The European Grand Prix Preview 19 Jul 2007
Following two excellent victories, Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari start as clear favourites for this weekends European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.
Since Silverstone, Ferrari have tested strongly at Spa-Francorchamps and come to Germany with their tail up and on the hunt for more points to reduce the gap to McLaren. The latter, however, believe that they made improvements to their MP4-22 at Spa, where Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the only day that he ran.
Despite having a mixed weekend at Silverstone, we still came away from the track with a good haul of points and I am now really looking forward to getting back to the Nurburgring, Hamilton said. I had a great weekend there last year, taking my first double win of the year, and I enjoy driving the track. In 2005, I also won one race there in F3; my team ASM was powered by Mercedes-Benz, and as a result the support from the crowd was fantastic.
It will be great to race in front of them again, this time in the McLaren. I am sure the grandstands are going to be packed. The track has a very mixed layout, probably with more slow corners than anything else, so you need good traction for the acceleration on the exit. Through the first sector of the track you can really make up time, the corners are very slow so with good balance and under braking you can find the time.
The new Nurburgring is a relatively high downforce track, and there is plenty of grip from the surface itself. As a result, Bridgestone are bringing medium and soft compound tyres for the weekend.
Besides being their home race, Mercedes-Benz also have another reason to celebrate here, as it is the 80th anniversary of their first win at Nurburgring.
Considerations of racing at home also make this an important weekend for both BMW Sauber, fighting hard with Renault to stay clear in third place overall in the constructors world championship, and Toyota, who are based in Cologne.
It is also going to be crucial to the career of young German Markus Winkelhock, who will be bringing a famous name back to Formula One racing this weekend as he joins fellow countryman Adrian Sutil at Spyker. The son of former Formula One and sportscar racer, the late Manfred, Winkelhock replaces the departed Christijan Albers in the team.
Obviously it's a dream come true, the 27-year-old from Stuttgart said. I haven't had much time in the car this year but I'm physically and mentally prepared. It's a one-off opportunity at the moment and I will make the most of it.
Team principal Colin Kolles said: I am pleased to be able to reward Markus for his patience and loyalty to the team over the last 18 months with his F1 debut at the Nurburgring. It's very much a one-off race at the moment as we need some more time to decide who will be Adrian's partner for the rest of the year.
Though the race is taking place two months later than usual, it is unlikely that it will experience better weather than is the norm in May; the weather forecast suggests there will be showers in the region each day.