Our F1 guest writer, Justin Johns, brings you a German F1 Grand Prix Preview.
We are back at the Hockenheimring after a one-year hiatus, and what a time to inject the German Grand Prix after what happened at Silverstone.
All eyes will be on Sebastian Vettel for his home grand prix. He is leading the championship, and the psychological battle against Lewis and Mercedes now. The win at Silverstone was critical in derailing the momentum Lewis Hamilton would have attained and a win in Germany will cement that result.
This will be the foundation Seb needs to win this year’s title. I suspect Ferrari now has the best engine thanks to the clever pressure-based system to charge the battery which apparently yields ‘free’ energy throughout the lap, so Seb has a great chance to win on this quick, short layout of the track.
However, you can never ever underestimate Lewis Hamilton’s will to win. If he wins at Hockenheim, he would have leveled the psychological playing field by taking away Seb’s home win. Lewis is more than capable of out-performing a car and in many ways, I’m looking forward to Hamilton’s beast mode coming out this weekend against Sebastian, provided he doesn’t moan and overact when things do not go his way. Lewis vs Sebastian will be your headline act this weekend.
This is also Mercedes’ home track more than it is Seb’s because, well, Mercedes has been around longer than Sebastian and are a bigger brand in Germany, I would imagine. So, a win for them here is what the board of directors will want to showcase to their sponsors and to the world. As a brand, it doesn’t look good when you lose on home turf, especially with a mega brand such as Mercedes. They have won here in the last two outings, so the odds are in their favor.
I still think Valtteri Bottas is driving as well as Lewis in terms of raw pace this year, but he just doesn’t have the luck. It’s only a matter of time before it swings his way, it must. It will be amazing If Valtteri is the one who delivers a home win for Mercedes and subsequently a silent blow to Lewis, which will make him mad, I imagine. An angry Lewis, is an entertaining Lewis. Watch out for Bottas this weekend.
It’s rather weird that both Red Bull drivers have scored wins over both the Finns. Valtteri has had such bad luck, honestly, give that guy a break, but Kimi is constantly blowing it in Q3 and his opening lap performances are terrible. He puts himself on the back foot from qualifying and/or lap one issues. He then must fight back hard to make the podium. And Kimi does makes the podium consistently and that’s why he is currently 3rd on the log. If he wants to keep that Ferrari seat next year, he must, I mean absolutely must, not crack under pressure for Q3 and make passes on lap one.
Kimi hasn’t made up a place from the grid in 30 races now. Even Marcus Ericsson makes up places. Austria should have been his to win, but once again he muddled the opening lap. Remember Bottas passing both him and Max around the outside of Turn 4? So, there’s no excuse now is there?
Sebastian has, strangely, not always had the best of luck at Germany, so Kimi has a chance, potential and the equipment to get pole and drive off for the win. This track should suit him. The flip side to my criticism of Kimi is the fact he is 39 years old, and next year he will be 40, I don’t see that working out, but I hope I’m wrong as it’s cool to be that age and still mixing it up with the youngsters. Something most sports do not offer. He isn’t doing badly for a 39-year-old after all.
The battle for 7th is intense and exciting to watch. With Ferrari’s new power unit upgrade, Sauber and Haas are now strong contenders at every track. They should do well here and Mr Leclerc should shine. I was so annoyed there was a pit stop error for him last time out because this kid is talented and is the only upside for me personally when Kimi retires, because we are in for some magic with Leclerc in the Ferrari next year.
K-Mag is looking more and more poised in interviews and I sense he is becoming the driver he is meant to be. He is super talented, super aggressive and has a complexity to his personality and driving style which I find intriguing. If he keeps up the personal and driving growth, I don’t see any reason why he won’t be a future world champion. A strange fact about his career is that he has never raced for a team for more than one season. This is the first time in his entire career this has happened, and the continuity is showing as progress in yielding results. He truly loves the sport and its history, along with Sebastian by the way, so it will be interesting to see how he develops. Look out for a strong performance from him this weekend.
At what cost?
Now let’s talk about the ‘other’ drivers in the Haas and Sauber teams. At what point, does Grosjean get dropped this year? He has single-handedly put the team in danger in the constructors’ championship and added to that, this guy is costing the team millions and millions of dollars in damages. He doesn’t just crash the car in the race, oh no, that’s far too mainstream, he must crash it in free practice and in qualifying, too.
Romain has a habit of completely obliterating multiple corners of the car most the time resulting in major rebuilds. Once again, he made a mistake with a button on the steering wheel (DRS I assume) and binned it in free practice at Silverstone. He did the same thing in Baku. Really? This is a simple business decision, drop him or you (HAAS) will be in danger of being beaten by Renault. At what point does the management work out a simple cost-benefit analysis model? Surely his side of the garage is getting overtime pay, aren’t they? The only logical analysis is I’m sure he is having a ‘hold my beer’ moment with Pastor Maldonado over WhatsApp. So, Romain, this weekend, a lot of eyes will be on you waiting on a good result or watching you crack under pressure. Either way, it will be entertaining.
Marcus Ericsson may not be as bad as Romain Grosjean, but he is not even on the same planet as Charles Leclerc. I can’t even for the life of me think of a memorable drive by Marcus in the time he has spent in the sport. Bahrain really isn’t counted as that is just overshadowed by Charles’ performances overall this season thus far.
I must assume Marcus is an awesome guy who manages relationships well and that is why he is still there. Or, it could be the fact his family has something to do with the management of the Sauber team, I’m not sure, but apparently, he will be there next year, which is scary. It will be his 6th season in the sport should he stay. He was beaten by teammates, Felipe Nasr in 2015 and 2016, but Nasr was dropped and in 2017 he was beaten by Pascal Wehrlein, but Pascal was dropped. It’s looking more likely Leclerc will beat him this season but might still have a drive for next season. Go figure. Try my challenge and think of a memorable drive from Ericsson in his five years in the sport.
To round off, Haas and Sauber have a great chance to be the four cars to complete the top 10 this weekend as Renault maybe down on power from what we saw in the last race. Renault though has two amazing drivers who do not give up and are thoroughbred racers. They may be able to make up the deficit and sneak past Grosjean and Ericsson and fend off the threat from Perez and Ocon.
Force India, for me, can either be super competitive or just struggle to keep up, there is no middle ground for them this season, but they are a good team, who work hard and have great drivers. So, let’s see the midfield provide a close battle. I do think Esteban Ocon is a talented, complete driver. A future champion I’m sure.
There’s no point in mentioning McLaren and Williams, they are just there grasping at straws now with Alonso wasting his time. Maybe he will put on a good show for us, but I suspect McLaren will struggle at this circuit.
The Hockenheim circuit is a bit lacklustre in terms of personality, but that just my opinion. I like the high-speed turn one and turn seven, but that’s about it. Hopefully, the drivers give us some entrainment this weekend because passing is possible. Lap one may yield a crash into turn one and turn six. I like to call this track a stadium circuit, because it’s designed more for the fans than the race itself, but who knows, maybe it will be a good race. We had two amazing races in a row, maybe that momentum will keep going.
Here’s to a great race.