Formula 1’s European tour heads to another historic stop this weekend as the German Grand Prix makes its biannual appearance at the iconic Hockenheim circuit.
Last time out at Silverstone, Sebastian Vettel scored something of an upset victory as he capitalized on Lewis Hamilton’s opening lap contact with Kimi Raikkonen to end the Briton and Mercedes’ run of dominance at their home race and claim Ferrari’s first win since 2011 in the UK. Now the current world champion has the chance to return the favour and put one over the native of nearby Heppenheim in front of his home crowd on Sunday. Can he do it?
About the race
To many people, the current Hockenheim track is a shadow of its former self. Since 1970 it was characterised by long straights through the forest which were broken up by chicanes and then the twisty stadium section would complete the lap.
2018 marks 16 years since that layout was largely demolished, and while the one that replaced it remains a fun and technical circuit capable of producing very exciting racing, fans have never warmed to it like they did the original.
Hockenheim has enjoyed some classic races over the years, with Rubens Barrichello’s incredible drive from 18th to win in 2000 being one of the most memorable. 2008 saw another epic as Lewis Hamilton passed Felipe Massa for victory and the Brazilian certainly won’t forget 2010 and the infamous “Fernando is faster than you” moment as Ferrari broke a rule banning team orders.
With the race held every two years, this will be the first time today’s faster generation of cars will have visited the German track so predicting an order is pretty tricky. Ferrari have enjoyed great success on the modern Hockenheim with five wins – three thanks to Michael Schumacher – while Mercedes have won the last two, but there’s no doubting the competition now is much closer than it was in 2016. Red Bull has yet to win at this track, with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel both winning at the Nurburgring, but can they be ruled out this weekend?
Here are our picks for the German Grand Prix.
Top driver picks
Lewis Hamilton ($30.2m)
In what was a very close battle between Mercedes and Ferrari at Silverstone, it was the straight line speed of the Scuderia that ultimately gave them the slight advantage and allowed Vettel to take victory. Hockenheim, however, has more in common with the Red Bull Ring given the technical second and third sectors, and it is there that the German manufacturer should still have the edge over their Italian rivals. That is why Hamilton is our race-winning choice over Vettel, although a tremendous battle between them can be expected.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull ($20.4m)
It was a very difficult weekend for Red Bull at Silverstone, as the power advantage of Mercedes and Ferrari was simply too strong for the team to match. Looking ahead to Germany though, several turns will be almost if not flat-out compared to two years ago. There is still enough slow and medium-speed corners for them to be competitive and their strength under-braking will also be very helpful, particularly into the hairpin.
There are whispers of a possible engine penalty for Daniel Ricciardo, which would see the Australian have to fight through from the back, but the recent form of Max Verstappen means he is probably the second top driver worth having in your team regardless.
Kevin Magnussen, Haas ($8.3m)
Including a Haas driver is often risky business. Despite having the fourth fastest car at the past two races, their drivers more often than not end up involved in some kind of incident. That was exactly the case at Silverstone, with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean hitting each other at the start before the latter crashed again with Carlos Sainz.
It is for that reason that drivers like Sainz, Charles Leclerc and even Esteban Ocon are worth considering to make up your five-man team but, Magnussen is the top midfield driver in terms of total points with 112 and should the Dane have a smooth weekend, finishing ‘best of the rest’ should be very attainable indeed.
Worst driver picks
Kimi Raikkonen ($19.4m)
There’s actually a strong argument that Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo could be the least valuable of the top six to choose given how their teammates are out-performing them regularly, but after optimising the return on value, both offer more than Raikkonen.
Even if Ricciardo does take a grid penalty, he will likely finish sixth at worst and will have collected the additional points for positions gained, while Bottas is always a realistic podium threat. The 2007 world champion has neither of those realistically, especially on a weekend where Ferrari might struggle a little more than at Silverstone and Red Bull may pose a bigger threat.
Sergio Perez, Force India ($11.8m)
The Mexican similarly has little in his favour. Teammate Esteban Ocon appears to have the edge on him and on a particularly poor day, Perez can find himself out in Q1 and well outside the top 10. That’s why his current valuation of just under $12m is particularly steep, particularly given the alternatives worth around half that are often featuring in the points-scoring positions. (We’re looking at you, Leclerc.)
Top team pick: Red Bull ($22.3m)
It’s the points-to-cost ratio that continues to make Red Bull the most attractive team option, even if Ferrari and Mercedes are likely to be ahead of them.
The Milton Keynes outfit does need a good result though as they start to lag behind in terms of total points, otherwise that’s when perhaps the extra $8m for Ferrari may be more appealing. Hockenheim will likely see Ricciardo and Verstappen in a more competitive position though, and with next weekend’s Hungarian GP likely to suit them even more, with just one change per weekend allowed, it may be worth looking ahead and making it now.
These are our picks and preview for the British Grand Prix, now all you need to do is sign up and play. Good luck!