F1 2012: Hamilton to celebrate 100th grand prix in Germany
PUBLISHED: 22:22 16 July 2012 | UPDATED: 17:31 20 July 2012
LEWIS Hamilton hopes to celebrate his 100th Formula One race with a podium finish in Sunday's 2012 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
The 2012 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim
* Race distance: 67 laps (190.414 miles/306.458km)
* Start time: 14:00 (local)/13:00 GMT
* Circuit length: 2.842 miles/4.574km
* 2010 winner: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 67 laps in 1hr27m38.864s (209.788km/h)
* 2010 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) 1m13.791s (223.149km/h)
* Lap record: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren Mercedes MP4-19) 1m13.780s (223.182km/h)
The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver from Hertfordshire heads to Germany fourth in the F1 world championship after a disappointing performance in the 2012 British Grand Prix.
Hamilton could only manage eighth in front of his home fans at Silverstone, but has already put his heartache behind him, helped by carring the Olympic Torch in Luton.
He said: “I was quick to get over our disappointing weekend at Silverstone, running with the Olympic Flame on the day after the race and then quickly turning my full attention to Hockenheim.
“Unbelievably, next weekend will mark my 100th grand prix. That’s incredible, because I still remember my first as if it were only yesterday – I guess Formula 1 has that effect on you!”
Having driven a McLaren around the streets of Moscow in Russia yesterday (Sunday), the Hockenheim track will present the Hertfordshire-born 27-year-old with a very different challenge.
Given that Hockenheim was built in 1932, it was a relatively late addition to the Formula 1 calendar. It staged its first German Grand Prix in 1970, since when it’s been a semi-regular fixture for motor racing’s top echelon.
Initially the track was a flat-out 6.7km loop, upon which Mercedes-Benz – McLaren’s engine partner of 18 years – tested its road and racing cars.
A slower, stadium section was built after the World War Two and chicanes were added in 1968, following the death of double world champion Jim Clark in a Formula 2 race.
McLaren at the German Grand Prix
* Wins: 8 (1976, 1984, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1998, 2008, 2011)
* Poles: 12 (1976, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2008)
* Fastest Laps: 7 (1984, 1985, 1989, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2005)
The circuit was completely redesigned by Hermann Tilke in 2001 and it now stages the Santander German Grand Prix on a biennial basis, sharing the race with the Nurburgring.
The new track is 2.3km shorter than its predecessor and the average speed has dropped significantly, but the races are usually exciting.
The track has two inviting overtaking places – Turns Six and Eight – and it’s wide enough in places for cars to run two abreast. Extensive Tarmac run-off also stimulates adventurous racing.
This year’s Santander German Grand Prix carries extra significance for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. Not only is it the home race of McLaren’s engine partner, it’s the 100th race of Lewis’s Formula 1 career.
Car 4: Lewis Hamilton
* Age: 27 (January 7, 1985)
* GPs: 99
* Wins: 18
* Poles: 21
* Fastest Laps: 11
* 2012 points: 92 (4th)
And the 2008 world champion will look to celebrate the milestone with a second victory at Hockenheim on Sunday.
“It’s always been a regret of mine that I arrived in Formula 1 too late to race on the classic, old Hockenheim layout, where the track disappeared for miles into the forests and was only broken up by a couple of relatively high-speed chicanes,” said Hamilton.
“It must have been incredible battling round that track with minimal downforce, locked in a slipstreaming battle with another car and waiting for just the right moment to pounce and overtake.
“Still, I very much enjoy the updated track – it’s a place that’s built for racing: the hairpin at the end of the back straight is a classic overtaking spot, and the whole layout seems to make it more inviting for a following car to attempt an overtake.
“This is the first time we’ve been to Hockenheim since introducing DRS, too, so it should make for an even more exciting race.”
Hamilton’s McLaren teammate, Jenson Button, has been training since the British GP and yesterday took part in the GranFondo Valberg bike race through the mountains, finishing the 130km ride in 11th overall after completing the hilly course in 4hrs 38mins.
Button feels its vital McLaren get their season back on track over the coming fortnight, starting in Germany this weekend.
The 2009 F1 world champion said: “The final back-to-back before we head into the summer break will be important for the whole team: coming off the back of a couple of disappointing weekends, it’s important that we capitalise on the opportunities available in Germany and Hungary.
“I’ve always enjoyed Hockenheim. I raced here when it blasted through the forests – a long time ago! – and I had a great race here in 2004, finishing second, despite starting back in 13th after a penalty for an engine failure in practice.
“It’s a circuit where you can attack; it’s good for racing and the newer layout is better for the spectators, too.”
As for how McLaren will do out in Germany, Button added: “Performance-wise, I still think it’s difficult to accurately predict where we stand in the competitive order – Valencia and Silverstone were certainly difficult races for us, but I don’t think they were truly representative of our pace.
“This year, you really need a problem-free build-up to the race if you’re going to maximise the car’s potential – and that’s exactly what we’ll be hoping for in Germany next weekend.”
Martin Whitmarsh, the team principal of McLaren Mercedes, says everyone in the team is motivated to turning things around.
He said: “Of course, after Silverstone, our focus immediately turned to Hockenheim, which, along with the Hungaroring in Budapest, will bring the curtain down on the first half of the season at the end of the month.
“There is a huge resolve within the operation to ensure that our aggressive development strategy is upheld across the summer: we are determined to narrow the gap to the championship leaders before the start of the summer break.”