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German Grand Prix (Hockenheim) 2002 German Grand Prix (Hockenheim) 2002 preview.
Story by Andrew Frampton.

Just one week separates the Grand Prix in France and Germany, with Michael Schumacher hoping to celebrate yet another Ferrari victory in front of his home crowd, having taken his fifth driver's title at the Magny-Cours circuit last weekend. Germany has a long history of Formula One racing, with the famous Nurburgring circuit used as far back as 1927. In 1977 Hockenheim was granted the rights to hold the national GP, and has done so every year since, aside from 1985. Made famous by its three long straights with tight hairpins, Hockenheim was considered a true driver's circuit, with the cars reaching maximum speed on three occasions during a lap. Yet this year sees a new configuration for the track in the name of safety. Gone are the long straights, replaced by a series of long curves and new hairpins based around the stadium section of the old track.

With Michael Schumacher now crowned as the driver's champion, Ferrari will be focussing on the push to make it a 1-2 for the team, with Rubens Barrichello's assault on second position in the standings. They will also be hoping to wrap up the constructor's championship, which they currently lead by 67 points. Although Schumacher may not have the satisfaction of completing his fifth championship title on his home event, the German will still be aiming to claim victory at Hockenheim. His win in France took him to an unbeatable total in the championship stakes, but up until five laps from the end of the race it appeared that he would have to wait until the German event to secure victory. After incurring a drive-through penalty for crossing the pit lane exit line too early, Schumacher had found himself down in second position, behind the McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen. With the Finn consolidating a lead of about a second, it seemed that Schumacher would have to settle for second position, until Raikkonen ran wide on oil left by Allan McNish's Toyota, allowing Schumacher to nip up the inside to the race and championship glory.

His French success was his eighth win of the season, while he has also finished on the podium in every event this season, having taken 2nd in Monaco and at the Nurburgring and 3rd in Malaysia. Barrichello, meanwhile, has had a torrid season, dogged by team orders and mechanical failures. Far from Schumacher's 100% record, the Brazilian has finished just six of the races so far. It has been a season of tremendous highs and lows for the former Stewart driver, with his second career win at the Nurburgring the best moment of a season ruined when he was asked to move over to allow Schumacher to win in Austria, and successive start line failures in Great Britain and France. Now that his team-mate has taken the championship title, the team is to focus on Barrichello, and he now has first option on using the spare car on race days. Although there has been no testing around the new circuit, it would be a brave person who would bet against another Ferrari victory.

Out to stop Ferrari in Germany will be Williams, although they will need an improvement on recent form to have any chance of an upset. Seven podium positions in the first six races of the season had put them in contention for the constructor's championship, with Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher also performing well in the driver's championship. However, after Monaco their season has faltered, and they have taken just two top three finishes in the last five rounds. Ironically, this lack of race pace has occurred simultaneously with Montoya taking five successive pole positions. However, the Colombian has just a third and fourth from those five starts, and now holds second position in the driver's championship by just two points from Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher. The younger Schumacher brother is the most consistent of the pair, and has finished all but the opening round this season, but of late has been unable to replicate his early season form, which saw him net, a valuable win in Malaysia. In both qualifying and race conditions he has regularly been slower than his less-experienced team-mate. However, he should have a lot of support from his home crowd this weekend, and it would be a good performance if he made the podium in Germany - the first time he would have done so since Austria.

On the first day of practice for the German Grand Prix, former McLaren driver Mika Hakkinen announced his retirement from Formula One racing, confirming Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard as the team's strike force next season. The Finn had taken a year's sabbatical from racing this season, to consider his options after a troubled year in 2001, and his decision not to return next year has surprised few. It is good news for the team's current drivers, who have finally shown the true pace of the McLaren car in recent events. A difficult first half to this year's campaign had seen reliability problems affecting both cars, with three third positions the highlight of the first six races. In Monaco that all changed, with David Coulthard taking advantage of a tight track reliant on the mechanical grip of the car - ideally suited to the McLaren. A disastrous performance at the British Grand Prix aside, Coulthard and Raikkonen have been regulars on the podium, with the Brit taking second in Canada, and Raikkonen emerging with third from the European GP. The Finn drove a superb race last weekend in France to out-manoeuvre Michael Schumacher and Montoya to lead into the final laps, until oil on the track caused him to run wide, allowing Schumacher through into the lead. It would have been the 22 year olds' first Grand Prix win in only his second season of racing at this level. With the new layout at Hockenheim no longer favouring only the more powerful cars, McLaren are in with a chance of adding to their points haul, which currently stands at 52 points, and will be hoping to close in on Williams who are only nine points better off.

