The men at the wheel preview this weekend's race
Ferrari could clinch the 2004 constructors' title at Hockenheim this weekend and all eyes will be on local hero Michael Schumacher as he attempts to match his own record for 11 wins in a season. Does he think he can do it and do his rivals believe they can stop him? The drivers have their say...
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari:
You can say whatever you want but a Grand Prix like the one at Hockenheim is always something special. Yes, it is one of many races but it is also a little different. It is my home race and I am in the happy position to say that I feel like that about other places, but Hockenheim, for me, has always been one of the most important rounds of the season, even though it hasn't been the scene of my best moments in the past.
At Silverstone I managed to improve my record there. I hope to do the same at Hockenheim. The F2004 is a great car that has done well on all types of circuit so far. I think that Hockenheim will be a tough race but I think that we have a good chance even here. In any case, I will be giving my all.
Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari:
My win here in 2000 still means something to me and it's a fantastic feeling, as although the circuit might be completely different, it is still the same place. But on Friday, I will just pull my visor shut and start again with everyone on zero points and try and win again. Im eager to do as well as I can. I am very relaxed at the moment as generally the last few, since Nurburgring in fact, have been quite good for me. There might have been a little something lacking for me to actually win races, but the possibilities for victory are always there and I think it will be the same situation this weekend.
Jenson Button, BAR:
"Even though we were disappointed not to secure a podium finish at Silverstone last week, it wasn't too bad considering McLaren's step up in form. Looking towards the German Grand Prix, I think that we should be a lot stronger in Hockenheim as our car is well-suited to the circuit. The track demands good traction and our car is strong in this area. There is a good overtaking opportunity at the end of the back straight which should make for an interesting race. The stadium section is also pretty special to drive through. We now need to concentrate our efforts on fighting the Renaults and to enable us to do this we need to have both cars finish the race in the points."
Takuma Sato, BAR:
"I raced at Hockenheim in 2002 when the circuit reopened after its major changes. It has been reconstructed into a very technical circuit which always provides an exciting race and gives us some great overtaking opportunities. Silverstone was a tough race for me, and I have had a few frustrations at our test in Jerez this week. However, some elements of the test programme have produced quite promising results, so I am very much looking forward to the German Grand Prix next week."
Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams:
The last victory I had was at last year's Grand Prix in Hockenheim, so it would be good to win again this year. It would also be a great boost for the team, and increase our points tally, but we know that it won't be easy as our competitors are more aggressive than ever. Nevertheless, we have always performed well at this track and that gives us more confidence. No matter what the weather conditions will be like in Hockenheim, they can't be as unpredictable and as cold as they were at Silverstone two weeks ago, so this should make our job a bit easier. The BMW WilliamsF1 Team will have an all South American driver line up at the German Grand Prix, so I wish Antonio all the best. I'll also be doing my best to score points and to help him do the same.
Antonio Pizzonia, Williams:
I am very happy to have been given this opportunity by the BMW WilliamsF1 Team and I will do my very best to assist the team in scoring some points. My total concentration is now on the forthcoming race weekend, and I have a clear preparation plan prior to Hockenheim.
Jarno Trulli, Renault:
(Q: Hockenheim holds good memories for you: are you looking forward to racing there?) I am definitely looking forward to arriving in Germany. I have always enjoyed racing at Hockenheim, ever since I was in German Formula 3, and even since the changes, it is a circuit I enjoy. It is technical again, because although most of the corners are low speed, you really need to concentrate on good performance through them and also responsiveness through the quicker sections, so the correct compromise can be quite difficult to find. There is a big physical challenge with the heat which is a good test and, of course, I scored my first podium there for Renault in 2003.
(Q: Are there any after-effects from your Silverstone crash?) Not at all. The car did an excellent job protecting me, and I felt fine immediately after the race. I just want to get back in the car, and put in a more positive weekend than we had in Silverstone. We didn't achieve the performance we wanted in the race, and that was a disappointment, so we must step up and take the fight to our immediate competitors.
