Toyota - Ralf Schumacher (#11), Jarno Trulli (#12):

Like BMW, Panasonic Toyota Racing will be on home ground this weekend, with the N?rburgring located just an hour's drive away from its factory in Cologne. With a large turnout from base expected at the circuit, the team is determined to take more points after another promising, but ultimately frustrating, race weekend at Silverstone, where Ralf Schumacher showed the potential of the TF107 by qualifying a season-best sixth, but neither he nor team-mate Jarno Trulli finished.

After the high-speed corners of Magny-Cours and Silverstone, the N?rburgring represents a return to medium downforce specification and, as with most races this season, the team brings an upgraded car to the race weekend, with small aerodynamic improvements fitted the British Grand Prix.

"At Silverstone, our level of performance was good - the best so far this season - but, obviously, we struggled to deliver a race result which corresponded to our level of our performance and that was disappointing," admitted senior general manager Pascal Vasselon, "We definitely hope to show the same level of performance at the N?rburgring. It's always nice to have our home race, we can feel the pressure and encouragement from our supporters in the grandstands and this is an additional motivation for the race team. Our goal for this weekend has to be to score points and see our drivers fight for the top six again.

"The track character is different because Silverstone is an extreme track in terms of tyre severity and average cornering speed. N?rburgring is more average in all aspects - in terms of downforce, as we will run medium downforce, in terms of braking stability and tyre usage. You have a bit of everything - you can be traction limited and front end limited. It is an average track but it doesn't mean that average is not interesting - it's a challenging track but without the special character of Silverstone."

Both Schumacher and Trulli have naturally said that they want to consign Silverstone to history, but keep the level of performance that they showed in qualifying.

"Silverstone was a weekend to forget to be honest," the Italian admitted, "We had a good opportunity to score points because the car was quick, as you can see from Ralf's great performance in qualifying. It was a shame that, on my car, I had no grip and was sliding a lot in the race. F1 is about many little things, so we have analysed the data from Silverstone and we will work on improving the set-up when practice starts on Friday. I am still optimistic for this weekend because I think the car definitely has potential and everyone is working very hard to get the best out of it."

Red Bull Racing - David Coulthard (#14), Mark Webber (#15):

Red Bull Racing's up and down year begins its second half with a trip to the equally rolling Nurburgring with the team still trying to get to grips with its reliability problems.

Fifth place for David Coulthard in Spain and seventh for Mark Webber in the US remain the only scoring finishes despite decent pace from the RB3, as gearbox gremlins continue to plague the Adrian Newey-penned car. Team principal Christian Horner has not given up on further top eight results, however,

"The RB3 has shown genuine pace, for example in both Monaco and then in Canada, and David had a competitive race in Barcelona finishing fifth and Mark got his first points of the season in Indy after a solid run to seventh," he reflected, "These performances have shown the potential of the car, but [the season] has been marred by a depressingly high number of retirements.

"Mechanically, the gearbox itself is fundamentally okay - the problems have stemmed from areas around it. Unfortunately, it has not been a case of dealing with just one issue to fix this problem. There have been several factors contributing to its lack of reliability this year. Every aspect of the gearbox has been reviewed and we are
aware of the need to get on top of it quickly.

"We are in an extremely competitive part of the pack. Having qualified in the top ten in the first seven races, we missed getting into the top ten at Silverstone by less than 0.1secs. At the moment, three tenths of a second puts you either at the front or the back of a group consisting of Renault, Honda, Toyota, Williams and ourselves, and it has become clear that Renault, Toyota and Honda, have made a step forward.

"We have some developments that we tested in Spa last week and a significant upgrade coming for Turkey, with a few new elements on the car at the Nurburgring, as we try to get the most out of RB3 and try and get back to the front of that group again. I think it's going to be very tight all through the rest of the season."

Williams - Nico Rosberg (#16), Alex Wurz (#17):

Last year's European Grand Prix saw Nico Rosberg climb from last on the grid to finish seventh in his home race to collect two points for the Williams team, and the German is keen to get back into the top eight after a couple of feisty but unrewarded races in France and Britain.

"The European Grand Prix is going to be good," the youngster insisted, "The German fans are really supportive and I'll have a lot of friends with me over the weekend. The track is cool and the car normally goes well there. I'm really looking forward to turning things around at this race and getting a good result because we need to start scoring more points."

Team-mate Alex Wurz will be making his first appearance at the Nurburgring with Williams and, despite recent optimism, is also on the look out for points to boost his season.

