It hasn’t been the best summer for German sport, namely underpinned by a shock World Cup exit – at the group stages! But Sebastian Vettel has been flying the flag with aplomb and now all eyes will be on Hockenheim to see if he can deliver a home win for the fans and extend his lead in the Formula 1 Drivers Championship.
That lead over arch rival Lewis Hamilton stands at eight points but could have been much greater following what was a perfect start to the British Grand Prix (which we previewed) and a nightmare for Hamilton. The Brit started on pole but that was where his problems began, as he suffered a slow start from the front of the grid which left him in a bad position before turn three, where Hamilton was clouted into a spin by Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari.
He was at the back of the pack at the end of the first lap and threatening to have a catastrophic weekend, but a stellar drive – even accounting for the Mercedes advantage over much of the field – meant that he was sixth by lap 10, when his real task of trying to claw back a podium place of some sort began to start.
Two bold moves – the first not to stop for fresh tyres when everyone else did and the second to go hard at Valteri Bottas – earned him second place, although he could not quite chase Vettel down for the win.
It’s no surprise that Vettel and Hamilton dominate the market once again for this weekend, and not much is likely to separate them. The new Hockenheimring is a track that allows wheel-to-wheel racing like few other venues, for all that the retention of a long flat out section into the second DRS zone means engine power is still important.
The infernal summer heat will also come into play once again – temperatures are expected to be in the range of 30c once again – and this does tip the balance slightly in the favour of Ferrari, who have been slightly better than Mercedes and their rivals when working with the super soft compounds which will be in heavy use this weekend.
It’s interesting to note how Sister teams Haas and Sauber have also improved over the European season with multiple points finishes and Vettel has won twice now on tracks where Mercedes were expected to be favoured, sometimes overcoming their qualifying disadvantages.
Hamilton is a minor favourite at 13/8 with Paddy Power, fair on the evidence of his Silverstone drive, but the circuit is less in his favour here. However, I think Kimi Raikkonen is an interesting each/way contender for the podium.
The Finn, benefitting from the best car Ferrari has in some seasons, has been involved with many of the key title moments and a high reliability rate has seen him become a prodigious collector of podium spots. He has six podiums so far, with one of the exceptions coming around a Monaco track where Ferrari were not on their A1 game and the Red Bulls thrived.
This track setup ought to suit a Ferrari that is now pound for pound with Mercedes at the front of the grid and the quotes of 15/2 could look big with a clean start, something the Ferrari’s have been achieving a lot since The Championship returned to Europe.
Red Bull cannot be discounted either – they have been a constant presence, especially through the middle part of the season – although the advantage that some mid-season modifications appeared to have given them is now not so obvious and it’s possible that Ferrari and Mercedes have just improved a tad based on qualifying.
There were prices of 8/15 at top formula 1 sites for them to have a double points finish, something that does tempt given that they’ve got two of the fastest six cars on the grid, but only the 3/5 with Sportnation was of any serious interest there and a retirement for one of their drivers in the last two Grand Prix has meant backers at short prices have been stung at the bookies.