The German Grand Prix preview - more questions than answers 17 Jul 2008
Can Lewis Hamilton and McLaren pull off another dramatic triumph as Mercedes-Benz race in their homeland? Will Ferrari get their campaign back on track after the brief hiatus at Silverstone? Or can BMW Sauber spring another surprise on their home turf?
And who will be at the head of the drivers world championship points table at Hockenheim on Sunday afternoon? As Formula One racing tips past its mid-point and into the second half of the season, there is no shortage of questions to occupy race fans.
McLaren tried an anvil fin engine cover in the test here last week, when Hamilton was once again very quick, but like Toyota (also racing on home ground near their Cologne base), they wont be using it for the race after the Englishman suggested that it did not make much difference to the cars performance.
Ferrari are adamant that their strategic errors in England were a one-off and see no reason to panic. They have a healthy lead still in the constructors world championship, and both Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa are confident that they can run at the front again. The Brazilian is particularly anxious to put the memories of his five spins at Silverstone behind him!
Both teams tried new things on their cars in the test, and both are crucially aware of the need to do well, to score points even if they cannot win.
Asked whether he thought McLaren have pulled level with, or possibly even ahead of, Ferrari since Silverstone, Raikkonen said last week: I don't know. I haven't looked at what lap times they are doing. We have enough work of our own to do so maybe you know better. For sure McLaren will be fast. I think we have a good package and we haven't lost any speed, we just need to have a good weekend.
Hamilton also suggested that it was too soon to draw any hard conclusions, but added: Somehow I've been very strong on the most challenging races this year, but even if you look at Montreal - we were blindingly quick there and it is just a shame that we didn't win. We clearly had the quicker car, it was unfortunate, then having the penalty in Magny-Cours it put us in a worse position.
If I hadn't crashed in Montreal then we would have won the race, we would have gone to Magny-Cours without the 10-place penalty and we probably would have finished in the top three and the championship positions would have been different. But that is just the way racing is and that's what makes thing exciting.
Meanwhile, as Robert Kubica aims to put his uncharacteristic Silverstone error out of his mind, BMW Sauber team mate Nick Heidfeld is looking forward to his home grand prix. Hockenheim is a very special race for the whole team, while a lot of Swiss fans have traditionally made the trip across the border to give their support. I personally have a lot of good memories of the Hockenheimring, especially the old circuit with its long straights through the forest. Those sections were really unmistakeable, but the new track is, of course, significantly safer and better for the spectators - and I appreciate it for those reasons. Plus, a good overtaking opportunity has been created in the Parabolika. I've driven at Hockenheim in Formula Ford, Formula Three, Formula 3000 and Formula One, and can't wait for this Grand Prix.
Team boss Dr Mario Theissen summarised their feelings, however, when he said: This is the only F1 race being held in our home country in 2008 and naturally we're very much looking forward to it. However, you can't afford to let that disturb your concentration - after all, we don't get any more points here just because its our home GP.
The circuit has lost some of its allure since they cut out the straights through the forest, but the atmosphere should be fantastic after a year without Formula One. It is sure to be an extremely exciting race. Three drivers are tied at the top of the drivers' standings, while Robert is only two points behind them. Nick is not far away either, and his strong performance at Silverstone has given him an extra boost. You could not have written a better script for our home GP.
Besides Toyota and Timo Glock, Williamss Nico Rosberg regards this as his home race, as does Adrian Sutil who was given two days of testing here last week by Force India in preparation. They, together with Red Bulls Mark Webber and David Coulthard, and Toro Rossos local hero Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais, will all be working hard to make up for their respective disappointments in the British Grand Prix.