Local heroes - Rosberg, Schumacher, Heidfeld and Sutil on the Nurburgring 16 Jul 2007
Any race at the legendary Nurburgring track is special. And with four Germans on the grid for this weekends European Grand Prix, the circuits ardent fan base will be spoilt for choice for home drivers to cheer.
Ahead of the event, we caught up with Williams' Nico Rosberg, Toyotas Ralf Schumacher, BMW Saubers Nick Heidfeld and Spykers Adrian Sutil to hear their impressions of the season so far and to find out how they believe they will perform on Sunday
Q: The European Grand Prix will mark the midpoint of the season. Over the past nine races, what have been your highlights and which moments would you prefer to forget?
Nico Rosberg: I have quite a few highlights from the year, even though most of the time they have not produced good results because of reasons outside of my control. One highlight was passing Ralf (Schumacher) in Melbourne and then finishing seventh. Or running sixth in Malaysia before retiring. Or in Indianapolis where I started in 14th and moved up the field to sixth, before I was forced to retire with technical problems. My biggest highlight was probably running in fifth between the two Ferraris in Montreal which unfortunately ended after the first pit stop when I got a stop and go penalty due to the new safety car rule. The retirements are probably the only things that have stopped me from getting results in the end.
Ralf Schumacher: Clearly our results so far mean we are not where we would have hoped to be. There certainly havent been many highlights but possibly qualifying for Silverstone was the best day. Its a pity we didnt convert that into a result but we will continue to push hard. We expected some more points by now but we are in a tight midfield battle with a number of teams very close together. Sometimes a tenth can mean three or four places on the grid so that can make a huge difference.
Nick Heidfeld: The season so far has actually been full of highlights. The car was working well from the very beginning and has given me the chance to fight - and occasionally beat - the guys from the two front running teams. This felt fantastic! In my Formula One career before joining BMW Sauber, I never had the right materials to do so. This is my big chance and I always believed that it would come my way. The fights with Fernando (Alonso) were awesome, especially the overtaking in Bahrain, which I found very emotional. I almost screamed with joy, but I realised it would be better to concentrate on the race again. To make it onto the second podium place in Canada, thanks to the teams strength, is another highlight that lingers in my memory. The two retirements caused by technical failures and my poor qualifying in Silverstone - I could easily have done without!
Adrian Sutil: One highlight of course was the free wet practice in Monaco, where I was fastest. Indianapolis was a nice race where I could fight with some drivers. Basically I am happy with my first nine races. I made some mistakes, but that should be okay for a rookie. Of course, I was disappointed in Montreal after my crash.
Q: A home Grand Prix is always a special race - the pressure is obviously more intense and the glory brighter. What is it that you want to prove to yourself, and your fans, at the weekend?
NR: It will be great to race at the Nurburgring. I hope the fans support me and Ill be able to finally get the good result that I and the team deserve.
RS: We were a bit unfortunate to miss out on points at the last two races so we truly hope to make up for that at the Nurburgring. Of course, there will be some people cheering for me and, as it is the closest racetrack to the Toyota factory in Cologne, it will be especially important to have some of the employees there. Despite our problems, Ive never seen a team so united and Im really proud of the boys because they push hard both at the tracks and at the factory. So that support will be really appreciated - lets hope we can give them a result to cheer.
NH: My aim always remains the same - to get the maximum out of my situation. But of course it is a special feeling doing well at your home race. At no other place do I see so many of my fans than at the Nurburgring. I really do appreciate their support!
AS: I dont feel more pressure at the Nurburgring. For me its nice to drive in my home country and I hope that we will have many German fans to support us, but at the end of the day it is one of 17 races. I will try to do the best I can and finish the race.
Q: The Nurburgring is one of the few historic races on the calendar. On a scale of how much you like a track - with 1 meaning not at all and 10 meaning its a favourite - where would you place the legendary track?
NR: Its a great track which should be fun. I like it. I have raced there many times throughout the years. The history is more on the old track, which is just spectacular. It's Spa times ten.
RS: When I see the Nordschleife I find it hard to believe that Formula One cars ever raced there given the run-off areas. But its a special venue for me because its very close to Kerpen, the town where I grew up. Ive always really enjoyed racing at the Nurburgring and Ive now competed there over 20 times. I won my first Formula Junior race at the track and I won the Grand Prix there in 2003. So it has a little bit of personal history as well. Lets give it a 9.
NH: There are tracks that I like better. My all-time favorite is Suzuka that I hope one day will be added back onto the race calendar. Personally, I have a very close relation with the Nurburgring: It is quite close to Monchengladbach were I was born, it was here that as a three year-old I learnt to ride a bike and in the winter I went down the Hohe Acht in a sleigh. The old kart track saw my first four-wheel attempts - sitting on a tyre and with a blanket behind my back so that I could reach the pedals. I also drove quite some races here and have won in almost all categories Ive ever started: Formula Ford, Formula 3 and Formula 3000 included. In 2005, in a BMW Williams, I scored my first pole position and ended the race in second place. I am really looking forward to the race!
AS: I do like the circuit and I would give it an 8.
Q: Fresh from the test session at Spa, how do you feel you may perform this weekend?
NR: The performance of the car was okay in Spa but we hope to enjoy more of an improvement at the Nurburgring, as the track has always suited our car in the past.
RS: We have had a combination of different issues to confront to bring our car up the grid. But the Spa test went quite well so lets hope that we can continue the improvements we made at Silverstone. Im certain that the results will come sooner or later but I hope for the sake of everyone who has been working so hard that it will be sooner. It might take a few more races but its coming.
NH: I did not test in Spa. But Roberts (Kubica) feedback indicates that the F1.07 feels very competitive. The weekend will tell.
AS: I like the circuit at Spa very much. I had pole and won the race in Formula 3 there. Our test was very positive and I finished fifth, thats not too bad. But it was just a test, so lets wait and see what will happen in the race.