Sebastian Vettel has never won his home German Grand Prix. Vettel, known to be superstitious, has also not ever won a Formula one race in the month of July for that matter, so this week’s trip to the Nürburgring was set to be challenging for the world champion even before last weekend’s tyre debacle.
The exploding Pirellis from the British Grand Prix have F1 drivers on edge but talk of a boycott in Germany has been played down with the Italian firm saying that rear tyres will be made stronger in the short turnaround from Silverstone.
While five drivers including pole sitter Lewis Hamilton suffered blowouts last Sunday, championship leader Vettel’s retirement was due to a gearbox problem in the normally reliable Red Bull.
Adding to the pressure at the Nürburgring for the 26-year-old, celebrating his birthday on Wednesday, is Mercedes’ strong performance at Silverstone with Nico Rosberg taking victory, and eager to impress again at his and his team’s home race.
Despite the odds seemingly being against him, Vettel is excited to be returning home.
“I’ve always had a lot of fun on this track. In 2009, I made it to the podium for the first time [at the Nürburgring] in F1 and it was a fantastic experience thanks to the German fans,” he said in a statement as he discussed never having won in Germany.
“I don’t pay much attention to figures and statistics. It may be nice to look at statistics sometimes, but they only show what has happened in the past, not what is still to come.”
Vettel, champion the last three years, leads in the driver standings on 132 points from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso on 111 and Kimi Raikkonen on 98 in the Lotus.
Mercedes have moved up to second in the constructors’ championship, 48 points behind Red Bull, after eight of 19 races.
The last race at the Nürburgring, which alternates with Hockenheim, was in 2011 when Hamilton took the chequered flag and Vettel came fourth.
The German can at least take solace from the fact Red Bull team mate Mark Webber sealed pole at the track two years ago.
Australian Webber will be racing in his final German Grand Prix before quitting F1 at the end of the season and he nearly didn’t have this chance to race the Nürburgring again with the track in serious financial difficulty.
The race was almost handed to Hockenheim before F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone stepped in to make sure that it would take place.
Drivers thought last Sunday’s British Grand Prix was too dangerous with bits of exploding tyres narrowly missing their heads, reminding keen F1 followers of Felipe Massa’s accident at Budapest’s Hungaoring, when he suffered life-threatening injuries as a result of being struck by debris from Rubens Barrichello’s Williams, in 2009.
In a major controversy of 2005, 14 drivers did not start the U.S. Grand Prix after problems with their Michelin tyres.
Ecclestone does not expect the same to happen in Germany, with kerbs at Silverstone and the teams’ management of the tyres possibly contributing to the blowouts even if the Pirellis have been controversial all season due to quick degradation.
Pirelli risked angering drivers further by saying on Tuesday that the teams had mounted rear tyres the wrong way around and run them with low pressures.
“I don’t think [a boycott] will happen. I don’t think it’s something we need to address,” Ecclestone said.
The 82-year-old said he would be at the Nürburgring despite the possible threat of arrest because of allegations that he bribed a German banker during the 2005-2006 sale of a stake in Formula One.
Ecclestone denies wrongdoing and Munich prosecutors have not yet indicated if they intended to charge him.
German Grand Prix stats:
- Four different teams have won the eight races so far this year (Lotus, Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes).
- Red Bull’s triple champion Sebastian Vettel is the only driver with three wins in 2013. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Mercedes’s Nico Rosberg have won two races each.
- Alonso has 32 career wins, Vettel 29, Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton 21, Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen 20 and McLaren’s Jenson Button 15.
- Ferrari have won 221 races since the championship started in 1950, McLaren 182, Williams 114 and Red Bull 37.
- Mercedes and Rosberg have won two of the last three races. Rosberg’s win at Silverstone was the third of his career and first not from pole. The German has already won more races this season than his father Keke did when he won the title in 1982.
- Mercedes have been on pole five times in eight races.
- Vettel has 39 poles to his credit, putting him third in the all-time list (Michael Schumacher had 68 and Ayrton Senna 65). Hamilton has 28 and Alonso 22.
- One more pole for Hamilton would lift him level with late Argentine five times champion Juan Manuel Fangio in the all-time lists.
- Mercedes have locked out the front row in qualifying three times this year.
- Alonso has not been on the front row in the last 18 races, with his last appearance being in Germany in 2012.
- Caterham and Marussia have yet to score a point after three seasons in Formula One.
- None of the five 2013 rookies has scored points so far.
- Kimi Raikkonen has now finished 25 successive races in the points for Lotus, an outright record. He shared the previous one of 24 with Michael Schumacher, although the scoring system has changed.
- Raikkonen last failed to score in China in 2012. With Vettel retiring at Silverstone, the Finn is now the only driver to have scored points in every race this year.
- Former champions Williams have yet to score a point this season and for nine races in a row – their worst ever start.
- Michael Schumacher remains the last German driver to win in Germany, with Ferrari in 2006.
- Germany has four current drivers – Vettel, Rosberg, Nico Hulkenberg and Adrian Sutil.
- Vettel has never won in July or in Germany.
- The last race at the Nuerburgring was in 2011, with Hamilton the winner.
- Williams will be starting their 600th grand prix (after celebrating the milestone at Silverstone last weekend).
- Friday is the 60th anniversary of Britain’s first Formula One Grand Prix victory – Mike Hawthorn for Ferrari in France on July 5, 1953.
- Alonso’s third place at Silverstone was the Spaniard’s 150th in the points. (Reuters)
Subbed by AJN.