Preview: German GP

By on

The Nürburging is the home of this year's German GP, the 9th event on the 2013 F1 calendar and the first time Formula One returns to this track since 2011. Last time around, it was Lewis Hamilton who won here, in a McLaren Mercedes MP4-26.

The race came close however to not being held this year due to the circuit's financial issues. It was only saved by Bernie Ecclestone when he decided to drop the annual fee the circuit is supposed to pay for hosting the Grand Prix.

The circuit is a different challenge compared to Silverstone as it features less high speed corners. It does contain a few flowing sections nonetheless, but the lateral forces working on the tyres will be much less than at the British GP. This will likely please Pirelli who were asked to assure the safety of their tyres after the Silverstone issues. In fact, even close before the event, Pirelli decided to bring new tyres to the event to ensure the safety of the sport's competitors and its spectators.

Braking on the other hand is a much more important factor with the circuit including 8 braking zones, 3 of which are considered heavy. The most important braking area is that for turn 1 where cars are expected to decelerate at close to 5.6G over a distance of little over 100m. In general, the Nürburgring is of medium difficulty for the braking systems. The most critical aspect for the braking system has to do with the correct sizing of the air intakes that guarantee optimum operating temperature for the brakes.

As with most circuits this year, the German GP this year features 2 DRS zones activated at two different detection points on the track. The first detection point is 45m before turn 10 to activate DRS 55m after turn 11. This enables DRS on the back straight, including the speed trap, ending with the left handed chicane that is turn 13 and 14. Only a few meters further, 40m before turn 15 is the detection point for DRS zone 2 that started 135m after turn 15 on the pit straight.

Track highlights

Turn 1 The first corner is particularly challenging at the Nurburgring, particularly after the start where it is often the scene of accidents. Under acceleration out of it, the back of the car can step out, placing heavy demands on the rear tyres – as they need to guarantee a combination of grip and traction on one of the most technical parts of the circuit that is key to a fast lap time.

Turns 5 - 6 Good high speed turn in and balance are required here. T5 is approached at around 270km/h and taken at just over 200km/h, before braking to around 130km/h for T6.

Turn 7 Strong braking with good modulation is required into the hairpin, which provides a good overtaking opportunity. Approached at 280km/h, the drivers drop all the way to 100km/h through here.

Turns 8 - 9 After the hairpin of turn 7, taken in second gear at just 10,500rpm, the driver accelerates hard to turn 8. With only a short straight before the corner he does not have time to reach maximum speed, but will be ‘flat out’, with the accelerator pedal at full travel, by the time he takes the corner in sixth at over 250km/h. The loads travelling through the car will still be huge even with the relatively low speed; the driver will pull around 3.5g through this section.

Turns 13 - 14 (NGK Schikane) Sector three is the shortest section in time on the track, taking just 24secs to complete. In fact only the chicane and the fast right hander back onto the pit straight break up the constant period of acceleration. The chicane is the slowest corner in sector three, and one of the hardest stops anywhere on the track. Drivers approach at over 300km/h with DRS open, braking to second gear and just 90kph for turn in. The driver will just blip the throttle between the kerbs and then accelerate back through the gears to the final corner. In the data this big stop is seen very clearly, with an abrupt descent from close to 18,000rpm to a little over 10,000rpm.

Car setup

Front Wing You need a car which carries a reasonable amount of front wing at this circuit to balance the car for the longish medium speed corners.

Rear Wing The downforce level used here is very similar to that of Silverstone, which is on the high side relative to the other circuits seen during the season.

Suspension You need to concentrate on a set-up for high speed change of direction here, so it’s somewhere you’d have the car set up a little stiffer than the general baseline. There is not much use of the kerbs so you don’t need to factor this into the equation.

Engine The four long straights require good top end power and we will work carefully on the selection of the top gear ratios since seventh gear will be engaged four times a lap, a higher than average usage. This high speed is however balanced out by a mix of low speed corners, such as turns 1 and the chicane where the cars will run between 75 and 95km/h. As a result the engine has to be driveable through the lower revs but also offer responsiveness and strong power.

One other factor we particularly need to consider is the high altitude of the track. The circuit is set in the Eifel mountains, and has an average of around 700m, only marginally less than Interlagos. The quantity of oxygen in the air is therefore less and atmospheric pressure is also lower so the engines will be slightly less powerful than at sea level. There is one advantage however in that the demands on the engine are less severe, so we will tend to use an engine on the third race of its life.

Tyres It’s the medium and soft tyres, which are suitable compound choices as we can see lower temperatures at the Nürburgring and there aren’t the energy demands of a track like Silverstone. There are however a number of reasonably fast direction changes at the Nurburgring. This increases the amount of lateral energy going through the tyres and therefore heat build-up. That is the biggest reason for wear and degradation on the tyres at the Nurburgring rather traction and braking events, which are on the whole limited.
The soft is quite a racy tyre, so we may expect to see around a second per lap difference in qualifying pace with a 2-3 stop race.

Quick facts

Number of Laps: 60
Lap Distance: 5.148km
Race distance: 308.641km
Distance from pole to apex of T1: 260m
Pitlane speed limits: 60km/h in practice and qualifying. 100km/h during the race
Pit-lane length under speed-limit control: 358m
Pit-lane time at 60 km/h: 21.5s
Pit-lane time at 100 km/h: 12.9s
Circuit Direction: Clockwise
Average lap speed (qualifying): 200 km/h
Top Speed: 310 km/h
Safety Cars (1 or more): 13% chance (based on last 10 years, 8 races)
Lap record: 1:29.468 (Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, 2004)

Fuel Consumption: 2.45kg/lap
Full Throttle: 61% of lap (distance)
Braking: 11% of lap
Longest period at full throttle: 10.7s
Average gear changes per race lap: 60 (3600/race)