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7 Days and counting

Just a quick heads-up to say I’m not gonna be around for the next week or so. Unfortunately this means no Hungarian Grand Prix coverage, mainly because I’m likely to miss the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Also a note on First F1’s race coverage. Today I posted the coverage of the German Grand Prix weekend, over a week after the race. Although I’d rather not draw attention to this, it probably seems a bit pointless. That’s why from the European Grand Prix onwards I’ll be (hopefully) posting the race coverage during the weekend. Who ever heard of coverage like that? Not particularly interesting news, I know, but more info to come soon.

Tis all for now, I’ll be back next week with plenty of blog posts coming up.

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The Hockenhiemring has made a successful return into Formula One with yet another action-packed race, mostly thanks to Timo Glock and McLaren. The race marks some significant changes in the seasons setup but lets take a look at all the action last week in Germany.

Free Practice One
Formula One made its return to Hockenheim in the rain. The rain stopped in time for the start of the session, but the track stayed wet. The usual routine began, Adrain Sutil was first out for an installation lap followed by most of the other drivers before they all dived back to the pits. The real action started quicker than normal, especially considering the conditions. Sebastain Vettel was keen to get started at his home race and set the first time of the day. He was shortly followed by Lewis Hamilton who promptly spun. Once most drivers were out, the wet conditions on track began to dry quickly making each lap a fastest lap. Nearly 15 drivers led the session at some point including all 5 home German drivers. BMW’s Robert Kubica tried to restore some normality in the time but failed after spinning at the first turn and becoming the only driver of the session to make contact with a wall. Normality was restored, however, when the Ferraris left the pits and Felipe Massa came out on top. The Brazilian was still leading by the end of the session but a lap from McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen pushed Massa down to second. Lewis Hamilton then showed McLarens superiority taking first from his teammate and ending the session in a McLaren 1-2.

Free Practice Two
The track dried up and the weather improved for the second session of Practice at the Hockenheimring. Hamilton wasted no time in going strait back to the top of the time sheets with Kovalainen again slotting in behind. Honda’s Rubens Barrichello attempted a fight with McLaren but spun on track. The Ferraris the headed out, with Kimi Raikkonen visibly struggling. He couldn’t get enough pace to beat his Ferrari teammate who pushed his way into second. Barrichello then had another spin followed by a few problems at the last turn for Hamilton and German driver, Timo Glock. Glock caught a bit of air before hitting the ground with a bump. Massa was not nearing Hamilton’s time, getting closer with each lap. He eventually took first but not by enough as Hamilton once again stole first place with his final lap. Massa and Raikkonen completed the session second and third with Kovalainen fourth and Webber coming out on top of Alonso in the battle for fifth.

Free Practice Three
The weather stayed dry for the final session of practice in Germany. Honda’s Jenson Button set the first benchmark with the Toyotas following behind. Toro Rosso were next out and Sebastian Bourdais set the first time before leaving the track and letting Vettel through to go fastest. Hamilton quickly took the top spot before Vettel forgot he was in a Toro Rosso and beat the McLarens time. The Finnish drivers then left the pits, Kovalainen easily taking first whilst Raikkonen continued to struggle in fifth. The last 10 minutes were filled with action, Massa went fastest and this time Hamilton couldn’t match the time but his teammate could. Kovalainen finished first and Massa, Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel made up the top five.

Qualifying
The wind picked up for the start of qualifying and the possibility of rain increased later on.
Session One
With five minutes of the session gone, Vettel set the first notable time in front of Rosberg and Glock leaving three German drivers on top. The Ferraris were on top for most of the session with Webber hanging on to third. Hamilton made a little error at the hairpin but still too first from Massa. The Brazilian fought back to first and stayed there with Raikkonen also beating Hamilton’s time and ending up in second. Attention then focused on the battle for survival. Coulthard, Boudais, Trulli, Rosberg and Glock all made in into Quali two with some fast times. Nakajima scraped into 14th leaving Button with it all to do. He also could only manage 14th. Alonso moved up to tenth leaving and Button just made it though. Nakajima, Piquet, Barrichello, Sutil and Fisichella were excluded from the rest of Qualifying.
Session Two
Surprisingly, Ferrari were the first to head out in session two of qualifying with Massa still faster than a struggling Raikkonen. The McLarens then sandwiched Massa with Hamilton first and Kovalainen second whilst Raikkonen slipped to fifth behind Alonso. Vettel made his way into the pole shootout in eighth whilst Robert Kubica moved up to fifth. Coulthard also got through but Heidfeld, Button and Rosberg couldn’t get out of the drop zone. Glock, Heidfeld, Rosberg, Button and Bourdais failed to make it into the pole shootout.
Session Three
Trulli was the first to set a time for the deciding 10 minutes of qualifying, faster than the Red Bull drivers and Vettel. Raikkonen was now visibly struggling to set fast times and only just went faster than Trulli. Massa then crossed the line nearly a second faster. Raikkonen’s final and deciding lap put him in second right behind Massa. Massa then went even quicker. Kovalainen slipped in between the two Ferraris but Hamilton was going even faster and took pole. Trulli and Alonso took fourth and fifth pushing Raikkonen down to sixth and Vettel finished between the two Red Bulls in ninth.

