German Grand Prix 2012: Preview

Why is it that some drivers can never seem to perform at the top of their game for their home crowd?

Last weekend, much was made about the fact that Jenson Button, who has finished on the podium 45 times in his F1 career, has never done so at the British Grand Prix. And Mark Webber has 32 podium finishes on his CV, but in Melbourne he has never finished higher than the fourth place he claimed this season.

Sebastian Vettel will be the driver trying to get the home monkey off his back this weekend. The German who, in case you need reminding, has two world championships and 22 grand prix victories under his belt, has never won a race on home soil.

Last season, when he was completely dominant, Vettel failed to finish on the podium at only two of the nineteen races – there was a puncture in Abu Dhabi that meant he could only complete one lap, and then a fourth place finish at the Nürburgring.

The German was never really on the pace at all that weekend, and finished the race 47.9 seconds behind winner Lewis Hamilton. Furthermore, Germany was the only venue last season where Vettel failed to qualify on the front row of the grid.

This weekend, however, thanks to the alternating track for the German Grand Prix, F1 is heading to Hockenheim. Vettel was on the podium there in 2010, albeit in third place, so maybe this circuit will be the place that the home victory finally comes.

A home victory, some might argue, is necessary if he harbours hopes of defending his title this season. Vettel is now 29 points behind championship leader Fernando Alonso, and 16 points behind team-mate Mark Webber.  The two drivers out in front are the only two to have won two races this season, and Vettel will be desperate to join that exclusive club on Sunday.

Alonso was the winner last time out at Hockenheim, in controversial circumstances. That race was the airing of the now infamous “Fernando is faster than you” message from Rob Smedley to Felipe Massa.

Massa, who has still not won a race since Brazil 2008, was, perhaps, on course for victory that afternoon. Alonso was gaining on the Brazilian (who, incidentally, never used to have any problems with winning in his home race at Interlagos), but Massa looked as though he could hold off his Ferrari team-mate, and onlookers were hopeful of at least a decent battle between the pair.

That radio message deprived fans of the battle though, and from that moment on it became clear that Alonso, just ten races into his Ferrari career at the time, already had the upper-hand at the Scuderia. Massa seemed to enter a spiral of decline after that race, and has never looked like winning anything since. However, recent races have suggested that Massa could be having some sort of mini-resurgence, and perhaps this weekend he can finally lay-to-rest those demons from two years ago.

It is probably fair to say that Felipe Massa (left) did not look too overjoyed by Alonso's win at Hockenheim two years ago - Photo Credit: Ferrari
It is probably fair to say that Felipe Massa (left) did not look too overjoyed by Alonso’s win at Hockenheim two years ago – Photo Credit: Ferrari


Whilst victory for Massa might be a popular result – eight winners from ten races anyone? – the real battle should be between Alonso and Webber this weekend. Both drivers are now in the position to grab this championship by the scruff of the neck and start building a lead to take into the second half of the season. For the likes of Vettel , Hamilton, and anybody else that fancies their chances of a drivers' title, they must start to show their champion credentials now, or risk losing touch with the leading pack of two.

But most German fans in the grandstands will be rooting for Vettel this weekend. Those that have not ventured to a foreign race will have never seen their hero win a grand prix. Michael Schumacher did not deny them the opportunity to bask in his success, and if Vettel ever wants to match the legendary status of his compatriot, it is about time he won in front of his home crowd.