(Q: How optimistic do you feel ahead of the race?) Predictions are becoming so hard to make - we really have to wait until Friday in order to judge where we stand, once we have tried the tyres. Getting that choice right will be absolutely critical, as it seems that each weekend, it is a different Michelin team challenging Ferrari: for this race, we will be working hard to ensure it is us so that we can consolidate our championship position. We have updates to the engine and the aerodynamics, and they will definitely help us with these objectives.
Fernando Alonso, Renault:
(What are the challenges for the drivers in Hockenheim?) Hockenheim is often all about concentration for the drivers. It is usually very hot there, so the conditions in the cockpit are quite demanding, and to be quick we need to be very precise in how we drive. There is a lot of heavy braking into slow corners, and especially on heavy fuel loads or in the race on worn tyres, the slightest slip can mean that competitors will get by you on the exit of the corner. This is a circuit where overtaking is quite easy at certain points, and if you make mistakes, the cars behind will often punish you.
(Q: What about the car: what areas does it need to be strong in?) Well, with the current layout, the most important areas are getting good mechanical grip, and also very good traction - but keeping the top speed quite high into the hairpin at turn 4. The R24 has been strong in these areas, as we have seen at circuits like Monaco and Montreal, so I think we should be optimistic. Equally, the team will be looking to bounce back from Silverstone with a good result.
(Q: In terms of performance, what can we expect?) Personally, I was pretty frustrated after Silverstone, because I spent the whole race following slower cars and just couldn't find any clear track. So hopefully, we will have a problem-free weekend so that we can run at our proper pace. However, this year, it has become more and more difficult to predict who will be strong at which circuits: we have expected to be good in some places where we were not, and have had a nice surprise at other circuits, like France. A lot will depend on the tyres, of course, but we will hope to be one of the main challengers to Ferrari on Sunday afternoon. We need to start scoring points again to maintain our championship position.
Nick Heidfeld, Jordan:
"I am looking forward to Hockenheim as it is one of my home races, following Silverstone which was almost like a home Grand Prix. The atmosphere at Hockenheim is probably the best in the world especially for the spectators, being in the stadium section. You feel that as a driver too and I hope there will be a lot of supporters for the German drivers, including me. At Silverstone we had a positive test and tried something new on the mechanical side which found us a good margin of lap time so hopefully that will help us in Hockenheim.
Giorgio Pantano, Jordan:
I won the German Formula 3 title at Hockenheim in my first year in the series - I like the circuit. We havent been able to change the car a lot before we go there, although we have done a bit of testing at Silverstone. Hockenheim is quite fun to drive because its a high speed, high power track and since I enjoyed the flat-out sections of Indianapolis in the F1 car, Im looking forward to it. Its about technicality from the driver, finding the brake balance and really being on the limit
Giancarlo Fisichella, Sauber:
"I like the shorter version of Hockenheim better, because it is safer! I have a good feel there now and the chances of overtaking are better too, especially after the long back straight and the hard braking for the tight corner that follows. I also really like the old Motordrom section, when you come back to the area where all the spectators are. They are very enthusiastic in Germany. The atmosphere is terrific because of them, and their air horns!
"I've always had a good feeling at Hockenheim, and I nearly won my first race there, back in 1997, when I lost because I got a puncture but managed to set fastest lap. I am very optimistic that we will go well there this weekend, after the fantastic performance of the car with its revised rear bodywork at Silverstone."
Felipe Massa, Sauber:
"I only raced at Hockenheim in 2002, and the new track has a completely different character to the old one with its straights going out through the trees. For the latest version you need high downforce and good traction out of the slow corners, and overtaking can be difficult. However, there is a good chance at the end of the back straight. We should be in a strong position for next weekend. In addition to the new rear bodywork from Silverstone we will have some more aerodynamic refinements on the car at Hockenheim."
Cristiano da Matta, Toyota:
"Everyone at Panasonic Toyota Racing is really looking forward to racing our new TF104B race car at this weekend's German Grand Prix. There has been a lot of pressure on the team to produce a quicker car, but everyone working at the factory has put a lot of effort into the TF104B, so we're hoping for a reasonable jump in performance. Last year, the Hockenheimring was a track that suited our car - we qualified in the top ten and both cars finished in the top six. It was our best result of the year as a team, so I enjoyed it a lot. Now we hope the TF104B comes out as we have targeted, and we can start to aim for more results like that."
