German GP tip: Watch the tires (Updated)

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Buried in the Ferrari preview for this weekend’s German Grand Prix is a reminder that tires might play a large role (again) in the outcome of the race. Here’s the relevant part:

For the first time this season, there is a rather unusual tyre choice, in that Bridgestone is bringing the two extremes from its range, the Supersoft and the Hard. Whether or not this choice will produce an exciting race on Sunday is hard to predict, but it will most likely make the usual Friday free practice tyre comparison particularly interesting. Adding to the workload on the tyre front is the fact that, as always it is likely to be extremely hot and humid over the weekend, not forgetting that there is no recent data on running slick tyres at this track, as last year, when slicks made their come-back, the German GP was staged at the Nurburgring.

So we’ve got a double whammy of sorts: the extra difference between the two tires and the fact that none of the teams have any data on the new slick tires for this track.

While it’s impossible to say for certain what this factor might mean for the weekend, I suspect we might see a slightly more benign set of practice sessions as the drivers and teams try to figure out the tires on a variety of fuel loads. Come race day, though, well… who knows. You’ve got to think that the Supersofts won’t last very long but the Hard compound will go nearly the entire race — if not in fact be capable of lasting the entire grand prix.

Just thinking this out, I wonder if we could see a cracking race from a car in the eighth, ninth or tenth starting spot. Assume it’s a Force India, Sauber or Williams, and the driver and team know they aren’t going to crack the front rows. So back off your finally qualifying run by using the Hard compound and then run until as close to the end as possible. Then you pull a Kamui Kobayashi, come back out on track on the Supersofts and put down a handful (or fewer) qualifying-type laps, maybe getting back a position or two as you do it. Could be exciting to watch a Kamui or Adrian Sutil or Rubens Barrichello mix it up with cars sitting around fifth or sixth (maybe a Nico Rosberg or one of the McLarens or Ferraris?) — but on pretty worn Hard tires.

I suspect we also could see some moves by cars in the 11th to 13th spots, as they can choose which tire to start on and, as a result, maybe tailor their strategy.

UPDATE (July 20, 4:40 p.m.): Here’s Williams technical chief Sam Michael on this issue, via Autosport:

“It will be good for the racing,” Michael told AUTOSPORT. “It’s possible that there will be more than one pitstop. We’ve seen that happen at other tracks, so it could definitely happen.

“It has got the potential to throw things up in the air. It’s a long time since we’ve seen tyre blistering on the Bridgestones, so that’s probably not going to happen, but it’s going to be interesting.”

Is it possible that rain, for once, should not be what we’re rooting for?


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