Honda Hockenheim Preview

Round ten of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to Hockenheim for the German Grand Prix. The 4.574km (2.842-mile) circuit is situated on the banks of the River Rhine, between the cities of Frankfurt and Stuttgart, and is making a return to the F1 calendar after sitting out 2007.

The track was built in 1939, but racing only took off at the venue in 1964 when Dutch circuit designer John Hugenholz, who also penned the Honda-owned Suzuka Circuit, created the 6.8km (4.2-mile) layout that was to remain largely unchanged until 2001. It was on this track, which had an average speed in excess of 242kph (150mph), that the Honda Racing F1 Team'sdriver Rubens Barrichello scored his maiden F1 victory in 2000.

Hockenheim was re-designed by Hermann Tilke in 2002 when the circuit was shortened and safety improvements were made. The mix of long straights and a twisty infield provides the teams and drivers with an interesting technical challenge and the 67-lap race is sometimes incident-packed.

HOCKENHEIM - THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE

The new Hockenheim is a very different challenge to the old layout. What wasonce a flat-out blast through the forest is now a modern stadium circuit,but the old Motodrom section, with its testing mix of elevation changes anddouble-apex corners, has been retained in the new layout.

Car set-up is a compromise between this very twisty infield section and thestraights at the back of the circuit. The teams spent last week's three-daytest session at the track trying to establish good levels of mechanical gripwith their cars, while minimising the amount of aerodynamic downforce inorder to be fast in a straight line.

Stability under braking is also important because there are a number ofheavy braking areas on the lap, particularly at the Spitzkehre hairpin (Turn6) where the cars slow from 310kph (193mph) to 60kph (37mph). It's one ofthe slowest corners on the Formula One calendar and the best overtakingpoint at Hockenheim.

With only two high-speed corners on the lap, into and out of the Motodrom,tyre wear is not such a factor at this race, but the high track temperaturessometimes witnessed in late July can create large fluctuations in grip.

Full throttle: 65%   Brake wear: MediumDownforce level: Medium - 7/10 Tyre compounds: Hard / Medium Tyre usage: Medium  Averagespeed: 215kph (134mph) 

HONDA TEAM TALK

Ross Brawn, Team Principal

Q. How much of a morale boost was Rubens' third place in the British GrandPrix two weeks ago?"The wet race at Silverstone gave us the opportunity to combine driverexperience and team performance to achieve a very well deserved podiumfinish for Rubens. The team worked extremely well throughout the race totake advantage of the opportunities which opened up, aided by an excellentdrive and outstanding tyre feedback from Rubens. Our first podium of theseason was of course a big morale boost, however it would be unrealistic toexpect a repeat of this result in dry track conditions."

Q. How do you expect the Honda Racing F1 Team to perform at the German GrandPrix?"Following the test at Hockenheim last week, we will be introducing the nextstep of aerodynamic, mechanical and engine performance upgrades for theRA108. The test allowed our engineers to gain a better understanding of ourrecent lack of qualifying pace, so we will be aiming for an improvement onour grid positions as the foundation for a strong race performance. Withchangeable weather predicted for the weekend, it could be an interestingrace."

Jenson Button

Q. What are your hopes for the German Grand Prix weekend?"Our aims for Germany are as always to get the best out of the car andhopefully achieve a good result. It is so incredibly competitive in themidfield pack at the moment that it is almost impossible to makepredictions. Our test at Hockenheim was successful, so I'm looking forwardto seeing how that relates to our performance this coming weekend."

Q. What are your thoughts on the Hockenheim circuit?"I have always enjoyed racing at Hockenheim and I have some great memoriesfrom previous races here after finishing on the podium in 2004 and 2005.There are good overtaking opportunities and you can see some great battles,which makes the racing exciting for the fans who always pack the grandstandshere. The track can be quite a challenge if the heat and humidity levels arehigh, and the medium to slow speed corners put quite a bit of stress on thetyres."

Rubens Barrichello

Q. Following your podium finish at Silverstone, what do you hope to achieveat Hockenheim?"It was fantastic to wake up on the Monday morning after Silverstone and seethe trophy! To step onto the podium again was an unexpected but deservedoutcome to our British Grand Prix weekend and I was so pleased to haveachieved the result for the team. However we have to keep our focus andcontinue to improve the performance of the RA108 as we are fully aware thatour result at Silverstone was assisted by the wet conditions. We made asmall step at the test so it will be interesting to see how the car performsagainst our midfield competitors this weekend."

Q. Does the track provide a similar challenge to the old layout, on whichyou scored your first win?"My first victory in Formula One came at Hockenheim back in 2000 so thiscircuit is very special to me. The layout changes mean that it is adifferent venue now from the track that I used to enjoy so much, howeverit's still a good circuit. Overtaking is possible, particularly under heavybraking, and with changeable weather, this can make for an exciting race."