by Adrian Dorofte and Adrian Andronic
e-mail: mercedesbenzblog@gmail.com

German F1 Grand Prix 2013 - Nürburgring: Complete Report from Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

I. Preview

The Nurburgring is one of the most iconic circuits in motorsport. Situated deep in the Eifel mountains, the modern grand prix track lies adjacent to the original 14-mile Nordschleife that was a regular fixture on the Formula 1 calendar between 1951 and ’76. The circuit – nicknamed the ‘green hell’ by drivers – was eventually deemed too dangerous for F1 and today’s ’Ring was built in time for the European Grand Prix of 1984.

Since 2008, the German Grand Prix has been shared between the Nurburgring and Hockenheim, 100 miles to the south. Each circuit hosts the race in alternate years, the Nurburgring last hosting the event in 2011, when Lewis Hamilton dominated proceedings to give McLaren its eighth German GP win.

The Nurburgring’s modern layout has remained largely unchanged since ’84. The first sector was tweaked in ’02 to promote overtaking into Turn 1, but the track has retained its technical challenge and is quick to highlight any weaknesses in car or driver. The predominance of slow and medium-speed corners encourages the cars to run with maximum downforce and the smooth track surface allows Pirelli to use its Medium and Soft rubber compounds in an effort to maximise mechanical grip.

As is the norm this season, there are two DRS zones at the Nurburgring. One is on the start-finish straight and the other on the approach to the chicane, Turn 13. On both occasions the cars are expected to exceed 300km/h, which should provide good slipstreaming opportunities during the race.

- Race distance: 60 laps (308.623km/191.778 miles)
- Start time: 14:00 (local)/12:00 (GMT)
- Circuit length: 5.148km/3.199 miles
- 2011 winner: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren MP4-26) 60 laps in 1hr37m30.334s (189.911km/h)
- 2011 pole: Mark Webber (Red Bull RB7) 1m30.079s (205.739km/h)
- Lap record: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2004) 1m29.468s (207.144km/h)

McLaren at the German Grand Prix

- Wins: 8 (1976, 1984, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1998, 2008, 2011)

- Poles: 12 (1976, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2008)

- Fastest laps: 7 (1984, 1985, 1989, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2005)

Car 5: Jenson Button

- Age: 33 (January 19 1980)
- GPs: 236
- Wins: 15
- Poles: 8
- FLs: 8


“Of course, the Silverstone result wasn’t where we want to be, but there were some reasons to be encouraged by last weekend. Our car is now better balanced and more driveable, so we’re hoping for a rain-free practice day in order to further develop the set-up during Friday’s two free practice sessions.

“The Nurburgring is a track that seems to encourage close racing and plenty of overtaking. The combination of low- and medium-speed corners tend to allow cars to run quite closely, and there are a couple of big braking zones, where it’s quite easy to get alongside and steal the inside line. However, it’s got some nicely designed sections, which mean – equally – that you can lose out on the entry and yet still regain position if you have better traction and track position on the exit.”


Car 6: Sergio Perez

- Age: 23 (January 26 1990)
- GPs: 45
- Wins: 0
- Poles: 0
- FLs: 2


“I’ve already put the disappointment of Silverstone behind me. In fact, I was more encouraged by the positives: I demonstrated strong pace all weekend, was having a good race and looked set to finish in the points, until my tyre failure in the closing laps.

“Naturally, these setbacks happen in motor racing, so it’ll be good to get back in the car just a few days after Silverstone and get back to business.

“I started my single-seater career in Germany, so it’s a place with lots of positive memories for me. I enjoy racing at the Nurburgring, it’s a place where you need to attack to get the best from the lap, so I think it’s well suited to my style. Of course, I’d have loved to have raced on the old track, the Nordschleife, that must have been an incredible place for a grand prix, but I’ll be happy with a positive result on the new circuit.”


Martin Whitmarsh - Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

“After a difficult weekend at Silverstone, it’s a motivation for the whole team to return to the track just a week later for the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. It’s a very difficult technical challenge to the flat-out sweeps of Silverstone, requiring a higher downforce set-up to get the most from the twisting infield sections and high-traction corner exits from which much of the laptime is derived.

“Our aim for Germany will be to get our cars into the points after two successive failures to finish inside the top 10. Despite those disappointments, both Jenson and Checo have driven faultlessly, and both are relentlessly positive and upbeat. They have been a strong unifying force for the team as we continue to address the issues we’ve encountered with this year’s MP4-28.