"Ever since I can remember, the N?rburgring has meant something special to our family," he said, "My grandfather used to take my father on trips there from Austria to watch the races on the Nordschleife, so there was always lots of talk about this crazy racetrack in our family. The new track layout requires a neutral set-up and, as a driver, you need to find a good rhythm in order to get the best lap time. It's going to be a great race and I hope that in the post-Schumacher era the German fans will still be as excited about Formula One as they were before."

Technical director Sam Michael is hoping that the current Williams chassis shows the sort of potential it has displayed on other 'medium speed' tracks in an effort to move to the front of a close-fought group including Red Bull, Toyota and Renault.

"N?rburgring is a track at which we are looking forward to seeing the performance of the FW29," he confirmed, "With such sustained lateral loading on the car, the tyres always get a hard time around this track, but the Bridgestone Potenza tyres we will have in Germany will be the medium and soft versions, two tyres that we have plenty of experience with. The gap between everyone is now so close that every half a tenth really counts."
Scuderia Toro Rosso - Vitantonio Liuzzi (#18), Scott Speed (#19):

Scuderia Toro Rosso were the subject of some subtle rumours regarding their future plans in Formula 1 with increasing pressure on Scott Speed and Vitantonio Liuzzi to start delivering.

With the likes of Sebastien Bourdais and Ralf Schumacher having been linked with their seats, Speed and Liuzzi will not have enjoyed suffering their second double retirement in a row and their fifth in nine races. Indeed, only twice have both cars seen the chequered flag this season, something team principal Franz Tost is desperate to improve upon as the Formula 1 season heads into its second-half.

"We still struggle with reliability and I hope we can get this under control from Budapest onwards. We know what our problems are and we have to make some design changes, which is why they cannot happen overnight.

"We also have to improve the performance of the car. Currently we are clearly behind our expectations. The main problem is downforce, particularly at the front end of the car. We will have a new front wing, but it is unlikely to be signed off before Turkey. On the mechanical side, we have some good ideas which we hope to incorporate into the car to improve its set-up and therefore its performance."

Furthermore, Tost admits both Speed and Liuzzi need to improve to retain their seats next season, but adds he believes both are capable of stronger performances than they have been showing.

"They need to improve. So far it has been difficult for both of them to get the most out of the car, especially in qualifying. There is room for improvement in every aspect of our team. But I believe that our group has potential and we can be successful.
Spyker F1 - Markus Winkelhock (#20), Adrian Sutil (#21):

After years of waiting patiently having earned his stripes in Formula 3 and the World Series by Renault, Markus Winkelhock - son of former F1 racer Manfred - will finally get this Formula 1 chance this weekend when he makes his debut for the Spyker team he currently tests for,

Although the decision to promote Winkelhock - for this race at least - makes sense given his extensive experience of racing at the Nurburgring in the past, the current DTM driver nonetheless comes to the team having had limited miles in the car, despite his status as their test driver.

Indeed, despite his surprise at being given the nod - over Christian Klien in particular - Winkelhock is keeping his aspirations for the weekend relatively modest.

"I was very surprised to get the call from Colin as I did not think that I would have this chance! But obviously I am very, very pleased to be able to race this weekend. It's now the only German race on the calendar, so I am excited to be make my race debut in front of so many German spectators.

"This weekend will be very special - it's my home Grand Prix, my debut, and I will have friends here supporting me, but I need to concentrate myself on the job and do the best I can. When you put your helmet on and get in the car you need to be 100% focussed on doing what you can. This is a great opportunity for me and I want to make the most of it."

Although overshadowed by the new arrival, this weekend arguably marks team-mate Adrian Sutil's biggest of the season as he too will be racing in front of his home fans for the first time. A good record at the Nurburgring, that includes victories in Formula 3, will make Sutil a very good yardstick for Winkelhock this weekend.

Super Aguri F1 - Takuma Sato (#22), Anthony Davidson (#23):

Super Aguri admit they have been rather baffled by their relative lack of pace since returning to Europe, both Anthony Davidson and Takuma Sato struggling last time out at Silverstone, despite showing good promise in free practice.

As it happens, both drivers found themselves tussling with Toro Rosso and Spyker in the race before Davidson retired with suspension worries and Sato trundled home in 14th position.

Nonetheless, it perhaps signals just how far the team have come if they are disappointed not to be reaching the second stage of qualifying just a year from when they would have been over the moon to out-qualify just one other car.

Still, the aims remain the same as the team begin the second-half of the season, with technical director Mark Preston claiming Q2 is the ultimate target for them this weekend.

"We will concentrate on getting through to Q2 as this gives us the best chance to score more points, or at least race with our direct competitors in order to maintain our position in the Championship."

