Hockenheim, Germany - Ninety-five points. That’s the canyon separating current-season leader and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, from Red Bull’s reigning multiple world-champion Sebastian Vettel. This Sunday marks the start of the second half of the year’s Formula One calendar (the 10th of 19 races), and we can’t help but scratch our heads in amazement at how the Bulls’ wings have been clipped.
The F1 curtain rises on the German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring this weekend (the venue alternates with the Nurburgring) and Vettel - who won in Germany last year - refutes suggestions that the team has made inroads into Mercedes’ advantage. The 27-year old says that the gap is as big as it was in race one, before Mercedes took eight wins and six 1-2 finishes this season.
Being Vettel’s home race means that German fans will be hoping for some kind of turnaround point on Sunday, but it’s more a bear’s than a bull’s market at the moment – to put it in stock market terms.
JUST FOUR POINTS IN IT
At the sharper end of the arrow – no pun intended – two hungry Mercedes Silver Arrow drivers in the form of Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton charge onward for the championship.
Hamilton, who won last time out at Silverstone and has claimed five of this year’s nine Grand Prix victories, trails his team-mate by just four points.
This two-driver race for the title finds Hamilton, after suggesting that he was on the back foot in the earlier part of the year, more confident this weekend (Lewis has suffered two retirements this season versus Rosberg’s one).
‘GOOD STARTING POINT’
Things are not so promising for the Prancing Horses, although team boss Marco Mattiacci insists Ferrari has made enough progress on the aerodynamic side to warrant a “good starting point” for the second half of the season.
This comes after driver Fernando Alonso complained that aerodynamics prevented him from defending against Vettel at Silverstone in the battle for fifth (this was a wheel-to-wheel battle we’re hoping to see more of this weekend).
Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who crashed spectacularly at Silverstone, has escaped a slap on the wrist for the manner in which he attempted to return to the track.
There were calls for the Finnish driver to be penalised as the rules state that a driver can only rejoin the race when it is “safe to do so”.
Kimi has been quoted earlier this month as saying he’d probably walk away from the sport when his Ferrari contract runs out at the end of next season.
IT’S ‘FRIC’KING CHEATING!
And on the technical front the FIA has asked all teams using the Front-and-Rear Interconnected Suspension (FRIC) system – considered a moveable aerodynamic device and in contravention of FIA’s technical rules – to stop doing so, but it’s unclear which teams will accede to the order this weekend.
It’s rumoured that McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull will comply, and that Mercedes - which runs a very complicated system - will be most affected.