By Neil Leverett
- Sebastian Vettel looks to extend World Drivers’ Championship on home soil at Hockenheim
- German won British GP at Silverstone a fortnight ago to leapfrog Lewis Hamilton
- Formula One calendar returns to Rhine valley circuit after 2017 hiatus
HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY – After a two-week break, Formula One rolls back into action as Sebastian Vettel eyes extending his World Drivers’ Championship lead on home soil.
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Formula One returns to Hockenheim
As the Formula One juggernaut resumes after a fortnight break, the motor racing world descends on the Rhine Valley in Germany for the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
After a two-year absence from the calendar following the biennial swap deal with the Nurburgring – which could not complete a deal with F1’s head honchos – the roar of engines will again fill the air in southwest Germany this weekend.
With new sponsors into the bargain, Fly Emirates will take up the banner for Round 11 of the season, with the 2018 campaign having now passed the half-way mark.
Last time out when the race was held on the 4.754km, 17-turn track, Lewis Hamilton was the victor ahead of Red Bull duo Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen in 2016, after eventual world title winner and home favourite Nico Rosberg began on pole but finished in fourth just outside a podium finish.
Can Vettel extend lead on home soil..?
Following ten races of cat-and-mouse jousting, it was Vettel who took the upper hand once more after Silverstone victory at the British GP two weeks ago, so will there be further twists and turns this time around?
Indeed, after the German ruined Hamilton’s homecoming party in Northamptonshire, the Briton will be keen on handing out his own measure of patriotic revenge on Vettel’s home turf – with as documented Hamilton the winner from two years ago.
Much as last year when the blue touch paper was lit after a controversial race in Baku, accusations flew as to the Ferrari driver’s conduct, and despite Hamilton retracting his most hot-lipped of post-race comments, Vettel was keen to shake up the pot a little more, as he stated to BBC Sport of the 33-year-old’s ‘silly’ comments in the build-up to the weekend:
“It was silly to say but we are racing and it is never great if you get hit without doing anything wrong.
[And] it is fine to express your opinion. Even if it is not right or reasonable, it is human. It is two weeks ago; we move on.”
Holding five wins to the British driver’s three this term, the race to an historic fifth championship is hotting up once more with just eight points separating the two rivals. Despite what is looking now to be very much a two-horse race this season, after hopes of a three or even four-man competition, the race for Abu Dhabi at the end of the year is moving up a gear.
…Or will Hamilton again strike back?
For Hamilton especially, this weekend will be a chance to repay Mercedes’ continued faith in the Brit after the Stevenage man signed a new £4o-million-per-year deal with the British manufacturer until at least 2020 – with team-mate Valtteri Bottas also signing on for next season also.
The duo have been the perfect foil for one another since joining forces last season, and the Finn is now seen as vital member of the team set-up helping Mercedes to extend their dominance as they look for a fifth successive constructors’ championship.
With Hamilton steel smarting from defeat on his beloved home circuit, the Briton will see this as the perfect time to strike back and continue on with this campaign’s ebb-and-flow battle at the top of the standings.
The early weekend form of Australian Ricciardo will help his cause as despite setting the fastest pace in first practice, should the Perth driver take pole on Saturday he will nonetheless start from the back of the grid on race day after enforced penalty points for using too many engine parts this season.
The German Grand Prix takes place at Hockenheim this weekend, with Sunday’s race at 2.10pm BST
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