Six appeal - German drivers out to win over home crowd 22 Jul 2011
For drivers, a visit to a home race pushes the Formula One whirlwind into overdrive, with local media and fans vying for a slice of their time. For some, like Mark Webber at Marchs Australian Grand Prix, the pressure - and on the flipside the boost of a home crowd - rests on just their shoulders. Others have to share the load (and split the support) with their fellow countrymen on the grid. Spare a thought then for the sports German contingent - Sebastian Vettel, Nico Rosberg, Nick Heidfeld, Michael Schumacher, Adrian Sutil and Timo Glock - ahead of this weekends Nurburgring race. Making up a quarter of the grid, all six will have their work cut out as they strive to impress their local supporters. We take a look at how they may fare
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull
Theres no better way to return to your home circuit than as a reigning world champion seemingly well on your way to wrapping up a second successive drivers crown. But thats the enviable position of Vettel. Seven poles and six victories from nine races smacks of Schumacher-style domination and theres no doubt Vettel is targeting a seventh 2011 win - and the heartfelt applause of his countrymen - this weekend. He may have the car, ambition and talent to fulfil this goal, but he doesnt yet have the track record. Surprisingly for a driver who has bested so many records in his short career, Vettel is yet to win a Grand Prix on home soil (though he has won plenty of German events in Formula BMW, Formula Three and World Series by Renault). In 2008 he finished eighth at Hockenheim for Toro Rosso, in 2009 he took second at the Nurburgring behind Red Bull team mate Webber and last year was third at Hockenheim after starting from pole. So, interestingly, this is one of the last blue ribbon events in which he is yet to claim victory. In terms of his title advantage, a good or bad result will probably make little overall difference, but in terms of his ambitions to be seen by compatriots as Schumachers true successor, victory is vital.
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
With Michael Schumacher as a team mate, youd be forgiven for thinking Rosberg might struggle for popularity at home. Youd be wrong. Not only will the Wiesbaden-born 26 year-old enjoy some vocal support from the packed Mercedes-Benz grandstand, hell also have a place in the hearts of the many German fans who have been impressed with how hes handled having a seven-time world champion alongside him. Just like last season, Rosberg seems unfazed by his illustrious counterpart, having scored 40 of the teams 68-point haul. Rosberg has also crafted an enviable track record at the Nurburgring, finishing seventh on his first appearance for Williams at the circuit in 2006. And while he span off into retirement in 2007, he finished his 2009 outing in fourth. Another great result this weekend will no doubt further cement his position at a team desperate - and surely destined - to provide a car capable of winning.
Nick Heidfeld, Renault
Born close to the circuit, Heidfeld has grown up with the Nurburgring. From learning to ride a bike, to karting and finally to Formula One, the track has played a significant role in his life - and his racing career. Back in 2005 he scored the first and only pole position of his F1 career to date for Williams at the circuit and went on to finish the race second. Although that remains his best result at the Nurburgring, of his seven other appearances here, hes only twice finished outside the top ten. Heidfeld has enjoyed a hit-and-miss season to date and since his podium in Malaysia in April, hes had a tough time of it, despite the inherent pace of the Renault. Failing to make Q3 four times and finishing no higher than seventh (in Turkey), its been slim pickings for the German. Still, had it not fallen on his shoulders to replace the injured Robert Kubica in the R31 at the last minute, Heidfeld might not have been on the grid for his home race at all this season, so if a feeling of carpe diem is to afflict him at any point this year, it will surely be here. A seat next season could depend on it.
Michael Schumacher, Mercedes
Reams have been written about the trials and tribulations of Schumacher since he decided to return to Formula One. And so far 2011 has been looking a lot like 2010 - difficult. Qualifying as low as 14th on the grid (Shanghai) and finishing as low as 17th (Valencia), the once mighty Schumacher has found the second season of the second leg of his F1 career just as difficult as the first. But through it all the German legend keeps on smiling and there are glimpses of brighter skies ahead, with his fourth-place finish in Montreal an excellent response to his critics. A lift from a home crowd, still as enamoured with him as they were ten years ago, may be just what he needs to get back on track. He has an enviable history on German soil - victories in 1995, 2002, 2004 and 2006 at Hockenheim and European wins at the Nurburgring in 1995, 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2006. But, of course, back then he had a pretty punchy record at most tracks. Last season he finished ninth from 11th on the Hockenheim grid, but this year he has a stronger Mercedes under him. It will also be his first time driving through the corner which bears his name - Turns Eight and Nine are now known as the Schumacher S - which must surely boost his pace.
Adrian Sutil, Force India
Like many of his countrymen, Sutil cut his racing teeth at the Nurburgring, driving in Formula BMW and Formula Three. But while he may know the track very well, he has raced a Formula One car just twice at the Nurburgring, spinning off into retirement on his first appearance in 2007 and finishing 15th on his second in 2009. Not the best record. To compound feelings of gloom in the Sutil camp, the 2011 season has not been the brightest for the German driver. Rookie team mate Paul di Resta has pushed him into the shade with some strong showings, while Sutil has made the top-ten qualifying shootout just once, and scored points in only three races - far from stellar start to the season. Still, Sutil has 10 points to Di Restas two and hell be keen to open out the gap to the Scot a little more this weekend.
Timo Glock, Virgin
Given that hes driving for a team not yet two years old, nobody (not even Glock himself) is expecting a great result at the Nurburgring this weekend. He has endured a pretty torrid start to the 2011 season, never qualifying higher than 20th or finishing a race above 15th. Although the Lindenfels-born racer has won twice at the Nurburgring - in 2007 in his championship-winning GP2 season and in the German Formula Three series back in 2002 - he has never come close to claiming a Grand Prix victory, even during his spell at Toyota. His best result at a German race - ninth - came at the 2009 event, but a year earlier he retired and last year at Hockenheim, driving for Virgin, he qualified 23rd and finished 18th. The 29 year-old - and his team, who many believe are fighting to retain him for 2011 - will be hoping to improve on that this year, as difficult as it may seem.
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