“With more, uninterrupted mileage, we will be better placed to add performance to the car, so we’ll be hoping for good weather and the opportunity to learn as much as we can.”


A McLaren 50 moment
Santander German Grand Prix, 24 July 2011

Lewis Hamilton is in stunning form all weekend. He qualifies on the front row of the grid, just 0.055s behind pole-sitter Mark Webber, and drives a determined race to come home 3.9s ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

The MP4-26 arrives at the Nurburgring – race 10 of the season – with a host of aerodynamic upgrades and they prove effective from the outset. Lewis is immediately on the pace during practice and he drives arguably his best qualifying lap of the whole season to start on the front row, setting a time 1.5s faster than team-mate Jenson Button.

Lewis then makes a great start to beat Webber into Turn One, but he’s unable to pull a gap to Webber and Alonso during the early stages of the race. Little more than a couple of seconds separates the top three and they all complete laps in the lead during the pitstop sequence. But whenever Lewis finds himself on the back foot, he muscles his way back to the front with some audacious overtaking manoeuvres.

It’s a sublime performance by Lewis, for whom this is win number 16 of his career. Perhaps it’s best summed up by third-placed Webber after the race: “Lewis was unbeatable today.”

II. Friday's Free Practice Report

JENSON BUTTON
- MP4-28A-03
- FP1: 1m33.139s (+1.385s), 24 lap, 7th
- FP2: 1m31.568s (+1.152s), 37 laps, 9th
 

“The car felt pretty good as soon as I drove out of the garage this morning. We’re still a way off the front, but our pace relative to the cars around us doesn’t seem too bad. The overall feeling with the car is not so bad.

“The Pirelli tyres are working very well here; obviously, the Option has much more grip than the Prime. It seems that the idea behind the two compounds is to give us a qualifying tyre that doesn’t last long – the Option – and a race tyre – the Prime. It’s not a bad compromise, we just need to deal with the tyre not lasting too long on Sunday.

“We won’t be challenging the cars at the front this weekend, but it would be nice to be able to attack the teams who are normally immediately ahead of us.”


SERGIO PEREZ
- MP4-28A-01
- FP1: 1m33.456s (+1.702s), 18 lap, 10th
- FP2: 1m32.086s (+1.670s), 36 laps, 14th 


“I think it’s been our best Friday for a couple of races – partly because of the dry weather, but also because we got a useful amount of work under our belts.

“We’re still in the same situation as we were in last weekend – the potential of the car hasn’t changed dramatically – but I think we can fight tomorrow to get into Q3. That may still be hard, but that’s our target.”


MARTIN WHITMARSH - Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes


“We’ve made a little bit of progress with the car and can hopefully continue to improve it throughout the weekend. Naturally, the majority of the day was spent learning about the new Pirelli tyres that we have for this weekend. Pirelli has changed the construction of the tyre – and it was good to see that it was a quiet day on the tyre front.

“Both drivers conducted a range of development runs in the morning, before spending the afternoon running a comparison test between the Prime and Option tyres, and undertaking longer runs using a heavier fuel-load.

“It’s clear that there’s a significant step in both performance and longevity between the two compounds – that will inevitably make for some interesting considerations during the race.”


III. Saturday's Qualifying Report

JENSON BUTTON
- MP4-28A-03
- FP3: 11th, 1m31.326s (+1.809s), 22 laps
- Qualifying:
- Q1: 7th, 1m31.181s (on Options)
- Q2: 10th, 1m30.269s (on Options)
- Q3: 9th, overall no time

“My lap in Q2 was about as good as it’s going to get for us at the moment – in fact, it was one of the best laps I’ve done in a very long time. I don’t think I left anything out there, so I’m very happy about that.

“Strategically, it was a difficult decision for Q3: do we run the Option, the Prime, or do we not run at all? My heart said we should go out and set a time, whereas my head said we probably shouldn’t!

“Our pace suggested that qualifying sixth would have made it worthwhile [to go out and set a time on the Option], and we probably could have done that – but we chose not to complete a lap, playing a cat-and-mouse game with Nico [Hulkenberg].

“Nevertheless, starting ninth is not too bad – I’ll be on the clean side of the grid, and I have the freedom to choose my tyre compound, because I didn’t set a laptime this afternoon. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the Option tyre early on in the race, but I think we’ve put ourselves in the best possible position for tomorrow.”

