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German GP - Qualifying

2016-07-30 00:00:00 (This report was created at 2016-07-30 11:19:44)

Firstly I must apologise for referring to this track as the Nurburgring in the preview…we are at the Hockenhiemring of course. These Germans do like their rings!

Anyway FP3 has thrown up the prospect of a good race…at least between Ferrari and Red Bull in the battle for second place. Only 0.44 seconds covers the top 6 cars and while we can expect Mercedes to turn their PU's to the qualifying setting and get another 1-2, on a short lap the driver can make a big difference. Any mistake will be very expensive and a perfect lap could be enough to cause a surprise.

Hamilton is using a PU that is pretty much at the end of its useful life and he will have been looking after it in free practice so expect a bit more pace from him, certainly more than 0.057 he was behind Rosberg this morning. He is under investigation for an unsafe pit lane release going into qualifying and I wonder if the powers that be can see an opportunity to 'spice up the show' and give out a grid penalty to Hamilton …to give Rosberg a better chance of winning his home race….making the championship race closer and with Hamilton due to take a maximum penalty for having to take a sixth engine at Spa it will help make the title race closer for longer. A fine is more usual but a grid penalty is not unprecedented.

Rosberg has been incredibly consistent in qualifying….never outside the front row in eleven races is good, even in the best car. However if Hamilton has no dramas he invariably is quicker. He knows he has a tough race coming up in Belgium where he will most likely start at the back of the grid so maximising his points here is important…starting with qualifying. His head is in the right place at the moment, which is not always the case and he derseves to be the favourite……but he isn't.

The two Mercedes drivers (who have had pole position in 10 of the 11 races so far) are joint even money favourites in a rare case of generosity by the bookmakers who are perhaps paying too much attention to the closeness of the Red Bull of Ricciardo, the only other drive to have been on pole position this season. That was at the unique Monaco circuit which is a lot slower than this Hockenhiemring and when it comes to power, Mercedes can still turn up the wick more than anyone else.

3 points Hamilton to be the fastest qualifier @ even money generally available

We have backed Perez to finish in the top 6 which with hindsight was the wrong thing to do….before qualifying. The Force India is a much better race car than a qualifying car. The changes made to car earlier in the season seems to have made it slower over a single lap and Perez in particular has struggled in qualifying. In the last six qualifying sessions he has averaged a grid position of 10.17 and that includes his 2nd in Baku! Only twice in those races has he made Q3 while Hulkenberg has averaged 7.83 and beaten Perez 5-1.

The German has been faster than his team mate in every session so far this weekend and he looks a good bet to beat Perez in qualifying once again.

4 points Hulkenberg to out qualify Perez @ 13/20 with Sportingbet

The next update will be posted around 1 hour before the start of the race tomorrow.

German GP - Preview

2016-07-31 00:00:00 (This report was created at 2016-07-27 11:21:40)

Hot on the heels of a disappointing Hungarian GP Formula 1 returns to Germany after a year’s absence with this weekend’s German GP from the Mercedes owned Nurburgring. This is not the fantastic old Nurburgring with its long, long straights through the forest section but the remodeled and neutered Herman Tilke version, first used in 2002.

The new circuit still features a long straight but nothing like the great loop which demanded an ultralow downforce set up which was completely unsuited to the slow twisty stadium section, which made it such a good test of driver and engineers. The track isn’t total pants but it lacks anything outstanding. There is a good overtaking and crashing opportunity at the hairpin at the end of the long straight (which is a long curve really), the entry into the stadium section is a flat out corner and the first corner is always entertaining on the first lap.

The circuit does require good power but stability under braking and good traction out of the slower corners are also key requirements. That is not great news for Ferrari whose car suffers from poor traction and isn’t great in slow corners. That said they competitive over a race distance in Hungary with all the slow corners there so it is really on Saturdays were Ferrari are struggling….just as they have been for several years now.

The weather forecast is for a 20% chance of showers on Friday and Saturday while Sunday will be partly cloudy but dry. The air temperature is not forecast to rise above 21 degrees through the weekend which is a little on the cool side for Ferrari, especially for qualifying.

Mercedes are strong pretty much everywhere but the very slow circuits and this is not one of them. The last race here, and the only one of the hybrid era, was in 2014 were Rosberg won his home race and Hamilton was 3rd….but he started from 20th on the grid so there is every possibility that we see Mercedes fourth 1-2 of the season come Sunday. They have the power, the traction, the braking and a very good aero package to go well here.

