Hockenheim has changed a lot over the years. The track used to head out into the forest with a series of huge straights broken up by sharp chicanes, but that is all gone now in favour of a more modern and accessible track. The German Grand Prix was not on the 2017 calendar due to issues at the Nurburgring, but in 2018 F1 returned to Hockenheim for a terrific race that saw Sebastian Vettel crash out in the rain and clear a path for a Lewis Hamilton win.
The circuit is dominated by a long, curved, straight down to a hairpin that demands good traction and straight line speed and then the tricky, technical, stadium section which requires very precise driving and a responsive car. Balancing those two needs is tricky, and can catch a lot of people out when they set up their car. Here is our set up for the German Grand Prix.
We have taken as much drag off the car as humanly possible. This creates optimum top speed down the long straight, but there is one downside, which is a little understeer in the first corner. There is plenty of run-off area though if things go badly.
You need to maintain some rear downforce for the acceleration zone out of turn 2 as well as out of turn 8. Both are slow corners that then accelerate through some kinks, and if you don't have enough rear downforce there, you can easily lose the rear.
This part is all about getting the power through the rear wheels and into the tarmac. A locked differential forces the wheels to turn at the same speed, improving traction at the cost of some wear as the outside wheel gets dragged during cornering. Here we want to lock up the differential more so we get good traction out of the slow corners and onto the straights, but a fully locked on throttle differential would create too much tyre wear for a race strategy, and we are going to take some life out of the tyres with our suspension geometry.
We have a less locked off throttle differential, just to help us on turn-in to the corners as it lets the tyres rotate more freely, which helps get the rear around the corner.
Due to the tight stadium section and the changes of direction required from turn 2-4 and 8-10 we need to work on the suspension geometry to get the levels of grip required.
We have added more negative camber here, which means the tyres are leaning in more toward the body of the car. This means we can lean on the outside tyres during cornering and maintain grip. Meanwhile, we have added toe-out to the front tyres, which means they are pointing away from each other more. This makes for a more responsive turn-in. We have also added toe-in to the rears, this counter-acts the loss of straight line speed created by playing around with the camber and toe-out. All of this creates more tyre wear, which is why we had to be a little kind with our transmission settings.
Suspension is all about how much weight transfer we want to allow. A 7-5 suspension setting is a really nice balance between a stiffer, more responsive, front end and a looser rear that allows the weight to shift rearward under acceleration, creating more traction.
Our anti-roll bars are a bit firmer though. At 9-7 this means the weight is less able to shift laterally during cornering and means it will change direction better, which is great for the stadium section and a handful of quick flicks we want to perform around the lap.
Ride height can really affect straight line speed, so we want it as low as possible, but we also need to be mindful about taking to the kerbs so it can't be super-low. By using a 3-4 setting we create a rake, which generates oversteer and helps us get the nose into the corners.
Stopping power is important here. By far the best overtaking point is the hairpin, so we will be vulnerable if we don't up the brake pressures to decrease stopping distance. Too high and we risk lockups though, so we have settled at 87 percent.
The brake bias is set a touch rearward at 57 percent to help create some oversteer and get the car into the corners.
The only change we have made here is to take some air out of the rear tyres to increase their contact patch with the ground and thus improve traction. Adding pressure to the front tyres would help in their responsiveness at turn-in, but it would also increase wear, while taking pressure out would only serve to increase their rolling resistance down the straights. A compromise is just to leave them where they are and use the rest of the settings to find responsiveness.
We have moved the ballast back more than usual to 8. This loads up the rears and again creates a lot of traction, helping us fire out of turn 2 as well as the hairpin where we can finish off any moves that were touch-and-go at the braking point.
That's our set up for the German Grand Prix. Hockenheim is a tough track that really challenges drivers and can expose any flaw in your ability. This setup should give you the balance between precision cornering and straight line speed needed to set a good time. See you on the time sheets!
German Grand Prix Wet Lap Setup
Front Wing: 4
Rear Wing: 9
On Throttle: 60%
Off Throttle: 100%
Front Camber: -2.70
Rear Camber: -1.20
Front Toe: 0.08
Rear Toe: 0.29
Front Suspension: 5
Rear Suspension: 3
Front Anti-Roll Bar: 8
Rear Anti-Roll Bar: 5
Front Ride Height: 4
Rear Ride Height: 4
Brake Pressure: 88%
Front Brake Bias: 55%
Front Tyre Pressure: 23.4 psi
Rear Tyre Pressure: 21.1 psi