TYRES:

'Medium' is the word that best describes the Nurburgring and its tyre choices. A medium speed circuit that requires medium compound tyres, a variety of fast and slow corners means it is hard for Bridgestone to lean towards an aggressive compound. Here compromise is the key.

Taking place later than it has done in recent years, warmer temperatures are anticipated, but - much like in the UK - the adverse weather conditions currently afflicting much of Western Europe can potentially throw a curve ball.

"After the flat of the former airfield of Silverstone, we now have the undulations of the Nurburgring which reflect the Eifel region in which it is based. We know this circuit pretty well. Tyre grip, traction and braking performance are all of great importance, especially in sectors one and three.

"The biggest challenge is our decision to bring the soft compound Bridgestone Potenza, as all our experience is based on this circuit in the spring. We will have to see if our predictions are correct. The Eifel region can produce unpredictable weather, so it's a little bit of an unknown for us. I believe we've made the right choice, but you never know with the Nurburgring!"

THE TRACK:
Race Distance: 60 laps - Circuit Length 3.199 miles (5.148km)

Germany's Nurburgring is decidedly tame by comparison to its intimidating 14 mile, 174 corner predecessor - the world famous Nordschleife. Further changes to the old track came in 2002 when the first turn was reprofiled to cut into the infield and around a new stadium section, slowing the track even more, but yielding another overtaking spot.

The circuit remains a fairly high downforce track that is light on both brakes and tyres. To achieve a competitive lap time here requires all the normal chassis attributes: good traction (particularly out of the hairpins), good chassis balance and stability under braking, and the best possible compromise between downforce and straight-line speed.

The Nurburgring has the full mixture of slow through to high-speed corners, from the revised first turn, hairpin and chicane, to the double medium-speed 'S' bends and the very high speed 'S' after the hairpin. It also features a lot of undulation change, which is unusual for most modern circuits. As the circuit is situated close to the Eifel Mountains, weather can often play a major role in the outcome of races.
THE WINNER?

After a rather anti-climatic British Grand Prix from the patriotic point of view, Lewis Hamilton is arguably better positioned to reclaim his spot at the top of the podium this weekend at the Nurburgring. His adoptive home when he raced in the Formula 3 Euroseries, Hamilton's envious record at the circuit in other formulae makes him a good favourite.

Nonetheless, Kimi Raikkonen is in outstanding form and a third straight win is necessary if he is to make up ground on the championship leaders - plus it would be sweet justice for him to avenge is agonising 2005 disaster... Elsewhere, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa are also likely to be gunning for victory.

LAST SEASON:

Michael Schumacher got the home crowds up on their feet twice in 2006 with victories at the Nurburgring and Hockenheim, although both were achieved under different circumstances.

Victory at the Nurburgring was reached after spending the majority of the race tucked up behind Alonso, the Ferrari driver using some superior in-laps to pass his rival through the pits and claim his second win of the season.

Alonso lumbered home a disappointed second, ahead of Felipe Massa, the Brazilian scoring his first podium in Formula 1. Kimi Raikkonen followed closely in fourth, with Rubens Barrichello, Giancarlo Fisichella - recovering from a poor grid slot -, Nico Rosberg and Jacques Villeneuve rounding out the point scoring positions.


1. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari 60 laps 01:35:58.765
2. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault +3.7
3. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +4.4
4. Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes +4.8
5. Rubens Barrichello Brazil Honda-Honda +72.5
6. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Renault-Renault +74.1
7. Nico Rosberg Germany Williams-Cosworth +74.5
8. Jacques Villeneuve Canada BMW Sauber +89.3

Hockenheim was far more of a demonstration by Schumacher on what would be his final performance on home soil. Simply driving away from pole position, Schumacher was shadowed over the line by team-mate Massa for a perfect result.

Kimi Raikkonen had led early on, but only by virtue of a mistake in qualifying that left his McLaren ridiculously under-fuelled. Nonetheless, the Finn still held on for a strong third place finish, holding off a racy Jenson Button in what proved to be the result that turned Honda's season around.

Renault meanwhile were well off the pace whilst embroiled in a technical row with their rivals over mass dampers. With the devices removed, fifth and sixth for Alonso and Fisichella proved their worst combined result of the year.

Jarno Trulli was seventh in the improving Toyota, while Christian Klien recorded his first point since the season opener in eighth.

1. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari 67 01:27:51.693
2. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +0.7
3. Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes +13.2
4. Jenson Button Britain Honda-Honda +18.8
5. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault +23.7
6. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Renault-Renault +24.8
7. Jarno Trulli Italy Toyota-Toyota +26.5
8. Christian Klien Austria Red Bull-Ferrari +48.1

 

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