Had the British Grand Prix two weeks ago run for one more lap or so, the home fans could have seen two British drivers on the Silverstone podium, as McLaren-Mercedes driver Jenson Button was closing on the Infiniti Red Bull Racing machine of Daniel Ricciardo quickly as the Australian struggled with very old tyres. Alas, Button fell just short, but both he and team-mate Kevin Magnussen were in contention all day for points and both will be hoping for more of the same this weekend at Hockenheim for the German Grand Prix
Button is one of only three drivers in the current field to have raced on the old-Hockenheim layout, along with Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, and feels the old track was much crazier than the current configuration. He still feels the new layout is fun to drive, and feels this weekend his McLaren team should be able to challenge for points.
“I remember racing at the old Hockenheim – four 200mph straights, a couple of fiddly chicanes and a stadium section where you held on tightly because the car didn’t have any downforce,” said Button. “It seems like a different level of craziness compared with today, but it was a lot of fun.
“The re-designed circuit could never be as mighty as the old Hockenheim, but it’s a fun little track, and it’s been purposely designed to encourage racing. The long, curved straight up to Turn Six is tailor-made for slipstreaming – you force the car ahead to be defensive, so it’s actually on the run to Turn Seven that you usually try to overtake, because you’re capitalising on the other car’s slower exit. Turn Eight is another place where you can try to make a move – because it’s possible to get into the corner side-by-side with another driver, and then make the position stick.
“There are a couple of high-speed corners, but the circuit is largely made up of low-speed turns, so our car shouldn’t be too disadvantaged. It’s a race that often throws up a surprise or two, so I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Team-mate Magnussen has not raced at Hockenheim since 2010 in German Formula 3, but admits the circuit is one he is looking forward to racing on. He understands the importance of having good traction out of the corners, and unlike some of the more aerodynamic reliant circuits, the Dane feels the McLaren should suit Hockenheim quite well.
“I’ve raced at Hockenheim before – back in 2010 when I was in German Formula 3 – and it’s a circuit that I enjoy,” said Magnussen. “It has a good mix of corners, it’s a mid-speed track, it’s a place where you can spend a lot of the lap fighting other drivers, so it’s important to have a car that you feel comfortable pushing and which has good traction out of the corners – which is where a lot of overtaking moves tend to start around here.
“It’s a circuit which should hopefully suit us a little bit better than some of the faster, more aero-dependent tracks that we’ve visited recently. I don’t think that will significantly change the competitive order, but it would be good to get some more points under our belts as we push to move up both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.”
Racing Director Eric Boullier has admitted some of the recent results have not been representative of the McLaren’s true pace, but praised the team for bringing the drivers into contention for big points. He knows in Germany the team will have to continue to maximise everything to score more points.
“It says a lot about the strength of our race team that we’ve recently managed to achieve some respectable results at circuits where we perhaps didn’t expect to shine,” said Boullier. “We’re aware that those results weren’t fully representative of the pace of our car, but were achieved because our race team has the experience and commitment to make things count when it really matters.
“Even if, on paper, the track in Germany suits us better than it seemingly did in Great Britain, we still need to maximise everything to be in a strong points-scoring position on Sunday afternoon. There are no short-term answers: we’re still pushing the development of MP4-29, and are hopeful that the lessons we learn during this season will have a positive effect on the development of next year’s car.
“In Jenson and Kevin we have two fantastic racers – both of whom have shown this year that they’re always pushing. When race craft comes to the fore, they’ll be striving hard for some good results this weekend.”