Friday race preview - new faces, new places 01 Aug 2003
Welcome back to the German Grand Prix weekend at Hockenheim. There is a fair focus of interest this weekend on new faces in new places. Justin Wilson goes into his first official Grand prix as a Jaguar driver, with Nicolas Kiesa taking his place at Minardi. However, on top of that Italian racer Gianmaria Bruni has joined Minardi as Friday morning test driver, and he has Hungarian former F3000 driver Zsolt Baumgartner for company as Jordan's third tester.
Both Wilson and Kiesa managed to get brief experience of their new cars last week, even though officially there is a summer ban on testing until September.
Wilson shook down his Jaguar R4 at Silverstone, in readiness for the German race, while Kiesa completed 310 laps at Ferrari's Fiorano test track in Italy so that he could familiarize himself with the Minardi PS03's systems and to qualify fully for his FIA Super licence. Bruni also had a run.
"I could feel that the car was very powerful even on my installation lap," Kiesa said. I hardly touched the throttle and the performance was amazing."
Wilson, meanwhile, said: "The word 'busy' is an understatement of how I have been recently. A new team, a new car, but still the same goals - to score points in Formula One. I am incredibly happy to be here and have a lot of people to thank for helping me get to this stage. My seating position in the car is comfortable and the R4 felt very good, albeit for a handful of laps which was enough to whet my appetite pre-Hockenheim. To be honest, I only know about 50% of the track there since I have not raced there since they changed it. This is where Friday testing is so valuable and makes a huge difference to both the team and myself. I go to Hockenheim with a lot to prove."
Hockenheim is traditionally the point in any season where the 'silly season' kicks off, as everyone tries to predict who will do what next year. It began earlier this year, however, with speculation over the future of British Grand Prix winner Rubens Barrichello and whether he will stay with Ferrari for 2004 or switch to Sauber. Now, the speculation is that Juan Pablo Montoya is trying to leave Williams to join McLaren for 2004. It all adds to the atmosphere, which has been further boosted in the Sauber pit by bunting and flags in celebration of Switzerland's National Swiss Confederation Day. Later a band of alphorn players will be on duty at lunchtime.
On the track the competition will be as fierce as ever, as local hero Michael Schumacher fights to stay in front of challengers Kimi Raikkonen, Montoya, Ralf Schumacher and Barrichello.
Speaking yesterday of his chances in front of his home crowd, the world champion said: "I guess everybody sitting here has their opportunities and possibilities to win the race because we have all been so close together that it's very difficult to predict, but at least we all have the opportunity."
One man who would desperately like to leave his mark and make it eight winners in the season so far is David Coulthard, whose future at McLaren has been widely discussed.
"Hockenheim provides a number of genuine overtaking opportunities, including a wide hairpin at the new Parabolika," said Coulthard. "As we no longer have the fast, power section along the back straight this has reduced the set-up compromise of previous years. As a home race for Mercedes-Benz, we are looking to put on a good race for all the and and employees."
A win for the Scot, who last won in the opening race in Australia in March, could be a timely fillip.