The return of Formula One to Germany and Hockenheim this weekend after the 2015 hiatus marks the sixth race in just eight weekends, with the summer shutdown coming after the chequer has flown.
Compared to the same stage last season, 2016 has been a marked improvement in terms of variability, shocks, controversy and talking points, even if Mercedes have won 10 out of the 11 races and are walking untroubled toward another World Championship double.
Last time out in Hungary, it was the best chance since Monaco for someone to beat the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Rosberg, and despite Max Verstappen getting his Red Bull to 0.002 in FP3, in reality it was a easy 1-2 for the Mercs.
Just six points separates Hamilton and Rosberg, with the ever changing momentum currently in the court of the former. Rosberg’s sneaky pole in Hungary annoyed Hamilton, so much so that he went to Charlie Whiting to seek clarification and to unsettle the German. As the mind games intensify, long may it continue, including this weekend.
Best of the rest is currently held in terms of points by Ferrari, but Red Bull hold that mantle in every other conceivable way. The latter are stable, have probably the best chassis on the grid, an ever improving engine and arguably the best driver partnership in F1, whilst the former are in upheaval with Techincal Director James Allison standing down on Wednesday and pressure from above growing session by session.
However, Ferrari are more confident of a strong weekend this time out, while Red Bull do expect to be a little less competitive then they recently have been. Williams will be looking to end a dreadful run of form, just four points from the last three races, whilst Force India have shown that their VJM09 is suited to all layouts. McLaren could be caught out on the back straight but the team are optimistic.
What happened last time?
The German GP was last held in 2014, due to financial issues at the Nurburgring, which hosts the race in odd numbered years, whilst Hockenheim has even numbered ones. Lewis Hamilton suffered a brake failure in Qualifying, which eventually demoted him to last, whilst Nico Rosberg took Pole Position.
At the start, Kevin Magnussen stuck the nose of his McLaren, still then powered by Mercedes, up the inside of T1, which led to Felipe Massa’s Williams going over, before righting itself on its roll-over hoop.
Hamilton livened the race with a comeback drive through the field, although on Lap 30, at the hairpin he made contact the sidepod of Jenson Button, apologising to his fellow Brit the next time around.
On Lap 50 Adrian Sutil’s Sauber gave up coming out of the final corner and in a dangerous position, many expected the Safety Car to be called for, it wasn’t and Hamilton was then forced to do 16 laps to the finish on SuperSoft tyres instead of the planned 13, as Mercedes thought they could negate the time he would lose by pitting, by pre-empting the Safety Car that never came.
Rosberg won comfortably 20 seconds ahead of Bottas in the Williams, who just held off the damaged Mercedes of Hamilton by 1.7 seconds.
Where are there going to be some Overtakes?
The layout of the new Hockenheim, opened in 2002, after Hermann Tilke had got his hands on it, shortened the world-famous layout, excluding the famous Ost-Kurve from the new layout. Turn 1 is a nothing turn, and with DRS down to T2, overtaking is possible into the tight right-hander.
The second DRS zone is down the curved back straight, into the heavy breaking hairpin, the scene of Vettel and Alonso enjoying a Raikkonen sandwich in 2014. A good exit from the hairpin, and drive off of T7, can lead to a dive up the inside of the ‘Mercedes turn’ in front of the massive grandstand.
T11 is also known to throw up a good move, as drivers renter the stadium section, which thankfully Tilke left alone. A dive into T12 could pay off, but if it doesn’t a driver won’t find a way past through T13-16, and will have to wait until the next lap.
What tyres are Pirelli bringing?
As in Hungary, Pirelli have gone for the softest bar one selection of tyres, with the Mediums, Softs, and SuperSofts all on duty this weekend, along with the ever present Intermediate and full Wet tyres.
Will it rain?
F1’s recent love for the wet stuff should continue this weekend, with FP2 on Friday afternoon the session most at risk of being affected, the session where race-pace simulations are carried out. There is a 20% probability of Saturday and Sunday being affected, although it is unlikely.
When is it on?
It is the familiar European schedule to things this weekend, with FP1 underway at 09:00am UK time on Friday with Qualifying and the Race underway at 13:00pm UK time on their respective days. Sky Sports F1 have live coverage of the entire event, whilst Channel 4 have a comprehensive highlights package.
First Practice – 09:00am – 10:30am – Friday
Second Practice – 13:00pm – 14:00pm – Friday
Third Practice - 10:00am – 11:00am – Saturday
Qualifying – 13:00pm – 14:00pm – Saturday
Race – the 60 lap race gets underway at 13:00pm on Sunday afternoon.
All times BST.