Race
Massa pressured Hamilton of the the start but he turned defensive when Kovalainen tried to pass and let Hamilton go. Kubica had a good start and when the cars reached the hiarpin, Kovalainen hit the breaks early allowing Kubica to get past both Alonso and Trulli into fourth. Alonso was desperate to get past Trulli and when he reached the second lap he pushed to hard and ran wide allowing Raikkonen past. Coulthard had a terrible start and had dropped to 14th behind Button. He was right behind the Honda but Button was putting up a fight and not letting him through. After a few failed attempts Coulthard did get past. Hamilton had now built a big lead and entered the pits. It looked like he would come out in front of Trulli but the Toyota driver went defensive and Hamilton ended up behind. The Brit then overeacted slightly and nearly crashed into the back of the Toyota. Trulli pitted on the next lap. Within the next few laps everyone pitted except Piquet who was on a one-stop strategy. The race then settled down with Hamilton pulling away further each lap. As Glock attempted the final turn his right rear suspension failed and he hit the concrete wall on the other side of the track and crossed the track again. He was winded and debris was left all over the track. The Safety Car was deployed. Everyone entered the pits except Hamilton and Piquet. Piquet had left the pits just before the safety car was released and had moved up to third behind Hamilton and Heidfeld. McLaren said Hamilton would not pit during the safety car which caused confusion as he still needed to make his second stop. Button came out just behind Hamilton and when lapped cars overtook, he was unable to as he had not been lapped by the race leader. Mark Webber left the pits with smoke pouring out of his Red Bull and was forced to retire. The saftey car returned to the pits and Coulthard ended up behind the second Honda of Barrichello. They crashed and Rubens retired. Hamilton finnaly had his pitstop around 15 seconds ahead of Piquet. It wasn’t enough and he rejoined in fourth behind Piquet, Massa and Kovalainen. He easily passed Kovalainen in what looked like team orders. Massa didn’t put up too much of a fight and was passed. Piquet was happy to settle for second. Hamilton won the race in front of Piquet, Massa, Heidfeld, Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Kubica and Vettel.

Championship
The Championship order stays the same but the points stretch out with Hamilton on 58, Massa on 54, Raikkonen on 51, Kubica on 48 and Heidfeld on 41. Piquets season changes for the better. He is ahead of the Williams and Toro Rosso drivers plus Coulthard and Button McLaren once again close up to BMW, two ponts behind.

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As the 2008 season arrives at the half-way point, three drivers were left on equal points. Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen are all on 48 points with Robert Kubica only 2 points behind on 46 heading into todays race. At the moment, this years world champion is any ones guess with the competition far more fierce than ever predicted. Lets take a look at how this four-way battle for the top-spot has come about, with half the races completed.

Kimi Räikkönen
The reigning world champions still looks to be in the best position to retain his title, with his pace being proved after managing to set the fastest lap in every race since the Spanish Grand Prix. Still, the opposition is pressuring him and an unexpected challenge from his Ferrari teammate is letting the McLarens and BMW though. The Ferrari is the faster car, but McLaren are catching up quickly and the advantage of pure race pace in the car is rapidly disappearing. Perhaps one crucial advantage for the Finn, he has the experience. He has been in a championship battle 3 times and not come out of it on top. He is still the favourite, but for how long?

