x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

German weather will be decisive

The German Grand Prix comes at a crucial time in the season.

The German Grand Prix comes at a crucial time in the season. Anchored by home driver Sebastien Vettel, Red Bull's recent renaissance has upped the pressure on Jenson Button's Brawn GP and the tide may be turning. Neither driver will have it easy at the Nurburgring. It is one of those classic circuits where you can't predict what the weather will do. The area's notoriously inconsistent weather patterns always influence teams' strategies.

When I won there in 1999 the weather was key. I had the right tyres at the right time and got the result. Poor weather will suit Red Bull. When the heavens opened in China, Vettel and Webber claimed a one-two. Red Bull have the best car in the wet, and the worrying thing for the other teams is that they have improved since then. I expect them to be strong in the wet or dry. Brawn GP seem to be better in warmer temperatures, where the tyres suffer less stress. While they are always quick on softs, they struggled on hard tyres at a cool Silverstone a fortnight ago.

Red Bull is working both sets well and they are making it hard for Button to tie up his maiden drivers' title. Vettel is getting stronger with every round. As the chasing driver he has nothing to lose. There was no early season pressure on Brawn, but Vettel is in Jenson's rear-view now, the gap is slimming and the pressure's firmly on. Sadly, the gap between Brawn and Red Bull and the other teams is still considerable and Ferrari, BMW and McLaren shouldn't touch them in Germany.

Extreme conditions and luck are their only hope. They'll need a lot of luck to have any chance at all. Kimi Raikkonen said he has no hope of a win. He's right. It looks like Ferrari need to completely overhaul their car. It's back to the drawing board mid-season. The Ferrari is just not competitive. Admittedly, they've been sporadic - excelling in Monaco - but they are not there at all this year.

The rumour mills are saying Ferrari might stop development on this year's car and start working on the 2010 model. Why not? They are out of the championship, have scored no wins and with none on the immediate horizon, they have lots of work to do. Jacques Villeneuve wants to come back to F1 next year, saying he's alarmed by the lack of rivalry amongst the top drivers. While the domination of Red Bull and Brawn has led to a less competitive atmosphere amongst the other teams, I have to disagree with him. Rivalry is always there.

The sport needs characters. Jacques is one and it would be wonderful to see him back on the grid. Teams will remember his poor final year at BMW, but he was uncomfortable, which permeated into his results. He needs motivation to perform. I think expanding the field is a good thing, 26 cars on the grid makes it harder to get points. A mix of younger and experienced drivers will also improve competition.

Bernie Ecclestone could even implement a knock-out stage. It's an idea to add to the F1 circus, a spectacle fans continue to enjoy and love. It's still unclear - like the Nurburgring weather - how many new teams there will be next year. What is clear is that this season is hotting up nicely. @Email:sports@thenational.ae