12 July 2014
Hockenheim F1 balancing act for Red Bull
Daniel Ricciardo knows that pinning down a set-up suitable for a track of two halves will be crucial for landing another F1 podium in Germany.
Daniel Ricciardo says finding the right set-up balance for the two halves of Hockenheim will be crucial to Red Bull's chances of returning to the podium next weekend.
The Australian held off Jenson Button for third place in the recent British Grand Prix, but knows that the McLaren man – and a host of others – will be looking to supplant him in Germany, assuming that the Mercedes juggernaut continues to roll at the front of the F1 field.
Although championship leader Nico Rosberg was forced into his first DNF of 2014 at Silverstone, team-mate Lewis Hamilton picked up the baton and gave the Three Pointed Star its eighth win in nine races, leaving Ricciardo, Red Bull and the rest of the pack to scrap over the minor places. It was Williams' Valtteri Bottas who again came out on top in Britain, taking second place, and Ricciardo knows that he will be facing a tough task if he is to secure a fifth podium of the year and maintain his position in the top three overall.
“Hockenheim's quite a short track, but it's another of those with a little bit of everything,” he noted, “I don't think the track asks particularly big questions of the driver, though it requires you to be quite brave through the fast turn one and the right-hander into the stadium – that's largely about having the confidence in the car to get you through those corners quickly.
“The other thing you need is good stability under the heavy braking for the hairpin so, all in all, it's a balancing act. You'd like to have the downforce for the stadium and to keep it steady on the brakes but, equally, you don't want too much drag on the straights.”
For Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, Hockenheim is a chance to strut his stuff in front of the 'home' fans, although the German hasn't had much to shout about in 2014.
With RBR struggling with the performance its Renault engine, the four-time world champion has yet to win a race this season – Ricciardo being the only man to break the Mercedes stranglehold with a fortuitous victory in Canada – and currently languishes in an unfamiliar sixth spot in the championship, trailing not only his Australian colleague, but also Bottas and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.
Despite his poor run – he has been forced into retirement three times in the nine races so far and has a best result of third – Vettel is keen to reward the support he knows he will receive over the weekend, just as Hamilton did at Silverstone last weekend.
“I always enjoy the atmosphere at the Hockenheimring,” he confirmed, “When you arrive at track in the morning the circuit's already filled with fans and, when you're in the car, you can see lots of German flags in the grandstands. The signing session is always very busy too….
“It's those little things I really enjoy about Hockenheim. We get a lot of encouragement. During practice, you know that the fans in the grandstands are there to support you and stand by you, no matter what. Of course, you want to give as much as possible back to the fans, but sometimes it's not in your hands. However we will attack at the weekend and give everything.”
Red Bull continues to lead the pursuit of a fleeing Mercedes in the constructors' standings, albeit now 158 points behind the Silver Arrows. The Milton Keynes squad is 62 points clear of Ferrari, with Williams a further three points back entering the second half of the season.
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