x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Schumacher and Rosberg confident of strong show in Hockenheim

German pair confident of being on the pace, while Pastor Maldonado looks to learn from his mistakes.

Michael Schumacher, left, is expecting he and Nico Rosberg to be on the pace in Germany.
Michael Schumacher, left, is expecting he and Nico Rosberg to be on the pace in Germany.

HOCKENHEIM // Dark clouds loomed over much of Hockenheim yesterday, but there was a feeling of positivity in the air as the native Silver Arrows promised to rise to the occasion at Sunday's German Grand Prix.

Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, Mercedes-GP's two German drivers, are intent on providing their compatriots some summer cheer as foul weather and the financial plight of the nearby Nurburgring linger in the air.

The Hockenheimring prepares to host its first F1 weekend since 2010, but the majority shareholder of its sister racetrack 220km northwest in Nurburg revealed earlier this week it is €13 million (Dh58.5m) in debt and faces possible insolvency.

The state of the circuit's finances is in stark contrast to the riches Germany enjoys on track.

More than a fifth of the 24 drivers in the F1 field were born in Germany, with Sebastian Vettel, the Red Bull Racing driver from nearby Heppenheim, having won the previous two world championships.

When the field's five Germans were asked for their thoughts on the famous old circuit's demise, Schumacher joked his friend Vettel could perhaps buy the circuit. The younger German replied: "Your wallet is bigger than mine."

Schumacher may have seven world titles, but it was Rosberg not Schumacher who brought Mercedes-GP, the sport's only German team, their first race victory - and Mercedes Benz's first in 57 years - in China earlier this season.

While the marque's progress seemed to stall slightly in the immediate aftermath, recent weeks have shown a corner is being slowly negotiated as, first, Rosberg finished second in Monaco, and then Schumacher finished third in Valencia.

While Rosberg said it is unfair to suggest Mercedes have faded since his triumph in Shanghai, he did concede "we haven't maximised the car we have in the past few races".

A brighter future beckons, however, he believes.

"We have a good car and if the conditions suit us and we get a grip on the tyres then at a track like Hockenheim, which suits our car a lot better, we can hope for a very, very good result," said the 27 year old, who was born close to Hockenheim in Wiesbaden.

Schumacher, the seven-time world champion, has won at Hockenheim four times in his career and, with a troubled British Grand Prix, where he finished seventh, having passed, is optimistic ahead of today's two free practice sessions on a track that offers long straights and short corners.

"The most difficult race, which was Silverstone, is now behind us," he said.

"Here at Hockenheim, it will naturally suit our car a lot more and so we are a lot more optimistic. We want to give it a good show and give the maximum effort that we always do, but also anything extra that can be done for all our Mercedes colleagues and those who will cross their fingers for us.

"We hope that one of us can get on the podium - that would be great."

Elsewhere, when Pastor Maldonado collided with Sergio Perez at Silverstone, famous – albeit stereotyped – Latin tempers flared.

Sauber’s Mexican driver called his rival “stupid” and said serious punishment was necessary, while Williams’s Venezuelan driver replied that Perez needs to “stop crying”.

Two weeks later and a sense of calm and composure has returned to the F1 paddock. Yesterday, Perez said he regrets the terms he chose to describe Maldonado, but stands by the sentiment of his words.

“It was an unnecessary crash,” Perez said of the incident that saw Maldonado lose the rear of his car while aggressively defending position after both had come out of the pits together and were on fresh tyres.

“I was very angry at that moment and probably said things that I would not have liked to have said, but it is already said now, so in the end I still share my opinions from last time.

“Pastor was driving in a very aggressive way – more than aggressive – so I think now he will change his style because he is a very intelligent driver and a quick driver.

“That’s why he is in F1. He probably has realised that he has given away too many points because of this aggression.”

Maldonado, however, insists he will not change his driving style – although conceded he has made errors this season and will be a better driver because of them.

“I made some mistakes in the past and need to improve and learn from those mistakes,” he said. “For sure, I will try to do my best as always. I tried my best in the past but it didn’t work as I was expecting, so in the future I will evaluate more the situation.”

Perez, on hearing Maldonado’s views, added: “In my opinion, he should not change his style, but he should think about why he is getting so many reprimands and so many penalties. In the end, it is up to him to decide and if he wants to keep it that way then I respect it.”


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