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Following the defeat in Austria, inside the team we set ourselves the objective of pushing hard to the summer break to cement our advantage in the world championship standings. The target was three races, three wins. Silverstone marked the first step in our recovery from that difficult race in Spielberg. Hockenheim is the next date in the diary – and it’s a particularly important one, for obvious reasons.
One of the most enjoyable things about working in a team as international as Mercedes is that we have more than one ‘home race’ every season – that’s not hard to achieve when you have around 25 different nationalities working for us!
Austria was one, for Toto and of course in tribute to Niki this year; Silverstone another – with our two F1 factories located just a stone’s throw away and hundreds of thousands of people supporting their home hero, Lewis; and now Hockenheim, not just the home race for Mercedes-Benz located close to our HQ in Stuttgart – but this year also sponsored by the three-pointed star: the Mercedes-Benz Großer Preis von Deutschland.
125th anniversary of the first car race in Paris
If that’s not enough pressure on the team’s shoulders, then we’ve added a little more with our activities around the race weekend. This week marked 125 years to the day since the first ever motor race in history, from Paris to Rouen on 22 July 1894.
After having invented the world’s first four-wheel car just a few years earlier, Daimler was “just” an engine supplier for the race – with the two winning cars both using engines manufactured to the designs of Gottlieb Daimler. That event was the first chapter in a motorsport tradition that has flourished ever since with cars wearing the three-pointed star – and we have celebrated 125 Years of Motorsport with several major events already this year.
For this weekend, our cars will run a special commemorative livery to depict that motorsport tradition: the front of the car will be painted in traditional German racing white and will feature the original star from 1926; this white is then scraped away to reveal the silver paintwork beneath, in an echo of the legend about the 1934 Eifelrennen recounted by Alfred Neubauer; then the effect fades to our current engine cover design, featuring the Mercedes-Benz brand pattern we have run all season.
We’ve adapted the appearance of the race garage and there’s another ‘50s themed surprise in store over the weekend, too. Because Sunday will also mark the 200th F1 race for Mercedes-Benz – and the first was a win for Juan Manuel Fangio back in July 1954…
Hot temperatures and short lap at Formula 1 in Hockenheim
All of which brings us nicely to the racing itself. Notwithstanding the one-two in Silverstone, there are lots of reasons to be cautious about how we approach Hockenheim. The first reason is temperature: peaks of up to 40° C are predicted for this week, which will be challenging for all teams and particularly for us. We have worked hard since Austria but this will nevertheless put us at the limit of what our car and cooling package can cope with.
Reason two: the short Hockenheim lap will see closer gaps through the field, so it will be even more important to maximise our performance over one lap to secure strong grid positions. Reason three: high temperatures, and lots of traction demands out of slow-speed corners, will make tyre management a decisive factor on Sunday – and something we need to understand as effectively as possible during the long runs on Friday.
Comeback of Lewis and Valtteri?
In parallel, we are bringing a performance upgrade to the car this weekend, so Friday practice will be spent checking cooling performance and making sure the new components work as expected. It will be a busy and intense weekend – and we must be at the very top of our game if we wish to come out on top.
Last year, of course, we saw a spectacular comeback race from Lewis and a nerve-wracking duel between Valtteri and Lewis in the closing laps. It would be incredible if we could repeat that outcome once again in 2019, especially with so many of our colleagues watching from the grandstands. But there is a lot of hard work to be done to make that a reality: both Ferrari and Red Bull will be more determined than ever to spoil the party on our home turf!