Renault are one of the first teams to have confirmed their driver line-up for next season, with the Italian Jarno Trulli being joined in the team by the highly rated Fernando Alonso. Both drivers are managed by Renault boss Flavio Briatore, leaving no room for Jenson Button, who was soon confirmed at BAR from 2002 onwards. This weekend Button and Trulli will be focussing on retaining their fourth position in the constructor's championship standings, which they currently hold by five points from Sauber. Despite learning at the French Grand Prix that he was being dropped for next season, Button still drove well for his current employers to take sixth position, while Trulli recorded his sixth retirement of the season when his engine blew. It is Button who has scored the majority of the team's points this season (11 out of 15), mainly thanks to fourth placed finishes in Malaysia and Brazil. Although the team has yet to make the podium they have taken seven top six finishes so far. Despite only taking three points from the last three races more points in Hockenheim are not out of the question.

Despite a disappointing performance in the French Grand Prix, Sauber still hold fifth position in the constructor's championship, with the small Swiss team ahead of some of the larger entries such as Jordan and Jaguar. Although they failed to add to their ten point tally, France did bring a seventh placed finish for the German Nick Heidfeld, his fifth successive finish. He has been the stronger of the two drivers, recording six points to the rookie Felipe Massa's four. The highlight of the team's season was the Spanish Grand Prix, when Heidfeld led Massa home, taking fourth and fifth positions respectively.

Giancarlo Fisichella will compete this weekend for the Jordan team, despite suffering a huge accident in practice at Magny-Cours. The Italian was lucky to emerge with no more than superficial injuries after going off at the Estoril corner when his front wing broke and became wedged under the car. Formula One's doctor Sid Watkins encouraged Fisichella not qualify or race in last weekend's event, with the Italian unable to remember the accident. It has been a troubled year for the British team, but things are improving after an abysmal start to the season. Hydraulic problems effected Fisichella and team-mate Takuma Sato on a regular basis in the early races, and the team did not take a points finish until the sixth round in Austria, when Fisichella took his first of three successive fifth place finishes. The Jordan No.1 driver also took seventh position in Great Britain. Sato's season has been gradually improving after a start marred by a series of embarrassing accidents, not least in Malaysia, where he drove into his team-mate. However, his recent performances have shown a more mature attitude, although he has been robbed of finishes in the last two events with mechanical failures.

BAR's season of contrasting fortunes continued in France, when both Olivier Panis and Jacques Villeneuve failed to finish the event - Panis suffering serious handling problems after an early collision with Sato, while Villeneuve's engine blew soon afterwards. The team has been dogged by mechanical failures this season, with Panis failing to finish the first seven events. However, a change in form at the British Grand Prix saw both drivers in the points positions for the first time this season. With Villeneuve taking fourth ahead of his French team-mate, the team now has five points to its name. Prior to the Silverstone event, the team had shown flashes of form, with some strong qualifying sessions, while Villeneuve was arguably the star of the race on his way to seventh position in Austria, only to retire on the final lap. The BAR team has the facilities to become a regular top six team, but they will need to improve their reliability to offer a regular challenge to teams like Renault and Sauber.

After a run of poor performances, the Jaguar Formula One team has been told to improve by the bosses of parent company Ford. They should have been happy with what they saw in France, with the R3 chassis, fresh from testing in Valencia, taking its first top ten grid position of the season, with Eddie Irvine taking the car to ninth on the Magny-Cours grid. The former Ferrari driver raced well and was on course for a possible sixth position before his rear wing became detached, and he spun off into the gravel. Had he taken sixth, it would have been the first time since the opening round in Australia that the team had made the points, with Irvine making the most of a huge crash which eliminated nearly half the field to take fourth place down-under. For much of the season, they have been languishing near the back end of the grid, often struggling to qualify ahead of the Minardis, and falling prey to their Cosworth powered rivals Arrows. Irvine has only made the finish of three events this season after a series of mechanical problems and accidents, while his Spanish team-mate Pedro De La Rosa has recorded seven finishes, but as yet has been unable to make the points despite looking the stronger driver in the team at several events.

The new Hockenheim track should prove a happy hunting ground for the Toyota team. In their first season of Formula One racing they have had to approach each of the events this season with little data to set up the cars on - yet with the German track's new layout, the established teams should have less of an advantage. The team's early season promise has faded recently, with Mika Salo and Allan McNish suffering a series of mechanical failures, which have limited the team to the two points scored by the Finn in Australia and Brazil. Salo has now suffered five successive DNFs, while the team has failed to take a top ten finish since round six in Austria. Salo in particular has shown pace in qualifying, often making the top ten on the grid, but as the speculation over drive line-ups for next season continues Salo, and especially McNish will be hoping for improved performances to guarantee their drives with the team for next year.

