Praise be the German Grand Prix!

After the action at Silverstone where there was overtaking aplenty, surprise race leaders and a man in a kilt, Crash.net heads to Hockenheim, airhorn and stein in hand, for the German Grand Prix.

Once a distinctive circuit with massive long straights seeing the cars hit 220mph, but since last year an identikit circuit, the German Grand Prix still has every chance of being a thriller. Last year's race saw Michael Scuhmacher take his dream first win at the circuit as team's and drivers learnt a new track in what was a race of attrition. This year teams will have more data to look back on, but the track surface will have bedded-in in the interim so there could be some surprises when everyone takes to the circuit.

Team Talk

A cracking return to form from the Ferrari squad, even if it was from an unexpected quarter, means that the fight for victory has great potential for Germany. WilliamsF1 were off-key at Silverstone, but then they expected to be, whilst McLaren were pretty strong but ultimately failed to deliver last time out. Renault are still in the thick of things and Toyota could even surprise, there's certainly going to be lots to watch out for.

Ferrari

Ferrari are leading both drivers' and constructors' championships though only by slim margins, and after the recent kick up the Bridgestone backside things look to have improved in that quarter at Silverstone at least. The last three races have been won by drivers other than Michael Schumacher so the German, at home, will be hoping to increase his win tally - though last year represented the first time he had won at the circuit.

Rubens Barrichello last won at Hockenheim in 2000, where ironically there was the appearance of another mad protester, and Rubens fabulous performance at Silverstone has the Brazilian on a roll.

BMW WilliamsF1

Germany is home for BMW and Ralf Schumacher so there's sure to be a lot of attention focused on those quarters. Ralf is about to extend his contract with the team so there might even be an announcement this weekend, whilst Juan Pablo Montoya has been linked with McLaren for 2005, though it's early days yet on that train.

Montoya has had a couple of off races, but the WilliamsF1 package worked well at the Hockenheim circuit last year and the Colombian is sure to bounce back soon. He is third in the drivers' title race and knows there's a lot to be done. ''It's good to approach the German Grand Prix with some more valuable points under my belt. I am now third in the Drivers' Championship and this is very good,'' said the Colombian, ''but the gap from the lead is still substantial and I need to score points consistently in every race to be able to challenge for the title.''

McLaren-Mercedes

Hockenheim is another home race for Mercedes and with the battle between them and fellow German company BMW for horsepower, and seemingly development staff, should be fun to watch. Last time at home for Mercedes there was embarrassment as Kimi Raikkonen's engine let go at the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in June.

Not just this year but last year too the team had humiliation as David Coulthard was lapped in front of the new Mercedes grandstand, not the best thing for the corporate image. This year the Scot's been having a difficult season, being passed comfortably by his team-mate at Silverstone with Kimi then going on to pass Panis - a feat that Coulthard hadn't managed despite many laps of trying - can't be the best thing to happen, but despite this DC remains convinced that his McLaren contract is to be extended. Perhaps Ron is just too worried at the size of the leaving present he'll have to buy the Scot who's been with the team since they raced in red and white.

Kimi meanwhile is the man in the championship hunt and a win in Germany would certainly not go amiss.

Renault F1

Renault showed great form from Jarno Trulli at Silverstone, qualifying in second place and twice leading the field before the safety car intervened twice to upset his applecart.

After such a good show, which did not manifest itself in a spectacular finishing result, can there be another good show from the French concern this weekend?

''Overall, I believe we can have a competitive weekend,'' Renault engineering director Pat Symonds reckons, ''Hockenheim is not one of the classic circuits of the season, and consequently will probably not show the true advantages of a good chassis, but we will nonetheless be making the most of the package at our disposal.''

B.A.R-Honda

The battling buddies were at it again on track at Silverstone and Jacques Villeneuve battling each other for position on track before Jacques drove himself off the circuit with the threat of his younger team-mate closing down on him in the final laps at Silverstone. Jenson Button had a fantastic race considering he started from the back of the grid at Silverstone, and the Brit is hoping for a good show at Hockenheim: ''My objective in Hockenheim is to have as good a qualifying as possible because, if our race pace in Silverstone was any indication, we can look forward to a strong result and I really want more points.''

