F1 German Grand Prix: The Race to 2017

Is it a home victory if the manufacturer wins rather than the driver? In Italy, that is certainly the case as we know that Ferrari is a religion there. I can’t help but feel that Germany wouldn’t be as open to a foreign driver winning for the domestic constructor. That was the situation at Hockenheim after the German Grand Prix that saw Brit Lewis Hamilton take home the win for Germany’s Mercedes.

The race started with Nico Rosberg on pole after a superb performance in qualifying. With car troubles, he only had one attempt on Q3 after aborting his first run. Even on heavy fuel, he outpaced Hamilton. Unfortunately, he left his speed in qualifying as he didn’t even lead into Turn 1. Hamilton beat him off the line and Rosberg fell to fourth behind the Red Bulls.

And that was pretty much the entirety of the race there. The only highlight of the race was when Rosberg tried to dive up the inside of Max Verstappen and drove him to the white line to make that pass. By forcing Max off-track, the move was deemed illegal and Rosberg was given a five-second penalty that he actually served for eight seconds because Mercedes had a faulty stopwatch.

The victory was Hamilton’s sixth of the season and moves him ahead of Rosberg for the most victories this season. Daniel Ricciardo finished the race in 2nd and scored Driver Of The Day honours for the race. Max Verstappen rounded out the podium.

Rosberg never recovered from his start and finished in 4th. The two Ferraris are next in an abysmal season by Scuderia standards. Vettel led Raikkonen home in 5th and 6th, respectively. Nico Hulkenberg had a quiet day en route to 7th place. Jenson Button had a great day for McLaren in 8th. Valtteri Bottas was the only Williams to finish and did so in 9th. Sergio Perez was the last points scorer in 10th.

Silly season isn’t confined to 2017 seats but 2016 as well. Rio Haryanto’s contract with Manor expired after the Hungarian Grand Prix. Because of commercial considerations (read: sponsorship), he only had a contract for the first 11 races of the season. Because the one-week turnaround between races was too short, he was retained for Germany.

With four weeks before the Belgian Grand Prix, there is an opportunity for Manor to find and prepare for a replacement for the Indonesian driver while Rio has a chance to find funding to cover the last nine races of the season.

Should Haryanto not be retained, there are a few frontrunners for the second seat at Manor. Reserve driver and Indy 500 champion Alex Rossi would be the obvious favourite but would not be available for the next three races (Belgium, Italy and Singapore) unless he was released from his IndyCar contract. Will Stevens has been floated as a possibility but would need out of his Blancpain GT Series obligations. Stoffel Vandoorne seems to be the strongest rumour for the seat right now but the Mexican GP falls on the same weekend as the final round of the Super Formula championship.

One name I saw briefly mentioned without any conflicts is Esteban Ocon. The Mercedes development driver who serves as a reserve and test driver for Renault races DTM in F1’s off weekends so he could easily slot F1 race weekends into his schedule. His downside would be the same as Vandoorne’s in that would a team want to take on a driver that they know will be driving for someone else next season and exposing their inner workings and best practices to a future rival.

And there is 2017 silly season news for us to go through as well.

Nico Rosberg will be back at Mercedes through the 2018 season after signing a two-year contract with the team. Coincidentally, Hamilton’s contract also runs through the 2018 season. Both men will be 33 years old at the conclusion of their upcoming contracts so retirement is unlikely but rather Mercedes delaying choosing one driver over the other yet again.

Reports out of Russia say that Daniil Kvyat won’t be back with Red Bull in 2017. After his demotion to Toro Rosso after Russia and getting regularly beaten by teammate Carlos Sainz, this was an inevitability. For the moment, it seems unlikely that he will find another seat in F1 for next year but rumours are that Williams would consider hiring him as no one is under contract to them for 2017 at the moment.

By the way, Pierre Gasly is expected to take the second seat at STR alongside Sainz next year.

Over at Renault, it looks like a complete overhaul in drivers is likely to happen. Esteban Ocon is likely to get promoted to a race seat and Autosport believes that Felipe Massa will move from Williams as lead drivers. It would be a good balance of youthful exuberance and experienced development driving even if it seems too early to give up on Magnussen or Palmer.

One seat that could be of some interest going forward is the second seat at Haas. Rumours indicate that Esteban Gutierrez may not be retained for 2017 while Grosjean will. No rumours have popped up as to the likely driver but it is possible that Ferrari and Haas development Charles Leclerc would be on the shortlist.

The Italian Grand Prix could be moving north from Monza to Imola.

Bernie signed a contract with Imola to host the Italian Grand Prix from 2017 onwards because a deal with Monza has yet to be signed. The holdup, as always, is money. Bernie doesn’t want to give Monza a discount because it is a historic Grand Prix venue. Monza has hosted the most Grands Prix with 65 having only missed 1980 for a circuit redevelopment.

There is a reported caveat that allows Monza’s contract to supersede Imola’s as Italian GP host should a deal be signed. Monza could still host the Grand Prix but will need to find money to do so.

Imola underwent a revamp in 2007 after it held the last San Marino Grand Prix in 2006. Interestingly, Monza was due to undergo a renovation for 2017 that would eliminate the current first chicane, reprofile the Curva Grande and add a new chicane after the Curva Grande but before the current second chicane.

The next round of the 2016 Formula One World Championship won’t be for another four weeks. We have to go through the annual Formula One summer vacation before we go to the legendary Spa-Francorchamps Circuit for the Belgian Grand Prix.

Despite having a reputation as a power circuit, Red Bull had a pretty good track record at the track having won there in three of the last five years. Granted, it’s not like Red Bull or Ferrari will be able to challenge the Mercedes unless something happens to creates an opportunity to be capitalized on. However, given the crazy downpour and finish of the 24 Hours of Spa, anything can happen in Belgium.


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