Friday, 23 July 2010

Rainy Hockenheim set for intriguing weekend

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Three hours of practice today in Germany proved to be an entertaining spectacle as we witnessed the drivers battling the differing conditions with all types of tyres. The morning dawned dark and wet and for the first hour of the opening session it was full wets on show before the switch to intermediates for the closing stages. The second session began with a dry line now showing and while spots of rain threatened, the heavy showers forecast did not arrive until half an hour after the chequered flag was waved. We had plenty of spins and offs for the drivers and the most notable of these was Lewis Hamilton who did substantial damage to his McLaren at turn 3. The English driver said that upshifting from 3rd to 4th gear had caused unusually big wheelspin and the car snapped away from him. Th front took the impact which then pitched the rear into the barriers. A costly impact as he only got 12 minutes of running in the second session.

Adrian Sutil again showed his wet weather capabilities by topping the first session but it was Fernando ALonso who finished the day quickest. The other Ferrari of Felipe Massa also had good pace, though the Brazilian had many trips across run off areas and gravel traps. Ferrari believe that they have had a car capable of competing at the front for since Valencia but things have conspired against them. They really need to have a good weekend or else Alonso will start to see his championship hopes fade. The Italian team may try and use the retarded ignition tomorrow in Q3 that Red Bull have been using in order to compete for pole position. Red Bull did quite a bit of running in the wet conditions and looked competitive in all conditions, always amongst the front runners. Sebastian Vettel had a narrow miss with the barriers after a trip wide at turn 12 but there were no other major drama's.

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Jenson Button seem unhappy with the setup of his car in the morning and had unspectacular pace through the afternoon. There can't be too much read into the times because the session had such mixed conditions and the track will be washed clean again this evening so it will be another slippery day in prospect tomorrow. Rain is certainly possible, it is quite a fluid situation and one that will need to be watched closely. This is just one of many elements that could give us a fantastic race on Sunday. The rain means that the track will not have much rubber and so tyre degradation will be higher than usual. The tyre compounds will make strategy difficult. In theory the soft tyre will be the one needed for the qualifying time but will drop off early in the race. However the hard tyre is taking 3-4 laps to get up to full performance so getting a quick outlap will be difficult and you could be vulnerable to attack. However this tyre will likely be able to do the whole race.

A more aggressive strategy is feasible at this circuit as overtaking is very possible into the low speed hairpin so we may see a fair of variation, similar to what occurred in Montreal. Another factor is the short lap time. The fastest lap today was under 77 seconds so backmarkers could also have an influence. All these variants really could give us another thriller in this fantastic season. Williams and Force India could be best placed to threaten the top four teams. Renault may struggle more this weekend without a F-Duct. The French team plan to have one on their car for the Belgian Grand Prix

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The forecasts are mixed for tomorrow, certainly the chance of rain is there. It is a matter of timing and a big challenge for the teams. They have 4 sets of intermediates and 3 sets of wet tyres available and all will have used up 1 set of each already so managing this could yet be key. Malaysia showed how even the best teams can be caught out so we could get an action packed session. Red Bull will be favourites but Fernando Alonso will be looking to re-ignite his championship hopes.

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