There will be a number of nervous drivers at the Nürburgring this weekend after the delamination-fest that was the British Grand Prix on Sunday.
The German circuit is reckoned to be softer on tyres than the high-speed corners and unforgiving kerbs of Silverstone, but to Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez, and Jean-Eric Vergne, who all experienced high-speed, right-rear failures this weekend, that may come as little comfort.
Perhaps manufacturer Pirelli has put the minds of these drivers at ease though. The Italian company, clearly a little embarrassed by the events of last weekend, has issued a robust statement in response to the criticism they have received.
Pirelli have insisted that, used properly, their 2013 tyres are perfectly safe, and it is the teams’ tricks to increase performance – i.e., low pressures, rear tyres swapped around, and ‘extreme cambers’ – that were contributing factors in Sunday’s failures.
Despite this, the company have said that they will introduce Kevlar-belt rear tyres at the German Grand Prix this weekend and, from Hungary, there will be a new range of tyres that combine the 2012 structures with the 2013 compounds.
This is likely to be a big talking point going into this weekend’s race, and there is likely to be much debate over who is to blame for the failures seen at Silverstone. During the race on Sunday, will each driver have, at the back of his mind, some niggling concern that the same thing could happen again?
So like many races this season, tyres also look set to dominate discussions and the driving at the Nürburgring. At Silverstone, however, the tone definitely changed. It was no longer just Christian Horner whining about private tyre tests, or Lewis Hamilton complaining on the team radio that he could not manage his tyres sensibly for an entire race. At Silverstone, things became dangerous.
Hopefully, these problems are now in the past. With Pirelli’s efforts, perhaps we can stop wondering which driver will be the next to suffer a delamination, or how many more failures it will take before Charlie Whiting decides enough is enough and brings out the red flags.
And if we stopped having to write about tyres, think what else could be covered. How about the idea that Sebastian Vettel’s title charge has now faltered slightly, after his gearbox failed last weekend?
Admittedly, the three-times world champion does still enjoy a healthy 21-point lead in championship. And other competitors seem to be falling away, with Fernando Alonso and Ferrari looking a little off the pace in Silverstone, and Kimi Räikkönen struggled even more. But at least there is hope that this season will not go the same way as 2011, where Vettel totally dominated.
It is also worth pointing out that Vettel has never won his home grand prix before. Having said that, he had never won in Canada until last month, so perhaps 2013 is the season in which he gets a few tiny monkeys off his back.
Another German looking to do well this weekend will be Nico Rosberg, fresh from victory in Great Britain. Mercedes continue to make steady steps forward, and are beginning to show signs that, with the correct track conditions and temperatures, they can get the same levels of the performance out of their car during the race as they do in qualifying.
Lewis Hamilton will probably think it only fair that, given Rosberg won his home race, he should give his German teammate a taste of his own medicine. The 2008 champion could maybe take advantage of problems for the top three in the championship, and maybe even start to launch a late title charge his own?
Another driver who will keen to show up his teammate in his own backyard will be Mark Webber, who would delight in taking his tenth F1 victory in front of Vettel’s compatriots. He hinted as much on the podium at Silverstone on Sunday, with a mischievous response to Damon Hill’s interview question.
Previous form does not give us much to go on. Last year’s German Grand Prix was won by Alonso, who always seems to go well in the country, but that race was held at Hockenheim. Alonso also won at Hockenheim in 2010, thanks to the now infamous “Fernando is faster than you” message received by Felipe Massa.
The last race at the Nürburgring, which was in 2011, saw Hamilton win, Alonso come second, Webber third, and Vettel scored his only non-podium finish of the season.
The only certainly this weekend is that tyres will be the dominant topic conversation, but hopefully it will be more doleful deliberation than disturbing delamination.
|FORMULA 1 GROSSER PREIS SANTANDER VON DEUTSCHLAND 2013|
|Timetable (all times BST)|
|Friday 5th July|
|Free Practice 1||09:00|
|Free Practice 2||13:00|
|Saturday 6th July|
|Free Practice 3||10:00|
|Sunday 7th July|
|Live: Sky Sports F1 HD; Highlights: BBC One; Radio: BBC Radio 5 Live / 5 Live Sports Extra|