SERGIO PEREZ
- MP4-28A-01
- FP3:16th, 1m31.855s (+2.338s), 23 laps
- Qualifying:
- Q1: 14th, 1m31.498s (on Options)
- Q2: 13th overall, 1m30.999s (on Options)
- Q3: –

“It hasn’t been the best day for us, and starting 13th wasn’t what I was hoping for.

“Jenson did a great lap, but I’ve struggled all weekend to match him – especially today, when I think we went a little bit in the wrong direction. This morning, we encountered some problems with the car; perhaps we over-compensated for that, going back on the set-up, getting understeer, and finding it quite difficult to get the tyres warmed up.

“This was a tough afternoon for me, but we can do better tomorrow. I didn’t get everything out of the car today, but it’s going to be very interesting to see how the tyres perform in the race.”

MARTIN WHITMARSH - Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

“In Q2, the fact that Jenson was four tenths from the front was encouraging, but we’re still not quite where we want to be. In all likelihood, Jenson could probably have qualified sixth today; but, strategically, we chose to do what we thought was best for the race.

“I think we did the right thing by running Jenson into Q3: we were so close to the pack during Q2 that we considered pushing to make up a few further places. Ultimately, however, we chose a more prudent approach.

Nonetheless, starting Jenson from ninth is not a bad place to be, particularly as, we suspect, the Option-runners ahead of us will have to stop quite early in the race.

“We had a few issues on Sergio’s car this morning and I don’t think we got it back to its best. He simply wasn’t as comfortable as Jenson out there. I’m sure he’ll be disappointed by the outcome of qualifying, but he’s an exciting racer and will be charging hard in the race.

“We will try to hopefully get both cars into some reasonable points tomorrow.”

IV. Sunday's Race Report

JENSON BUTTON
- MP4-28A-03
- Started: 9th
- Finished: 6th
- Fastest lap: 1m34.201s (+0.733s, 7th)
- Pitstops: Two: lap 21 (4.09s) and lap 47 (3.23s) [Pri-Pri-Opt]
- Points: 33 (10th)

“There are a lot of positives to take away from this weekend; our pace was reasonably good; it’s nice to be racing cars closer to the front, such as the Mercedes; our laptimes compared to the four cars at the front weren’t too bad either; and today’s points are badly needed right now.

“Unfortunately, the two Caterhams fighting in front of me in the closing laps probably cost me fifth place. When you’re fighting for position, you expect the backmarkers to move over, even if they’re fighting for position themselves. It’s a shame – those points could be so important for us later in the season.

“The Safety Car also didn’t help our strategy – but we were a lot stronger this weekend than we’ve been for the past few races.

“We can be positive – as a team, we didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend, and we got the best out of what we have.

“Overall, it’s a positive day for the team – now we just need to find some more pace in the car.”

SERGIO PEREZ
- MP4-28A-01
- Started: 13th
- Finished: 8th
- Fastest lap: 1m36.134s (+2.666s, 15th)
- Pitstops: Two: lap 7 (3.67s) and 24 (3.64s) [Opt-Pri-Pri]
- Points: 16 (12th)

“My car performed a lot better today than it did yesterday. We had better pace and degradation than we’d expected: we managed a very long final stint, and I think we maximised everything today. We should be happy.

“After the Safety Car, it was like the start of a second race. I just focused on preserving the tyres over that long stint – the car and tyres performed very strongly, but we just lost out on the final corner. It was always going to be difficult to hold Mark [Webber] back.

“This is a good step on from Silverstone – it’s been a very promising weekend, and I hope we can take another step forward for Hungary.”

MARTIN WHITMARSH - Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

“Both drivers did a fantastic job this afternoon – they managed the limits of the tyre, pushed aggressively when it was needed and were always able to maximise the pace of the car. It’s just a pity that they each lost position on the final lap.

“That was a little bit frustrating: we had terrible traffic at the end, so Jenson lost a couple of seconds at a critical point in the race. That enabled Lewis [Hamilton] to close him down quicker than normal and take a position that we felt we could have kept.

“The whole team did an extremely good job today: our strategy was perfectly managed, our pitstops were faultless, and the engineers maximised the pace of the car.

“We raced well, but we’re still not where we want to be, although there are positives to take away from today. We’ll be putting out heads down during the three-week break before Hungary and will be aiming to capitalise on the momentum we’ve gathered this weekend.”
























































~ Official photos and reports courtesy of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes ~

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