It was decided, after a brief team meeting, that instead of flying to the Nurburgring for this latest race, we should drive instead. The thinking was that as the track was located in the middle of an area of Germany called nowhere it made more sense to skip the plane.
Hence my co-commentator Anthony Davidson and myself finding ourselves behind the wheel of a Porsche 911, a handy car if you want to get to your destination in a hurry. Personally, I’d have preferred something a little bigger and more comfy, but beggars can’t be choosers as they say and I must admit that we have at our disposal, a car that leaves the rest standing.
All in all though it was a long drive from Chez Croft and we didn’t arrive at our hotel until nearly midnight on Wednesday.
Which disguised the fact that here in the Eiffel Mountains it was cold, windy and wet. Just the sort of conditions that you don’t want for a Grand Prix weekend.
This is actually quite an early date for this year’s German Grand Prix, in fact it’s the earliest in the year that an F1 race has been held at the Nurburgring, a fact I wish I’d known before I packed two pairs of shorts into my small overnight bag. Did I mention the cold? It’s freezing here with the prospect of more rain and cold to come.
So we could be in for a wet race on Sunday, certainly we’re in for a cold one. Which isn’t what Brawn GP want to hear. Traditionally they struggle with tyre temperatures in comparison to Red Bull, their nearest challengers, so any drop in the ambient temperature is going to effect them more. That was certainly the case at Silverstone last time out.
However, this track is very different in its layout, far more technical with many more medium speed corners and not many high speed turns, which is more to the Brawn’s liking. Add to that the fact that Bridgestone have brought the super soft and medium tyre compounds, which get up to their working temperature range faster, and you can make a case for Brawn to be on a more level playing field this weekend.
Red Bull, though, are a team brimming with confidence at the moment. Justifiably so given their performance in the British Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel, cheered on by a large home crowd, will take some beating but his achilles heel could be that he’s never raced in F1 here before, and lost some running on Friday morning due to what looked like a faulty electrical connection.
While he was on the sidelines, his team mate Mark Webber was putting the laps in, ending the first session with the fastest time.
Webber looked on the pace right from the word go and I believe he has the mindset this weekend to mount a serious challenge to the young German. He’s not a man to play second fiddle to anyone, as we found out in Turkey, and could be well worth siding with, especially given that he’s trading at 6.2 currently in Betfair’s win market. Vettel meanwhile is a far shorter 2.5.
Jenson Button has attracted plenty of support at 3.3 with Rubens Barrichello at 15.0. Button is far from fond of this track but wasn’t overly far away from Webber’s times this morning and Brawn are never a team to run light on fuel in practice.
Looking for a potential winner it’s hard, if not impossible, to see past these four drivers. It will take a freak result, possibly helped by some heavy rain, for a winner to come from outside of Brawn or Red Bull, reflected of course in the market where Felipe Massa in the Ferrari is the next best at 36.0.
He had a whole raft of upgrades on his car in first practice, upgrades that produced only a tenth of a second benefit when compared to the lap times of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
They need others to fail ahead of them to get that first win of the season, but Massa will be tugging at the heels of the leading quartet for sure. He’ll be hoping the rain comes hard, as will many of his peers and if it does then the price of 2.46 for there to be under 14.5 finishers could be the bet of the race.
Turn One resembled something of a Venus Flytrap for cars back in 2007 as one after another they slid into the gravel. Looking at the forecast we may get a repeat this year, it could be a busy afternoon for the marshals.
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BIOGRAPHY: Eric Bailly