by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
GP Week : Issue 126
T he weather was Nurburgring-cold, which meant that the F1 paddock poseurs constantly paraded the very latest in winter-warm leisure-wear; Pirelli brought the medium compound that had worked so well ... in Valencia, Spain, which is about as far removed from the dark and dank eiffel mountains as a wet tyre is from a slick; and they all again ran ‘Valencia-spec’ engine mapping regs – the ones that seem to reward each team more or less equally but which nonetheless allow the engine to be used for generating more than just power to the driven rear wheels. The result was a motor race – a very fine motor race by any standards – and particularly by the standards of 2011, when ‘passing’ has generally usurped ‘overtaking’ as the standard by which specific grands prix are judged. By my count, not one overtaking (or ‘passing’) manoeuvre in the German GP could be laid at the feet of the adjustable rear flap; on the contrary, some great racing took place in the zone preceding the first corner, where wings were non-adjustable; and, although there were nothing like as many ‘passes’ in Germany as there were, say, in China or Turkey, this was a race full of tension, irony, paradox and passion. Even when the cars were not passing, in other words, the racing was dramatic. It was won, of course, by Lewis Carl Hamilton, a racing driver who has come in for a lot of criticism from fringe observers over the past couple of months or so but who remains – as I’ve always said – as good as anyone in his era and in many ways beyond it. Lewis has allowed himself in recent times to be too involved in early- lap skirmishes but on this occasion he was able to prepare for the first corner from the comfortable position of the front row of the grid. This immediately gave him a very different sort of race to drive. He earned that privilege with a beautifully accurate lap in the closing minutes of Q3. The new Nurburgring doesn’t add up to much alongside the great circuits of 2011 – the paddock of the old Nurburgring, let alone the Nordschleife itself, is more exciting than the existing bunch of corners, for Pete’s sake, but the current circuit nonetheless hurts your lap time substantially if you are in any way messy, imprecise or even a step or two away from energising the car correctly. McLaren didn’t look too clever on Friday, when Jenson Button additionally lost time with a major KERS issue, but they rebounded beautifully on Saturday with a much-improved Mercedes engine map. I understand that this had been driven by some pre-Valencia reliability concerns and that these, in turn, had been side- issued by the whole diffuser debacle at Silverstone. Mods were made for Friday in Germany – and then more mods again on Friday night, taking into account, of course, of the relatively high altitude of the Nurburgring. Come Saturday morning, Lewis Hamilton had a race car – a blown diffuser that actually gave him some grip and feel and a bit more power besides. The Q3 lap that will live in posterity was carved as much as it was driven – a description that was manifest on the back straight, leading to the chicane they call Turns 13/14. On flat-out exit from the right-hand kink (Turn 12) on his final Q3 lap, Lewis stayed perfectly to the left of the road, parallel to the white line, resisting the temptation to swing across to the right for the chicane’s braking area until the last, possible (comfortable) millisecond. At exactly the same point, on his pole-winning lap, RBR’s Mark Webber was at least two metres further towards the centre of the road, running lateral load through the engine even as it was climbing up to maximum revs. Mark was of course beautifully- positioned for the next braking area – and his lap overall was a Vettel-beater; no-one could take that away from him. Lewis, though, in my view reached perfection – certainly on that point of the circuit. And if he was doing it there, what was he doing through the fast ess-bend (Turns 8 and 9) or through the medium-speed esses (Turns 10 and 11)? If you looked later at the on-boards, you could see Lewis gently guiding the car, applying a little opposite lock here or a tad more positive there, making it look so easy that you were tempted to ask why no-one else was doing the same thing; but what you couldn’t see, of course, were his feet, for most of the lap he was constantly varying the throttle and brake pressures, using those two pedals to balance the car and thus to complement, uniquely on every corner, the third, more obvious, dimension of steering. It was, though, Mark Webber who took the pole. If his lap was 98 per cent perfect in what remains the fastest single-lap car in F1, Seb Vettel’s on this occasion was down there in the 90 per cent zone. He didn’t look slow – or ragged or unbalanced – but by his standards he was in trouble. He couldn’t ‘feel’ the RB7 – couldn’t ‘feel’ the surface of the relatively cold (22degC) road – and so he left the tiniest of margins. That’s why he didn’t look slow. Bear in mind, too, that this was not a circuit on which Seb flew when they last race there (2009) – and that it’s a pretty perfunctory circuit anyway: given that, I think we can allow the world champion an off weekend. Even so, Seb V qualified third behind Mark and Lewis. Ferrari? Ferrari felt the cold of the Eiffel forests. The medium Pirellis for Fernando and Felipe were ice blocks; the soft tyres were good for long runs but difficult for the Ferrari drivers to heat out of the box. Thus they qualified fourth and fifth, praying for rain as they perused Saturday night dinner menus at the Sporthotel. It was a similar story in other garages. At Williams, for example, they had understeer for the first time in ages. Drivers up and It was close and unpredictable all the way to the finish line, but Lewis Hamilton was just about perfect in Germany, writes PETER WINDSOR. ANALYSIS Peter Windsor F1 Columnist F1 germany >> IS IT BECAUSE I IS BACK? 25