Red Bull failed to properly challenge Mercedes in Hungary, on a track that really gave them a chance. They are still lacking the power to match the Mercedes and while they have a very competitive chassis, that is unlikely to be enough around this track. They are in a battle with Ferrari and are just a single point behind the under pressure Italian team. There is no doubt that Ferrari are circling their wagons and looking inwards and something is going to give (news broke on Wednesday morning that chief designer, James Alinson, is to leave the team with immediate effect). Their problem has been qualifying for years now and yet they knew that to beat Mercedes you need to have them behind you on the track, making them run in dirty air, but still they build cars lacking qualifying pace.

Vettel will be up for his home race but so will Rosberg who desperately needs a win to stop the charging Hamilton who now has all the momentum behind him. Hamilton has won five of the last six races but he does need to build a bigger lead over Rosberg as the British driver will soon have to take grid penalties for having to use an extra engine after so many mechanical problems earlier in the season.

Williams are hanging on to 4th place but for how long? They got off to a strong start to the season but they have scored just 29 of their 94 points in the last six races while 4th placed Force India have score 60 points in the same races. Bottas was second here in 2014 while Massa crashed out on lap one, so there is every chance they will be reasonably competitive here but they have been very poor on tracks that were supposed to suit their strengths in recent weeks and they will struggle in the slower corners. Massa is in particularly poor form with just two 10th places from the last six races.

Force India started the season poorly but their upgrades have worked and they have the fourth best car on the grid right now, by a clear margin. This gives them the opportunity to get a top 6 finish if any of the top three teams have problems. Hulkenberg is another home driver and he is having a good run of consistent form with five top 10’s from his last six races. For short price backers his odds of 1/2 are generous for another top 10. Perez is ahead in the championship and is having a good season with two podiums. One in Monaco and the other at Baku, both street circuits but with very different demands. He has had three top 6 finishes from the last six races and is worth a modest bet to do so again.

2 points Perez to finish in the top 6 @ 2/1 with Hills and Betvictor

Toro Rosso have become a one-man team now with Carlos Sainz proving himself to be one of the best drivers on the grid, getting his 2015 Ferrari powered car home in the points in six of the last seven races. Kvyat has been dire since being demoted to Toro Rosso from Red Bull and his days in F1 must be numbered now even if Williams are said to be interested, for reasons known only to them. At the risk of repeating myself, Sainz remains underrated by the bookies, Ladbrokes in particular seem to be ignoring his form race in race out, and he remains good value even at 4/6 for another top 10. The relative lack of power will not help but the same goes for McLaren so the way should be clear for more points for Sainz but I am going to look elsewhere for a points finish.

McLaren are closing the gap to Toro Rosso and with Honda able to continue to improve the PU throughout the season while Toro Rosso stuck with the fixed power of the 2015 Ferrari PU that could be enough to get the McLaren ahead in the second half of the season but on this power hungry circuit which is also heavy on fuel consumption they may a bit on the margin of point scoring. Reliability remains poor and they are consistently overrated by the bookies and offer little or no value.

Haas started the season well, maybe a little lucky at times, but with just one top 10 finish from the last seven races they are hard to fancy, especially in the relatively cool conditions that are forecast.

Renault have given up on any serious development of this year’s car and have already scored those precious points in Russia but they showed some real competitive pace in Hungary. It was massively annoying to see Palmer do a great job to work his way up to 10th place completely on merit and then just lose his rear end, spin and lose two places. Was that some strange track specific blip in form or have they found something in their set up which has released some performance? The team say that they tried some different suspension set ups at the post British GP test at Silverstone and they now have a better idea about how to set the up to best effect and it showed in Hungary. They are still a team under the bookies radar as Palmer didn’t actually get that top 10…but he should have, even after a very disrupted free practice program.

Magnussen raced here for McLaren in 2014 and he qualified 4th, beating Jenson Button by 7 places. A collision with Massa on the first lap meant he dropped back to last place and eventually finished 10th. Both Renault drivers are worth backing at good price as it is very possible that they have found the X factor which is allowing them to get the most from the car. The drivers said in the first few races of the year that the car was basically good to drive but thy lost their way after that. There is potential for a surprise here.

1 point Palmer to finish in the top 10 @ 12/1 with Betvictor

1 point Magnussen to finish in the points @ 8/1 with Betvictor

The next update will be around 30 minutes before qualifying on Saturday