Olivier Panis, Toyota:
"Personally, I am hoping for something of a turnaround of fortune with the debut of our TF104B race car at this weekend's German Grand Prix. A lot of hard work has gone into producing this car, so I would take this opportunity to thank every single member of the team for their individual contribution. We had a shakedown of the chassis at last week's test in Jerez, but most parts will only be run for the first time in Hockenheim, so we were unable to assess the car's true performance level. In addition to the chassis and aerodynamic upgrades, we also have a new spec engine for Hockenheim, so as a package, I am confident that we will make a good step forward."
David Coulthard, McLaren:
"After the British Grand Prix, I am looking forward to racing the MP4-19B again at Hockenheim. The car has moved us forward in terms of both chassis and engine performance, and hopefully with the Hockenheim specific set-up work we have tested at the Silverstone test this week I will be in a position to perform better in Germany. Hockenheim is one of the quickest tracks we race at with an average lap speed around the 135 mph / 220 km/h, despite the mid-slow speed corners. The track is of course very different in character following the changes in 2002, but it still promoted exciting racing, and hopefully we will be able to continue to perform well in front of the home crowd, a lot of whom are based in the Mercedes-Benz Grandstand at the Spitzkehre and are always very vocal!"
Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren:
"The result at Silverstone and the pace of the MP4-19B during the weekend was very positive for the whole team. I felt competitive all weekend and am looking forward to taking this form to Germany and the Mercedes-Benz home support. We are bringing some additional aerodynamic modifications to the 19B on line at the race, which we tested after Britain and the results of which were encouraging and have shown that there is more to come from the car. Hockenheim is always fun to drive, with some real chances to overtake, particularly at the wide Parabolika hairpin, where stability under braking is key in order to pass, an area in which the 19B has improved."
Mark Webber, Jaguar:
Its been a busy couple of months with the back-to-back races but we are now returning the usual fortnightly races. This has allowed us to fit in some testing at Jerez, which has been invaluable. I tested for two days last week and I worked for the majority of the time on our new aero-package. I definitely felt that this is a step-forward for us and I was really pleased with the balance of it throughout the day. I did a good number of laps on both days and came away feeling very positive. Looking ahead to Hockenheim, the team has been working hard recently focusing on areas where we can pull back a few tenths here and there and it seems to be making a difference. My point from Silverstone was hard fought and from here every point will be even harder to get. I had a podium in 2000 at Hockenheim with F3000 so a repeat performance would be exciting! I am really enjoying driving the R5 and I will be doing what I can to score another point or even two at the German Grand Prix. We will certainly be looking to give everyone a run for their money.
Christian Klien, Jaguar:
Hockenheim is a circuit that I know really well and one that I can thank for providing me with a podium during all my races there. I have been there with Formula BMW, Formula Renault and F3 and I get as much satisfaction every time I drive there as the first time I crossed the finish line. The track has changed slightly over the years and I really enjoyed the old layout as it was steeped in history and I liked the long straights and tight chicanes. The motodrome, where all the spectators are is a fantastic stretch of the track and it is really encouraging to see all the people cheering you on, it makes you want to put on a good show for them. Since finishing testing last week I have been back at home in Austria training for the next race. The weather has been great here so I have been cycling, hiking and running in the mountains. I am now feeling very motivated going into this race weekend as I know that we are well prepared for this race and we are in a good position to capitalise on our package. We have had two good strong weekends and there is no reason why we cant do the same again this coming weekend.
Bjorn Wirdheim, third driver, Jaguar:
I have raced at Hockenheim many times before and I enjoy being there. My father and I used to go there both to race and to watch so its a place that I feel at ease at. They changed the layout of the track not so long ago and I like this new set-up. It was here last year that I secured the F3000 Championship so it certainly holds fond memories for me. I am very keen to get out on track this Friday as we have a lot to work through. The test last week was positive as we worked through a detailed programme. The R5 is feeling very good and we are making some very exciting steps forward with both the engine and the aero package. My testing programme on Friday will probably take-off where Mark and Christian left off last week so there will be a lot to focus on. The team has been doing a really good job in preparing the cars and its good to see the team improving with every race.