Felipe Massa
Massa is almost definitely the improvement of the season. How far hes come, not just since 2007, but since the start of this season, is quite astonishing. At the start of the season his poor performances, retirements and disability to drive without traction control were likely to give him the boot from Ferrari, with some saying he wouldn’t last the season. Somehow he has completely turned his season around and has now equaled his teammates points tally and is a firm championship contender, starting to really worry his world champion teammate. Hes the outside chance, but after each race he looks more and more likely to be able to take the 2008 drivers trophy, as the season progresses.
Lewis Hamilton
The 21 year-old Briton has gone from being a rookie GP2 driver to a megastar in just 2 years. He has shown hes capable of getting the results he needs for a championship contender but, despite some brilliant performances, some bad mistakes have left him equal with the Ferraris, rather than pulling away into the distance. Last year he was in a position which most drivers could only dream of. He would easily won the championship but unnecessary mistakes in China and Brazil undid all his hard work in the previous races. He has carried the great performances and bad mistakes into the 2008 season but has not yet mastered the art of ignoring the press. The tabloid stories this year has affected him. As long as he can put the pressure behind him and get on and drive, he will bring this championship down to the very end.
Robert Kubica
The Polish driver has amazed everyone this year including himself. A massively improved BMW has left the driver that everyone had written off before the season come only 2 points away from the top three. Has has completely out performed his more experienced teammate, who is struggling with tyre temperatures in qualifying. He grabbed his first win in Canada and came close in Monaco but being 10 points ahead of his teammate has left his well and truly in the battle. As usual, the pole is saying he wont stand a chance when it comes to the championship decider and the car isn’t far enough. But hes come this far and he does stand a chance if he can keep up the results for the remainder of the races.
So there we are. Four drivers all with a shot at the championship. The next nine races will decide who comes out on top. The more immediate battle is who will come out on top at the Hockenhiemring. Hamilton is on pole with Massa right behind him and Kubica and Raikkonen having their own battle, which they could bring forward. Who will get the best start of Part 2 of the championship? Its been a very long time, but these four drivers won’t be going anywhere. Its gonna go down to the wire.

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The Hockenheimring hosts the 55th German Grand Prix and the tenth round of the 2008 World Championship. After negotiations with the rival German circuit, the Nurburgring, broke down the German Grand Prix was canclled for 2007. But it’s back now and will alternate between the circuits each season. This year its in the Hockenheimring at Hockenheim, Germany. This is what to expect from a crucial half-way point in the season, with three drivers on equal points.

Last Years Race
There was not a German race in 2007.
Information
The German Grand Prix has a long history, with the early history dominated by the second world war. It has also seen many battles between the Hockenhiemring and the Nurbugring for the rights to the Grand Prix. After the war, Germany was disallowed to host an Grand Prix for the inaugural season, so hosted a F2 event at the Nurburgring before moving to F1 in 1951. In these days the original 12-mile Nurburgring Nordschleife was used. Often known as ‘The Green Hell’, the circuit saw many serious accidents and in 1970 the Hockenheimring hosted its first Grand Prix due to safety issues at the Nurbugring after the fatal crash of German driver, Gerhard Mitter. The Grand Prix returned to Nurburg but with increased safety concerns, the 1976 race would be the last one. Ironically, F1 Champion, Niki Lauda, was very nearly killed at that race but was saved by fellow drivers. The race went back to the Hokenheimring, making one more appearance at the newly designed Nurburgring before the circuit was given the European Grand Prix and F1 in Germany has remained at Hockenhiem ever since.
The 2008 Formula one Grosser Preis Santander von Deutschland is the 796th F1 Grand Prix. It is hosted between the 18th and 20th of July. The race will be 67 laps. Pole Position in 2006 was McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen with 1:14.070. Ferrari’s Micheal Scumacher set the fastest lap of the race, 1:16.357.
Circuit
Big changes have been made to the Hockenheimring in recent years. These changes have been mostly unpopular, with a fast sweeping forest section cut-off making the track much shorter. The main strait is very short so it can fit in, what is effectively a stadium surrounding part of the track. The first corner is very fast with a decent exit being vital. Turns two and three lead out to the parabolika. The longest strait on the circuit, which comes as a result of cutting-off the large forest area of the track. The strait leads up to the tight hairpin where heavy braking is needed after the high-speeds of the parabolika strait. Turn five is flat-out as is the exit of the apex at turn seven. The cars then re-enter the stadium and slow down for the last few corners, where spinning an F1 car is all too easy to do. The drivers then arrive at the short main strait to complete the lap. The current distance of the circuit is 4.574km or 2.842 miles. The lap record is held by Kimi Raikkonen in a McLaren with 1:13.780 in 2004.
Championship
With the race at Germany starting the second half of the season, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa are all tied at the top of the championship with 48 points and Robert Kubica is only two points behind on 46. Its anybodies guess at the moment, but each driver will want to pull away as the deciding part of the season gets underway. The German Grand Prix has always been a unpredictable one but McLaren have been waiting ten years for a win here and they look to be the favourites. Heikki Kovalainen is in a good position to become the 100th Grand Prix winner this weekend.
News
Yet again, rain could play a deciding part of the weekend. Although forecasts are sketchy at best, some drivers will once again be wanting rain for a more unpredictable race. Five drivers have there home race in Germany, more than any other race, with Nico Rosberg, Sebastain Vettel, Nick Heidfeld, Adrian Sutil and Timo Glock wanting to impress in front of their fans.

