So, it’s the last day before the summer holidays. In school days this was a day of laziness and making plans to meet up with friends over the next month (remember the days we didn’t have mobile phones for constant communication? No, just me then…). For drivers, it’s all systems go, scrambling those extra points to get bragging rights over half term against rivals they’ll be quite glad to see the back of for 4 weeks. There will be no half days and signing of shirts around the paddock this weekend.
Return to the Calendar
Talking of holidays, last year saw the F1 calendar missing a race in Germany for the first time since 1955 (The Nürburgring hosting the 2007 European event). A return to racing to a country that has provided some of the greatest drivers of recent years is a welcome sight, and the crowds are always a delight, if becoming a little sparse in recent years. With Rosberg looking to add to his 2014 victory, and Vettel hoping to perform, there will be plenty of home support for the fans to cheer on – if they turn out as the organizers hope. With Hockenheim’s contract up in 2018 and the course struggling to break even, we could be waving auf weidersehen to F1 in Germany
Rules Glorious Rules
It’s not Formula 1 unless the drivers are at loggerheads with the authorities over rules. The issue over radio chatter is far from over, with Jenson Button the latest to fall foul in Hungary, being penalised for receiving advice over hydraulic issues. Button may have given a moving monologue to Charlie Whiting (well, it’s hard to call one delivered at 200mph anything but moving) about how braking issues must come under safety, the truth is he was penalised for the team telling him not to change gears to save any further hydraulic issues. Nice try Jenson, but it didn’t wash.
Elsewhere it seems some drivers are having issues over a more antiquated form of communication – semaphore .Hamiltons unhappiness at Rosberg (who else) and his pole lap is still rumbling on. It doesn’t seem to be something that the Brit is keen to drop, be it though genuine annoyance or the kind of mind games that would make Sir Alex Ferguson proud. Either way, expect very close scrutiny should any flags come out in qualifying.
Meanwhile Raikkonen has had a lot to say, for once, regarding Max Verstappen’s movements when defending his line in Hungary,
“For me, he moved once right, I decided to go left but once the other guy moves back, I did everything I could to avoid any contact. Once I decided to go somewhere, you cannot just come there. It is good that I managed to somehow half-miss him.”
Raikkonen has joined Hamilton is requesting the FIA clarify their ruling, calling them ‘pointless’ if not consistently applied.
The stewards have a few tricks up their sleeves to fightback, however. Last weekend the radio silence was punctuated by messages from teams around exceeding track limits. With many tracks turning to more concrete run offs than before (and Hockenheim is no different, with new run off area’s at turn 11 and numerous changes to the kerbs at various corners), the FIA have been clamping down on off track excursions. Expect no less this weekend
Top of the Class.
It’s hard to predict form at Hockenheim, as you’ve only got every other years results to go on. Still, Nico Rosberg won last time we came here in 2014, though Hamilton too can claim a victory back in 2008. Either way, the form book suggests the track will favour the local boys Mercedes (though really, where doesn’t these days?). The gap at the top is now 6 points in Hamilton’s favour, but this will have been the race during this recent head to head that Rosberg will have fancied most. After running Hamilton close in Hungary, he’ll be coming home with a bit of confidence that he can shake the reigning champions winning streak and nick back the title lead. With one last chance to slug it out in the playground before half term, it’s hard to call which one of the paddocks big bullies will go away with the title of cock of the yard.
The Best of the Rest.
So who takes the final step on the podium? It’s hard to say, with Hungary showing that Red Bull and Ferrari were so even throughout the race. Although the Red Bulls prevailed in both the battles, there was less than a second in it each time. Vettels home support and previous victory here might make him a slight favourite to take it on the track, but don’t be surprised if these battles are decided in the pits and on the wall. Strategy will be key in this intriguing battle.
Further back, and the season is also starting to hot up. Since the spate of podiums for Perez and Bottas earlier in the season, on track there has been little between Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso and McLaren. The Force India drivers may have felt they got the upper hand at Silverstone, but in Hungary they only claimed a solitary point, and might have to thank Jolyon Palmers careless spin for that. There will be no love lost between these 8 over the forthcoming weekend, as everyone will want to head to the break on a high.
His name was Rio
Back to the now slightly galling school analogy, and we could be saying a final goodbye to one of the newer pupils after this weekend, as Rio Haryanto’s time in the Manor could be drawing to a close. His sponsorship deals only funded his drive until the end of the Hungarian GP, and whilst replacing him double quick for Germany would’ve been difficult, there’s no guarantee he will be coming back when we return to Spa at the end of August. Manor would prefer to keep him, however have stated they have plans B, C and D in place should agreement not be reached. One of those however will not be Stoffel Vandoorne, with McLaren stating he is firmly staying put with them for the rest of the year. Therefore if Haryanto does go, it could be another chance for Manor test driver, Indy 500 champion, Alex Rossi to return to F1. However, it would mean sacrificing a brilliant season in Indy racing, where he’s favourite to take Rookie of the Year (with a sizeable lead over his team mate at Marussia last year, Max Chilton), therefore if Rio does go, we could see another young Brit on the grid in Jordan King.