By Alan Baldwin
Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg can keep Germany on a winning roll on Sunday by becoming the first German driver in the history of the Formula One world championship to win his home grand prix with a German car.
It has been 60 years since a Mercedes works team last won at home – and it was the late Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio they had to thank for that in 1954.
The historians would have to delve back to 1939, before the outbreak of World War Two, to find the last all-German home triumph – Rudolf Caracciola for Mercedes-Benz at the Nurburgring.
Now, after Fangio’s compatriots failed to deny Germany victory in last Sunday’s World Cup final, Rosberg arrives at Hockenheim with the party well underway and fans keen to keep the beer flowing in the forest campsites as F1 reaches the halfway point in the season.
He has plenty to celebrate himself, having signed a new multi-year contract after getting married last week and, even if his team are British based, a win for the ‘Silver Arrows’ in Germany will be something special.
Rosberg knows he has a real chance, even if he may have lost some of the momentum after suffering his first retirement of the season in the previous race at Silverstone won by team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
The German is still four points clear of the Briton and hungry for his first home win – if Monaco, where he grew up and lives, is excluded from the reckoning.
“I lost a lot of points and the championship battle is very close but I’m feeling good,” he said this week.
“Hockenheim is a crucial race for all of us, it’s the home grand prix for Mercedes-Benz and a second home race for me after Monaco, so I’m really focused on getting a top result this weekend.
“It’s actually the circuit I’ve won the most races at during my career through all the junior categories so I know it suits my driving style,” he added.
It also suits Hamilton, with the Briton winning there in his 2008 title season, and a repeat will see him regain the overall lead – with Hungary, where he won last year, next up.
“It is always good to beat others on their home turf. It will be great to win in Germany,” he told reporters after Silverstone. “This is a fresh start, the second half of the season and this is really when it is going to be tough.”
Red Bull’s quadruple champion Sebastian Vettel was a home winner last year at the Nurburgring while Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso has won the last two races held at Hockenheim under the current alternation agreement.
“The last 2 times we had the race in Hockenheim, 2 victories,” the Spaniard tweeted this week, before posting a mock-up of himself as Superman. “This weekend should be a bit more difficult but still, I have a good feeling.”
How much competition Red Bull and Ferrari provide for Mercedes remains to be seen, with a rule change since Silverstone leaving question marks hanging over Hockenheim.
Race director Charlie Whiting wrote to teams warning that the governing FIA considered their front and rear interconnected suspension (FRIC) systems to be illegal.
Such systems, which stabilise the car through corners, have been in use for some years but the FIA believes they have now developed to the point where they are aerodynamic devices.
While the FIA offered teams the chance to keep using them until the end of the year, the necessary unanimous agreement appears to be lacking with some smaller teams eager for any opportunity to close gaps.
The question now is, if teams strip out the FRIC systems for fear of possible exclusion, who could suffer most and whether the pecking order might undergo a subtle shift.
Mercedes have the dominant car, and significant resources to improve it, but rivals will be watching closely for any signs of their considerable advantage narrowing.
“There are maybe a couple of teams who have been extreme and obviously who could be potentially in trouble to switch back to a non-connecting system,” McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier told reporters last week.
“But for most of the teams, I think it won’t be a game-changer.”
Williams have had Valtteri Bottas on the podium in the last two races and can expect to be competitive again while Alonso’s record – he has won three times at Hockenheim – means the Spaniard is always in the reckoning.
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg will be aiming to continue his record as one of only two drivers to score in every race this season while fellow-German Adrian Sutil is still seeking his first points of 2014 with Sauber.