Not since 1954 has a German car won a Formula One World Championship German Grand Prix. German drivers have won it – Michael and Ralf Schumacher, and last year’s winner Sebastian Vettel – and cars with German-badged engines have also won, but you have to look back to Juan Manuel Fangio’s win for Mercedes at the old Nurburgring Nordschliefe, once the most feared circuit in the world, to see a German car take the chequered flag. A German driver in a German car? You have to look back to the pre-war era, when German manufacturers Mercedes and Auto Union (the forerunner of Audi) were the dominant forces and employed drivers like Rudolf Caracciola, Bernd Rosemeyer and Hans Stuck Sr.
So no pressure on Nico Rosberg then. He might not necessarily be the most authentic German ever – his father is Finnish and he was brought up in Monaco – but he drives with the German flag on the side of his car, and that is all the records will show if he wins the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim this weekend.
And boy how he needs it. At the British Grand Prix, he looked all set to tighten his grip on the championship. After qualifying on pole with Lewis Hamilton losing out on a drying track, he led the race ahead of his team mate, only to suffer his first mechanical failure of the season. With Hamilton winning the race, Rosberg’s lead in the standings was slashed from 29 points to just four – had his car held out, it would probably have been 36.
Lewis Hamilton -167
Nico Rosberg +180
Valtteri Bottas +1600
(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)
Rosberg has now lost the momentum he had been building. In the previous three races, he had finished ahead of Hamilton and looked to be getting the better of his team mate, who was known to be faster but also more likely to make errors. Rosberg was always likely to have to rely on reliability and consistency to win the championship, so to lose 25 points to Hamilton at this stage was an enormous blow, as it puts the 2008 champion within striking distance once again – a win for the Brit here will see him take the championship lead.
Adding to the pressure, Rosberg’s record at the German Grand Prix is underwhelming. Since joining Mercedes in 2010, his best finish at the race, which is rotated between Hockenheim and the truncated Nurburgring, is seventh in 2011. In the last race at Hockenheim in 2012, he finished tenth, and last year at the Nurburgring he finished ninth.
It is a surprisingly poor record considering he spent the bulk of his junior career racing in Germany – he won the German Formula BMW series in 2002, followed by two years in the German-centric Formula Three Euro Series, during which time he won two races at Hockenheim. He even won at the circuit during his GP2 championship-winning season. So is it all just down to bad luck or poor machinery?
Hamilton, on the other hand, is a former winner at the circuit in F1, having taken a dramatic victory in 2008, carving his way through after a late safety car jumbled the field. However, this is the only time he has even finished on the podium at Hockenheim. In 2012, he retired after his 100th grand prix was ruined by an early puncture. However, he did also win the 2011 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring for McLaren.
The last two German Grands Prix at Hockenheim have been won by Fernando Alonso for Ferrari. The 2010 race was particularly memorable for the use of team orders, with the infamous “Fernando is faster than you” hint to his team mate Felipe Massa. But while Ferrari are off the pace and Alonso is unlikely to extend his winning run at the circuit, Massa may be a dark horse. Williams have shown improved pace in recent races, with Massa taking pole ahead of team mate Valtteri Bottas at the Spielberg circuit in Austria, a similar Hermann Tilke-designed circuit to Hockenheim, while Bottas charged through the field at Silverstone to finish second.
How sweet would it be if four years after being asked to concede a victory to his team mate, Massa ended his victory drought, which stretches back to the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix. Williams too have not tasted success much in recent years, with just one win since the end of 2004, and Bottas is yet to win, so any win for one of the team’s drivers would be popular and emotional. And yet they may be the nearest challengers to the dominant Silver Arrows.
As for home favourite Sebastian Vettel, it seems unlikely that he will mount a challenge. Instead, he will just be hoping for a change of luck – and to beat his team mate for once. Amazingly, Vettel is yet to beat his team mate Daniel Ricciardo in a race where both drivers finish, and only picked up a better result than the Australia in Malaysia, where Ricciardo failed to finish. Part of this is down to unreliability, but Vettel also simply hasn’t been as consistent as the youngster, and few would deny that the 28-point lead he has isn’t representative.
Vettel, like Rosberg, has a very patchy record on home soil, his win at the Nurburgring last year ending a poor run of results. The last time he came to Hockenheim, he was penalised by driving off the track while overtaking Jenson Button, dropping him from second to fifth, leaving his best result at the circuit as the third place finish in 2010. Surely it is unlikely that he will finish any higher than that on Sunday.
Instead, the attention at home will be focusing on Rosberg. His father Keke won the world championship via stealth in 1982, winning only one race all season. Nico has employed similar tactics this season, but he has to win races too if he is going to defeat his team mate. Hockenheim is as good a place as any to start.
Betting Instinct tip – Nico Rosberg to win the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship is +130 with AllYouBet.ag, and a win this weekend would put him in a great spot to do so.
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JAMES BENNETT (James) is a History MPhil/PhD student, who writes about soccer, Formula 1 and the NFL in his spare time to pay for his studies. He is also a Torquay United fan. He publishes articles in his sports blog, and you can follow him on Twitter and Google+.