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Red Bull have finally announced, to nobodies surprise, that Sebastian Vettel will take David Coulthards seat at Red Bull from 2009, ending any interest from double world champion Fernando Alonso. The young German started his F1 career in 2006 testing for BMW. He has been racing for Red Bull’s sister team, Toro Rosso, since the sacking of Scott Speed in mid-2007. Although having a drive at McLaren blocked by Toro Rosso’s Gerhard Berger, he has remained focused at Toro Rosso in the hope of getting a seat at the main Red Bull team. He will be second driver to Mark Webber.

In a statement yesterday, Vettel said: “I am very proud to be joining Red Bull Racing and it’s always good to have an early decision on what you are doing next year. I have been part of the Red Bull family for a long time, with its Junior Team since 2000. Throughout my career, they have offered me great support and now, to drive for their senior F1 team is a dream come true and I am looking forward to having a great season next year, even if I still have a lot to learn about F1.”
This ends rumours of Red Bull being interested in filling Coulthard’s seat with Fernando Alonso. This means the Spaniard’s chances of leaving Renault for a more competitive team next season are fast running out. This also leaves a spare seat at Toro Rosso for next year. GP2 driver, Bruno Senna, who is challenging for the GP2 title this year, has been heavily linked with Toro Rosso and has also said he wants to enter F1 in 2009. Other hopefuls include A1GP champion for Switzerland, Neel Jani, GP2 drivers Karun Chandhok and Roman Grosjean and also Red Bull test driver, Sebastien Buemi who would also successfully fit the current trend of Sebastiens in Toro Rosso.
Toro Rosso have not yet issued a statement but Red Bull team principle, Christian Horner said: “We are confident that Red Bull Racing will make the most of these attributes and believe that, in Mark and Sebastian, we have a very competitive driver line-up for 2009.” The 21 year old German driver will be staying at Toro Rosso for the remainder of the season and will hope for a strong result this weekend at his home GP.

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Bernie Ecclestone has one again changed his mind over the future of F1 in Australia when the FOM announced that the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne will continue to host the Australian Grand Prix until 2015 last week. From 2009 onwards the Grand Prix will start at 5:00pm local time (6:00am GMT), one hour and a half later than this years race start.

At the beginning of the season, Bernie had said he wanted the Australian race to take place at night to make viewing times more appropriate for European audiences. This year the race start in GMT was 4:30am which was described by Bernie as “Unacceptable.” Just before this years race, Bernie threatened to kick the Melbourne race off the calendar after 2010 saying “At the moment, it is ridiculous that people are asked not to sleep in order to see it live. That can’t carry on. The alternative is to pull the race completely from Australia. I’ve spoken to (Australian prime minister) Kevin Rudd and he’s told me it would cost too much to re-stage the race, so I guess that’s it. We won’t be going to Australia for too much longer.”
When offered a 5:00pm race start, Ecclestone insisted that was not enough to keep the race. “A 5:00pm start doesn’t help a lot, that’s not really what we are looking for. It needs to be a night race” but the event organisers responded saying “We’ve made it absolutely clear that there will be no night Grand Prix race in Melbourne. We don’t support it now, we don’t support it post-2010. We can’t be more unequivocal than that.” It turns out that the Australian race organisers were right to stand there ground as Bernie turned his opinion of a 5am start around saying last week “I’m satisfied that the decision to move to a later start time for 2009 races is a win for television audiences in Europe and Asia, a win for Melbourne and a win for Formula One as a whole.”
The Australian Grand Prix is likely to remain the first event on the calendar for the next few seasons, but this is just another example of the head of the FOM’s threats coming to nothing.

