The opening round of the season in Melbourne doesn’t seem that long ago and yet this weekend in Germany, the Formula 1 circus is about to rush pell-mell into a pair of back-to-back races that takes it over the halfway point of the year and into the summer break.
The first of this pair of races takes place at the Hockenheimring, a biennial venue, as the race shares its place on the calendar with the Nurburgring. After the last round in Silverstone, Scuderia Ferrari and the other ten teams stayed on at the English circuit and, following Kimi Raikkonen’s accident, from which the Finn is now fully recovered, test driver Pedro de la Rosa was installed in the cockpit of the F14 T for one day. Part of the team since January 2013, the Spaniard spends most of his working life with the Scuderia in the simulator, so a day on track was a rare treat. “It was fantastic to be back in the car, it was such a rush,” admits Pedro. “It was an important opportunity to actually drive the real car from the point of view of correlating the results from the simulator and the track to see that all the work we are doing in the simulator is correct. Car handling, power delivery, so many things are different from when I used to race. That’s why it’s so important to have these test days for the F1 test drivers like me that do a lot of simulator work. We learned a lot in Silverstone, carrying out a steady development programme. Race by race we are improving and we are not giving up on this year, even if we are also thinking already about 2015.”
Hockenheim in mid-July is usually one of the hottest venues on the calendar and will provide a stern test of car reliability. In addition, Pirelli’s aggressive choice of running the Soft and Supersoft tyres will make for exciting racing, while requiring the teams to pay close attention to tyre management. “Hockenheim is a very complete track where you require everything from the car,” is De la Rosa’s assessment. “You need power, the right car balance front to rear and you need good downforce, because although it’s not a particularly long track, it has all types of corner. For example, in the first sector, you will need a very strong front end for Turn 1, otherwise if you have a bit of understeer there, you cannot put the power down and you lose a lot of exit speed. Good traction is essential for Turns 2 and 5, because after these corners come the two longest straights on the track, while the hairpin at Turn 6 is the perfect overtaking opportunity For the last sector, you just need a lot of downforce. That’s the part of the track with the most corners and it’s where a good car aerodynamically and mechanically shows up.”