Ferrari fired up
After their success at Silverstone, Tony Jardine says Ferrari are the team to watch at the Nurburgring.
Last Updated: 03/08/11 2:04pm
Ferrari turned a big high speed corner at Silverstone as Fernando Alonso beat Sebastain Vettel's Red Bull by sixteen seconds to take their first win of the year, but can they sustain the new found speed?
I say yes. Despite the fact that after the farce of changing the 'off throttle' diffuser regulations for what turned out to be just one race only, Ferrari should still be highly competitive in the German GP at the Nurburgring.
They should mount a strong challenge at an event in which they have become the most successful constructor with 20 wins and could well foil Vettel's attempt to win his own GP for the first time.
The Italian team have worked hard since finding faults with their wind tunnel earlier in the year. Progressively they have become a front running team enjoying two second places and now the win at the British Grand Prix two weeks ago. I suggested they could be the pace setters for the season based on pre season testing in February, but I believe they now have genuine speed through advanced aerodynamics.
They turned up at the British track with a new floor, new rear wing and diffusers, revised bodywork and reworked cooling, all of which propelled them to the front and they would have still won despite Red Bull's botched pit stop for Vettel.
This time last year Fernando Alonso said Ferrari could still win the World Championship despite a massive points deficit. And so it nearly proved as the scarlets were the main challengers for title showdown in Abu Dhabi only losing it after strategy errors.
That points deficit is now even higher at 92. Although I know it's a major mountain to climb, I believe Ferrari will win a good deal more races in the second half of the season and push Red Bull Racing very hard. One or two slip ups from the title leaders and the prancing horse will be back at a gallop. Starting this weekend they will threaten so Ferrari are a great bet for a win in Germany although not for the title yet!
In 2010 Ferrari, true to Alonso's word, won the very next race the German G.P. at Hockenheim despite a controversial pass by the Spaniard on his team mate Felipe Massa, flouting the 'no team orders' rule at the time.
The flip side is that Red Bull suffered only a minor glitch when they had to turn off their very effective 'off throttle' diffusers at Silverstone which were banned but now reinstated. They should be back to full performance, especially in qualifying at the Nurburgring venue which alternates with Hockenheim each year to stage the German GP.
Sebastian Vettel wants this win badly in front of his home crowd saying "One of the objectives any F1 driver sets himself is to win the home race" and that's exactly what he intends to do.
First he must beat the fickle Nurburgring weather of the Eiffel mountains and then the diminished and shrunken 4.5 km challenge of the original 22.8 km 'green hell' that was the old Nurburgring which nearly killed Niki Lauda in a firey accident in 1976. The notorious full Nordschleife as it is known still runs major sports car races today.
Whilst Vettel must beat off the Ferrari attack he must also contain the very real threat from his own team mate Mark Webber who scored his debut G.P. win at the Nurburgring in 2009, describing the venue as having "a very special place in my heart".
As I predicted he would, Webber gave Vettel a hard time at Silverstone, grabbing pole and nearly second place from his young German team mate at the finish line. He knows and loves the Nurburgring and could well threaten to steal his podium place if all goes well. Webber has been tuning up by taking passengers for rides around the daunting adjacent Nordschleife this week in high speed Nissan luxury brand Infiniti road cars.
Would you put your money on McLaren for a podium place after their poor performance at their own home event in Silverstone? Yes, they will regroup and bounce back because of their strength in depth. Reinstating the regulations as prior to the British GP will help them as the car has been designed around blown diffusers so they should be competitive once more and should get one podium place at least.
However, with Button's dramatic pit stop when his wheel fell off immediately after and Hamilton's car being short fuelled, team Principal Martin Whitmarsh's guidance of the team has been criticised. He presided over a very down beat press conference at Silverstone which inspired very few, never mind the drivers. He above all needs a good result in Germany to get the team back on track after a miserable few weeks.
For Mercedes this is their ancestral home. The original Silver Arrows Mercedes team first raced here 77 years ago in 1934 and Nico Rosberg, who finished 4th at the Ring in 2009, has just demonstrated Fangio's famous 1954 German GP winning Mercedes around the 'green hell' of the Nordschleife in the hope that their historic winning form can be reproduced on Sunday.
Although Michael Schumacher has won the German GP four times they were all wins at Hockenheim with both Benetton and Ferrari. He desperately needs success in front of his home fans as he explained; "We saw some improvements in Silverstone with the new exhaust system and with how we work with the tyres so we have a good feeling added to our fighting spirit - we definitely want to show our home crowds our best level of performance possible."
So far he has been accident prone and lacked results but as he said "Each of the collisions this season had a reason, I'm no different to before and certainly not unfocused". I think the spur of the home crowd could see Schuey in the top six along with Rosberg.
There are no fewer than six German drivers competing at their home event. Vettel and Schumacher are World Champions home to roost. Nick Heidfeld could upset Schumacher's aspirations in the Renault, while Force India driver Adrian Sutil could be embarrassed once more by his rookie team mate Scotsman Paul Di Resta, who qualified so well at Silverstone. Timo Glock will be just looking for a top fifteen finish in the Virgin whilst Nico Rosberg will be inspired to beat his team mate the seven times Weltmeister himself, Michael the Great.
Watch out again for the fleet Sauber Ferrari's attempting to claw their way inside the top ten once more. Although Kobayashi failed to score at Silverstone his Mexican team mate Sergio Perez showed his full recovery from his dreadful Monte Carlo accident with a superb career best seventh place. More points for the Swiss team I will wager.