Minardi's Mark Webber put in one of his drives of the season to take eighth position at Magny-Cours racing ahead of drivers from better funded teams, including Jaguar and Toyota. Webber has been one of the stars of the 2002 season, in his first year of Formula One racing after several years of experience in Formula 3000, securing two points for fifth position in his first ever Formula One race. Although the Australian has failed to repeat his point scoring feat, he has out-performed his Malaysian team-mate Alex Yoong at every event. It has been a tough year for Yoong so far, failing to qualify for two of the races, and being uncompetitive in the others.

The Arrows team are expected to appear in Germany, although whether they will choose to not meet the 107% qualifying target, as they did in France, is unknown. Amid mounting money problems, the team decided to save money by not competing in the race by qualifying too slowly. If they had failed to take part in qualifying, the team could have been excluded from the rest of the season and faced financial penalties. Enrique Bernoldi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen will be hoping that the team's management allows them to compete in Germany, as they have shown pace on occasions this season, most notably when Frentzen took sixth place finishes in Spain and Monaco. The team has also been hit by several expensive mechanical failures this season, especially on Bernoldi's car, which has only made it to the end of two races.

Driver's Championship Standings:
1. Michael Schumacher 96pts
2. Juan Pablo Montoya 34pts
3. Rubens Barrichello 32pts
4. Ralf Schumacher 32pts
5. David Coulthard 30pts
6. Kimi Raikkonen 17pts

Constructor's Championship Standings:
1. Ferrari 128pts
2. Williams-BMW 61pts
3. McLaren-Mercedes 52pts
4. Renault 15pts
5. Sauber 10pts
6. Jordan 6pts

2002 F1 season calendar
03/03/2002 - Australian Grand Prix (Melbourne)
- Australia circuit by JR
- Australia preview by AF
- Australia grid by JR
- Australia review by AF
- Australia lap-by-lap by JR
17/03/2002 - Malaysian Grand Prix (Sepang)
- Malaysia circuit by JR
- Malaysia preview by AF
- Malaysia grid by JR
- Malaysia review by AF
- Malaysia lap-by-lap by JR
31/03/2002 - Brazilian Grand Prix (Sao Paulo)
- Brazil circuit by JR
- Brazil preview by AF
- Brazil grid by JR
- Brazil review by AF
- Brazil lap-by-lap by JR
14/04/2002 - San Marino Grand Prix (Imola)
- San Marino circuit by JR
- San Marino preview by AF
- San Marino grid by JR
- San Marino review by AF
- San Marino lap-by-lap by JR
28/04/2002 - Spanish Grand Prix (Barcelona)
- Spain circuit by JR
- Spain preview by AF
- Spain grid by JR
- Spain review by AF
- Spain lap-by-lap by JR
12/05/2002 - Austrian Grand Prix (Spielberg)
- Austria circuit by JR
- Austria preview by AF
- Austria grid by JR
- Austria review by AF
- Austria lap-by-lap by JR
26/05/2002 - Grand Prix de Monaco (Monaco)
- Monaco circuit by JR
- Monaco preview by AF
- Monaco grid by JR
- Monaco review by AF
- Monaco lap-by-lap by JR
09/06/2002 - Canadian Grand Prix (Montreal)
- Canada circuit by JR
- Canada preview by AF
- Canada grid by JR
- Canada review by AF
- Canada lap-by-lap by JR
23/06/2002 - European Grand Prix (Nürburgring)
- Europe circuit by JR
- Europe grid by JR
- Europe review by AF
- Europe lap-by-lap by JR
07/07/2002 - British Grand Prix (Silverstone)
- Britain circuit by JR
- Britain grid by JR
- Britain review by AF
- Britain lap-by-lap by JR
21/07/2002 - French Grand Prix (Magny-Cours)
- France circuit by JR
- France preview by AF
- France grid by JR
- France review by AF
- France lap-by-lap by JR
28/07/2002 - German Grand Prix (Hockenheim)
- Germany circuit by JR
- Germany preview by AF
- Germany grid by JR
- Germany review by AF
- Germany lap-by-lap by JR
18/08/2002 - Hungarian Grand Prix (Budapest)
- Hungary circuit by JR
- Hungary grid by JR
- Hungary lap-by-lap by JR
01/09/2002 - Belgian Grand Prix (Spa Francorchamps)
- Belgium circuit by JR
- Belgium grid by JR
- Belgium review by AF
- Belgium lap-by-lap by JR
15/09/2002 - Italian Grand Prix (Monza)
- Italy circuit by JR
- Italy grid by JR
- Italy lap-by-lap by JR
29/09/2002 - American Grand Prix (Indianapolis)
- USA circuit by JR
- USA grid by JR
- USA lap-by-lap by JR
13/10/2002 - Japanese Grand Prix (Suzuka)
- Japan circuit by JR
- Japan grid by JR
- Japan review by AF
- Japan lap-by-lap by JR

2002 German GP circuit map. Image by John Rigby, FIA. Click here for a larger image.

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