Jaguar-Cosworth

All change at Jaguar, the locksmith at Milton Keynes has had to change the locks again, this time to keep lively driver Antonio Pizzonia away from the race cars after what was, ironically, one of his strongest races of the year at Silverstone. Now boasting the tallest driver duo in F1, Mark Webber is joined by Brit Justin Wilson.

Wilson, who has impressed in the Minardi so far this year, will certainly have more attention thrust upon him in Germany. ''My contract with Jaguar Racing is only for the next five races and added altogether, I go to Hockenheim with a lot to prove to everyone,'' he explains.

Jordan Ford

A retirement for the unhappy Giancarlo Fisichella at Silverstone and Ralph Firman coming home in thirteenth place sums up the state of play for Eddie Jordan's squad. Firman had probably enjoyed his best race of the year at Silverstone, running in the top ten during the race and battling well for position. Whether this will be enough to keep the Brit at Jordan is uncertain however. Rumours that the money the Englishman isn't bringing to the team is late and the fact he hasn't captured the public's imagination like the other British rookie, Justin Wilson, make for a difficult time in justifying the Norfolk man's place at the team. Put simply Firman needs some drives to catch the attention, can he deliver in Germany?

Sauber-Petronas

Reports of Sauber cars having been at Grand Prix this year are greatly exaggerated. A free Crash.net screensaver to any reader who can report any Sauber interest so far in 2003. Sauber even admits as much: ''The highlight of the day, however, will be the performance by two original Swiss alphorn players in the pit-lane!'' proclaims its team press release for the German Grand Prix. Quite.

Toyota

A massive budget yet still near bottom of the points scorers, but the Toyota equip are no doubt buoyed by having both cars at the head of the field in the race at Silverstone. Whilst it was Olivier Panis who showed pace in many of the sessions and was tipped to be on a charge in the UK it was reigning CART champ Cristiano da Matta who led the race and looked the more convincing driver at the circuit.

The team could well be in the thick of the action atop the field in Germany, as a new engine development to compliment the chassis tweaks used to such good effect at Silverstone is due to be used.

Minardi-Cosworth

Goodbye Mr Wilson hello Mr Kiesa and a rumoured ?1 million at Minardi. Twenty-five year-old Nicolas comes from a solid racing background having worked his way through karts, Formula Ford, Formula 3 and into Formula 3000. This year the Dane won the F3000 race at Monaco and was lying sixth in the standings in the championship driving for the Den Bla Avis squad. The arrival of the Dane apparently brings ?1 million to the Minardi coffers, which can't be too bad either.

Rookie round-up

Whilst a new contender enters the rookie match-up in Germany, Nicolas Kiesa at Minardi, one exits stage right - Antonio Pizzonia. Justin Wilson has received a great boost to his rookie status by being promoted to the Jaguar squad, whilst fellow Brit Ralph Firman continues to have a solid, if uninspiring time of it at Jordan. Current top rookie has to be Cristiano da Matta, after a fine performance at Silverstone.

Tyred out?

The German Grand Prix is often held in hot weather conditions, and that's exactly what's predicted for this weekend so Michelin could well be at an advantage as they have benefited the most from hot days. Two or three stops will be the order of the day tyre-wise.

''For sure, it's going to be a tough race, but we gave Ferrari winning tyres last year with very little data available, so I'm confident that, with a year's experience and the recent lessons we've learnt, we'll be strong in Germany,'' explains Bridgestone's technical manager Hisao Suganuma.

As for the Michelin viewpoint? ''I think the German GP could be even more absorbing than the enthralling race we watched at Silverstone two weeks ago!'' says Pierre Dupasquier.

Track time

The Hockenheim circuit is a very different beast these days after it was revised last year. Where once there were long engine-breaking straights, there's now a pretty standard circuit, albeit one that did lend itself to good racing last year.

Some teams were wrong-footed last year by the level of grip provided by the track surface, but this year it's not as simple as using last year's data as a racing circuit beds down and it's grip level can change considerably in its first year. All this means there could be a bit of head scratching for teams and some interesting times set in some of the sessions.

Predictions

It's getting tough to make predictions at this stage of the day, such is the level of competition. Just because it's been so long [in relative terms] since he took the win Michael Schumacher's name has to feature, but anything really could happen this weekend.