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Fernando Alonso has finished on the podium of four of the last five races.
Fernando Alonso has finished on the podium of four of the last five races.

Ferrari expect to be on pace at German Grand Prix

Championship leader Fernando Alonso has been on the podium in four of the last five races.

More than one-fifth of the drivers in Sunday's German Grand Prix will be competing in their home race, yet the majority of the subplots that are expected to play out this weekend offer a more international flavour.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari's Spanish driver, leads the drivers' standings, despite the Italian manufacturers being slow out of the blocks. The 30 year old's first four races this year saw him finish fifth, first, ninth and seventh, but he has now finished on the podium at four of the last five grands prix, including victory in Valencia.

Andrea Stella, Alonso's race engineer, said expectations have risen since the start of the season and he expects Ferrari to be fighting at the front once again in Hockenheim.

"The car was good in Valencia, it was also good in Silverstone," Stella said. "And as Hockenheim is a mix of the slow speed of Valencia and high speed of Silverstone, I would expect Ferrari to be competitive in Germany.

"At the start of the season it would have required one to be extremely optimistic to imagine such a situation. But in this sport, things can change very quickly and we have always maintained a positive attitude. The current situation is the result of this attitude combined with a lot of hard work."

One topic that is sure to garner interest in the paddock at the Hockenheimring is the future of Alonso's teammate Felipe Massa.

The Brazilian was widely expected to be replaced come December, but following a resurgence in performance coupled with the news that Mark Webber rejected Ferrari's approaches in favour of renewing his deal at Red Bull Racing, the 31-year-old Massa is now feeling more confident.

"I think if we keep working like that and keep improving the car and working, I don't see a reason why I cannot be here," said Massa, who finished fourth at the British Grand Prix last week to mark his best result in two years. "I feel much more comfortable, and driving in the direction that I like.

"I feel there is a lot more to come. This is the direction we need to keep working; to improve the situation and to make a different championship for myself from now until the end of the season."

Massa's compatriot Bruno Senna has also seen his performances this season result in rumours he may lose his seat with some suggesting the Williams driver might not last until the end of the season.

Valtteri Bottas, the Finnish reserve driver for Sir Frank Williams's storied marque, completed a successful two-day young driver test last week and said he feels ready to make the step up.

The F1 calendar includes a month-long break next month that has traditionally been viewed as an opportunity for teams to make personnel changes.

"I would like a race seat in F1, I think that is my next goal," Bottas said. "I think next season I would be ready, or even now if someone asked me to race, for sure I would do it. I would feel happy to step in to the car.

"But every time I am in the car, I am learning all the time and getting better all the time. But for sure at some point you have to have your first race."


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