit layout can be seen as similar to that of Austria in many ways. While the surface is more abrasive and the lap longer in terms of distance, times have traditionally only differed by a matter of a few seconds. Similarities between the two become apparent when analysing the corner content, with medium to high-speed turns prevalent. Sector one is all about engine power, sector three lower speed performance and traction, sector two a combination of both. These contrasts make for an interesting and challenging circuit, both to driver and team, as compromises must be made. Finding the perfect setup for all three sectors is simply not possible, forcing teams to balance the demands of each. Straight line speed will be crucial down the long DRS zone into Turn Six – a heavy braking hairpin with a variety of potential lines, which lends itself to overtaking.

Safety Cars

With very little gravel run-off area in its modern configuration, safety cars are few and far between at Hockenheim. It is relatively easy to recover from a spin at most corners around the circuit and return to the track without issue. Retirement rates are low – usually between three and five per race – which is indicative of a low probability of contact or mistakes.

Climate

The German climate, particularly in the Hockenheim region, almost inevitably produces wet sessions – historically around three per race weekend on average. The last time Formula One came to this circuit in 2012, both P2 and Qualifying were rain-affected to a greater or lesser extent, while the race itself remained dry – making it very much like Silverstone from a climatic perspective. Significant swings in temperature are also common, with track temperatures varying by as much as twelve degrees day-to-day. Similar to Austria once again – which saw the widest ambient temperature range experienced in the last three years – weather fronts can move in overnight, forcing teams to set their cars up with a margin of error with which to tackle any conditions that may arise.

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