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Seeing as the British Grand Prix marks the half-way point of the season and that it is First F1’s home race, I thought it would be a good idea to try a new layout for this week’s race preview. All feedback is encouraged.

The 59th British Grand Prix marks the ninth round of the 2008 championship hosted at the Silverstone Circuit in Northamptonshire, England. This years race marks 60 years of racing at Silverstone, but it was announced this week that next years race will be the last when the Grand Prix goes to Donnington Park in 2010. In this new style First F1 preview, I’ll guide you through all the facts and preparation for the weekend.

Last Years Race
Lewis Hamilton started on pole in the 2007 British race, with world championship rivals, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso in second and third. Massa qualified fourth but stalled on the grid and started from the pit lane. Raikkonen was close but not close enough to take the lead form the Briton when the race began. Kubica, Kovalainen and Heidfeld were behind Alonso in fourth, fifth and sixth. Felipe Massa began his way back through the grid with an impressive display of overtaking. First was Albers, who was followed by Davidso, Button, Barrichello, Luizzi, Wurz, Speed, Rosberg, Coulthard and Trulli. Meanwhile at the front, Raikkonen was not letting Hamilton out of his sight, following his every move with Alonso close behind the Finn. Hamilton came into the pits but made a mistake and tried to leave too early. He recovered but lost time. Raikkonen pitted and comfortably took Hamilton for the lead. Kimi wasn’t leading for long, as Alonso got in front of both of them after his pit stop. Alonso laps Scott Speed from the lead but Speed wasn’t paying attention and made contact with Wurz giving the Austrian the position and retiring. Kimi Raikkonen got the jump on Alonso during his second pit stop and won the race in front of Alonso, Hamilton, Kubica, Massa, Heidfeld, and Kovalainen.

Information
The first British Grand Prix was held in 1948, before the official FIA Formula One World Championship began. When it did begin, in 1950, the Grand Prix was the first race on the calendar, making it the first official F1 Grand Prix. Since the inaugural season, the British Grand Prix has been included in every world championship season. The Italian Grand Prix is the only other race to have that statistic. From 1964 to 1986 the race alternated between Silverstone and Brands Hatch. The circuit at Aintree has hosted five Grands Prix with Silverstone hosting the rest.

The 2008 Formula One Santander British Grand Prix is the 795th F1 Grand Prix. It is hosted between the 4th to the 6th of July. The race will be 60 laps. Last years pole position lap time was set by McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton with a time of 1:19.997. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest lap time in the race was 1:20.638.

Circuit
The Silverstone Circuit is a very old circuit which has seen many changes over the years to adapt to Formula One. Copse is the first corner which spreads the field out strait away, making first corner incidents less likely at Silverstone. A small mistake round the first turn will send you off the track in a strait line. The S bends of Maggots, Becketts and Chapel follow with the Hangar Strait taking the cars down to stowe. Silverstone is not very heavy breaking but Stowe is the heaviest braking corner on the track with deceleration of around 100 km/h. This also makes Stowe a good overtaking spot. After a few more short straits, drivers arrive at the Abbey chicane before entering the fast right-hand turn of bridge. Once past the final few corners the drivers head though turn 17 of Woodcote to complete the lap. The current distance of the circuit is 5.141km or 3.194 miles. The lap record is 1:18.739 set by Micheal Schumacher in a Ferrari in 2004.

Timetable

Championship
With four different drivers having led the championship, the 2008 season proves to be much wider open than last year. As expected, Ferrari brought home a 1-2 finish in France two weeks ago, and with Silverstone being another Ferrari circuit the Italian team should be happy. One thing the Italians don’t have is the overwhelming support that is brought to Silverstone for the British drivers. Jenson Button, David Coulthard and Lewis Hamilton will all be hoping for a strong performance in front of their fans.

News
Silverstone always attracts a great atmosphere and often produces some great races but the British weather can always play a part. Rain has been stated as probable for Sundays race with the whole weekend overcast. In other non weather-related news, it has been confirmed the British Grand Prix will leave Silverstone after the 2009 race for Donnigton park in 2009. Bernie Ecclestone has said that the move will put British motor sport back on the map.

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