It’s been a pretty big week for Nico Rosberg. First, the Mercedes driver married his long-time girlfriend Vivian Sibold in Monaco, then sat decked out in his Germany shirt and watched his home nation lift the World Cup trophy in Brazil, before signing a new multi-year contract extension to remain with Mercedes. As if that weren’t enough, he now heads into his and his team’s home Grand Prix in Hockenheim this weekend looking to extend his lead atop the Formula One drivers’ championship.
Looking to prevent a dream climax to a memorable few days for Rosberg will once again be teammate Lewis Hamilton. Rosberg’s chief rival for the title won his home Grand Prix two weeks ago to move within striking distance at the top of the standings in what has been a thrilling and often spikey battle through nine of the 18 rounds of the championship.
Curiously, Rosberg has never made home advantage count thus far in his eight-year Formula One career. His best finish in Germany was fourth in 2009 when the event was held at the Nürburgring and he was still in a Williams.
“It's actually the circuit I've won the most races at during my career through all the junior categories, so I know it suits my driving style,” Rosberg said of the Hockenheimring, according to the official Formula One website. “Of course, I would love to add Formula One to that list sometime soon.”
In a sign of Mercedes’ dominance this year, Rosberg’s retirement through a gear-box issue at Silverstone was the first time he failed to finish in the top two of a Grand Prix this season. That consistency has allowed him to thus far keep ahead of Hamilton, despite the 2008 world champion winning five races to Rosberg’s three. Hamilton, though, now comes to Germany full of momentum.
“Winning at Silverstone was just an incredible feeling -- for myself, the team and the fans, I couldn't have asked for more,” Hamilton explained. “I feel like I've been on the back foot all year, only briefly leading the championship despite taking the wins I've had, so to have got myself just about level was exactly what I needed. It's almost a fresh start heading into the second half of the season and it's going to be a really close battle between us.”
The grid’s running order may now be disturbed, however. In another sign of the always eventful nature of Formula One politics and regulations, a fresh spanner has been thrown in the works. The teams have been told by governing body the FIA to remove the Front and Rear Interconnected [FRIC] suspension systems, after several teams ae believed to have questioned its legality. Despite all teams employing FRIC and sure to lose pace because of its removal, Mercedes are believed to have developed it better than any other and there will be much hope among the rest of the paddock that their dominance will now be reduced.
One man hoping to benefit more than most will be Sebastian Vettel. Last year the Red Bull Driver achieved what his compatriot Rosberg is looking to do this weekend when finally winning the German Grand Prix en route to a fourth straight title. But he has endured a chastening first half of the season and currently sits sixth in the championship, with his best finish thus far two third places.
“It's been a tough start, a rough season so far," Vettel told BBC Sport. “F1 can be fantastic, as I have experience of, but it can be very cruel in retiring from problems. You rely on your car. It is part of the game.”
Fernando Alonso has won the race on the last two occasions it was held in Hockenheim and the Spaniard has also held a firm edge over his new teammate Kimi Raikkonen this season. The Finn’s return to the team with which he won the world title in 2007 has not gone to plan thus far, taking just 19 points. Still, at least he will be taking part in Germany this weekend, having recovered from a crash at Silverstone that led to the race being delayed for an hour.
Prediction: Nico Rosberg has home advantage, but Lewis Hamilton has the bit between his teeth and should make it back-to-back wins to move ahead in the championship race.
Schedule, TV and Live Stream Info
Practice one: Friday, 4 a.m. ET (NBC Sports Live Extra)
Practice two: Friday, 8 a.m. ET (NBC Sports Live Extra)
Practice three: Saturday, 5 a.m. ET (NBC Sports Live Extra)
Qualifying: Saturday, 8 a.m. ET (CNBC, NBC Sports Live Extra) Race:
Sunday, 8 a.m. ET (CNBC, NBC Sports Live Extra)