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Germany - What to Watch for...

20 Jul 2014

From Nico Rosberg's dreams of a home win to the pressure on Lewis Hamilton to produce another epic recovery, and from the threat posed by Valtteri Bottas to the possible threat of rain, we break down the key themes to look out for in Sunday's Formula 1 Grosser Preis Santander von Deutschland 2014…

Rosberg out to complete perfect fortnight

Nico Rosberg didn't have much time to dwell on the disappointment of his first retirement of the season in Great Britain - in fact he's had a truly memorable couple of weeks. He's watched his beloved German national team win the world cup, married his teenage sweetheart Vivian, signed a new multi-year contract extension with Mercedes and, finally, taken pole position at his home Grand Prix.

But Rosberg won't be truly happy until he wins in Hockenheim, and if his car holds together and he gets off the line well he has every chance of doing that, particularly with team mate Lewis Hamilton starting down in 15th.

"I still expect him to come through the field quickly," he said. "[But] I need to do my own race, I need to push from the front, I need to go for it and try and pull a gap and then see where I am with strategy and everything."

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel won last year's German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, but a German hasn't triumphed at Hockenheim since Michael Schumacher’s victory in 2006. Rosberg has never finished on the podium on home soil. Could this be his year?

Bottas poised to star once more

It's fair to say that Williams' Valtteri Bottas is in something of a purple patch at the moment. The Finn has always been considered a highly talented driver, but with the Mercedes-powered FW36 at his disposal he's turned that potential into a consistent podium threat.

On Saturday Bottas equalled his highest ever qualifying position, finishing second, just 0.219s behind polesitter Rosberg and that puts him in a great position to make it three consecutive podiums following his third in Austria and second in Great Britain.

In terms of pure pace, Williams are still slightly behind Mercedes, but anything can happen in the race (Mercedes' reliability hasn't exactly been bulletproof) and Bottas has spoken of the need to be ready to seize opportunities if they present themselves. And how about this for an omen: Bottas won his very first single-seater race at this very track in 2007…

Hamilton with it all to do again

Having entered the Hockenheim weekend on a high after winning his home Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was brought back down to earth with a bump in qualifying on Saturday thanks to a right-front brake disc failure which pitched him into the barriers at speed during Q1. So, for the third race in a row, whilst title rival Nico Rosberg will start at the sharp end, Hamilton will start much further back on the grid than expected.

It would be easy for the Mercedes man to get downhearted, but if the last few races have taught the Briton anything it's that he has the pace and tenacity required to come through the field and score well, regardless of starting position.

Hamilton will take comfort from the fact that Hockenheim is a circuit replete with places to overtake. The Turn 6 hairpin is the most obvious spot to make a move and it was at this very corner that Hamilton made his race-winning pass on Nelson Piquet Jr in 2008.

Given his lowly grid spot of 15th (and he could even start from the pit lane if Mercedes make precautionary brake changes), a win seems unlikely this year for Hamilton (although Rubens Barrichello did win from 18th on the grid in 2000), though you can be sure that having worked so hard to reduce his deficit to Rosberg in the drivers' standings to just four points, he will not want to see the German open it back up again on home soil.

A two-stop strategy is likely to be the best way to go

Although all weekend the supersoft tyres have seemed to peak in terms of ultimate performance after only one lap, Pirelli still think that the best strategy for the race will be to run the softer of the two compounds for the opening two stints of a two-stopper.

While noting that there isn't likely to be much of a time difference between a two- and a three-stop strategy, the Italian tyre supplier thinks that the optimum strategy is to go supersoft-supersoft-soft, stopping on laps 18 and 38 of the 67-lap race.

The weather will likely play a big part in the strategy that the teams choose to adopt on the day. If the track temperatures remain as high as they were on Friday and Saturday, then degradation and wear will increase, making a three-stopper more likely. However, traffic could then be an issue.

Of course, there's still a possibility that it could rain on race day, at which point the teams will have to be much more reactive.

Magnussen hoping to capitalise after equalling his best qualifying effort

The last time McLaren's Kevin Magnussen qualified fourth on the grid - at the first race of the season in Australia - he went on to finish second. The Danish rookie has been unable to hit those heights again since, but in the newly-upgraded MP4-29 he seems to have recaptured both form and confidence.

At the last race in Silverstone Magnussen ran as high as third before his race pace dwindled and he slipped back to 7th at the flag. The 21-year-old will be keen to avoid a similar dip here, although in fairness the McLaren seems much better suited to the demands of Hockenheim than it did to Silverstone's high-speed swoops, and the removal of Front-and-Rear Interconnected Suspension (FRIC) doesn't appear to have hurt the Woking team too much either.

Qualifying in fourth - seven places ahead of experienced team mate Jenson Button - means that Magnussen will start the race from the dirty side of the grid, but if he can get away well - and keep the Red Bulls behind him - he stands a very good chance of taking home a big haul of points.

Force India the dark horses

With both Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez qualifying in the top ten, it may seem a little unusual to label Force India as dark horses for Sunday's race, but conditions may play right into their hands.

The Silverstone-based team have proved all season that they race better than they qualify, plus they've performed very well when the mercury has risen. Temperatures are predicted to be a little cooler for the race than they were in qualifying and practice, but even so the VJM07 is known to be gentler on tyres than many rival cars, and in Perez and Hulkenberg you have two drivers who are equally adept at prolonging the life of their rubber.

That could be key as the two heavy acceleration zones at Hockenheim (out of Turn 2 and out of the Turn 6 hairpin) will hurt the rear tyres. Keep a particularly close eye on local boy Hulkenberg - he's one of only two drivers (the other being Ferrari's Fernando Alonso) to have scored points in every race so far this year.