German GP Paddock Notebook – Thursday

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As the Formula 1 circus rolls up at Hockenheim this weekend for the German Grand Prix, the country is currently riding on the crest of a wave following its FIFA World Cup victory.

Flags are still being waved, German football shirts are donned by most in the middle of town, and even Coca-Cola has taken the liberty of putting names such as “Bastian” and “Mesut” on its cans here. There’s a really good feeling and party spirit around.

On the F1 side of things, Thursday is pretty relaxed. The drivers have their media duties, we get to grill them with questions, and the teams make sure that everything is in place ahead of practice tomorrow. Here’s the first paddock notebook from Hockenheim.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

  • We preview the German Grand Prix in a complete post featuring talking points, analysis and TV times for the race.
  • Nico Rosberg had planned to run with a special World Cup helmet this weekend in celebration of Germany’s win, but then FIFA came along and said otherwise, forcing him to change it.
  • The MotorSportsTalk writing team has made its predictions for the race weekend, but our picks are varied. I’m back on my high horse moaning about Sauber, too…
  • In a busy week for Caterham, there has been yet another reshuffle at the top end of the management with Christijan Albers now becoming team principal.
  • The FIA’s planned ban on the FRIC systems doesn’t seem to bother any of the drivers, so don’t hold your breath for a massive change in the running order this weekend.
  • Force India’s Sergio Perez is expecting a good haul of points for Force India this weekend, having come unstuck at Silverstone.

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Being from England, I’m allowed to moan about the weather: ‘blimey it’s hot!’. It’s cooking up to be a warm one in Germany, and the good weather is set to continue until race day when showers could interrupt proceedings. If it does, it would be the first wet GP since Brazil 2012 – we’re due one!

Being from England, I’m also not crazy about discussing the World Cup following our group stage exit. However, it is the talk of the paddock at Hockenheim. The drivers in the press conference – four German – spoke about watching the final, and Nico Rosberg couldn’t hide a huge smile when speaking about the result. FIFA may have played party pooper and forced him to change his helmet design for the weekend, but he’s still riding high.

The pressure does undoubtedly lie with Nico in Germany. After Lewis won his home race last time out, he really does need to do the same here. In the psychological battle at the top of the standings, Hamilton going back-to-back – and possibly making it three in a row in Hungary next weekend – into the summer would be huge.

Fernando Alonso was quite happy to speak about the psychological battle at play, saying that mind games are important. The Spaniard has been in five championship battles over the years, and knows a lot about what the two drivers Mercedes drivers are going through

As for his own future? Fernando didn’t really say much, simply joking about the yearly game us media types play. He did confirm that he has not spoken to any other team about a possible seat, despite rumors of a switch to McLaren, so for the time being, we’re left to ponder his next move (if there is one, that is).

It’s much of the same for Jenson Button. The Briton was chirpy in his media session, drinking some tea and chatting about the Tour de France, being a keen cyclist. In terms of the future, little was said, but he did note how his fourth place finish at the British Grand Prix had gone a long way to lifting spirits at McLaren. He has a new race engineer this weekend following a re-shuffle among the team’s backroom staff. The team is ahead of the curve in terms of development, though, running its Hungary upgrades one week early. JB’s McLaren will be fitted with them on Saturday.

Tomorrow will see practice one and two take place, and give us an early indication of who will be heading the pecking order at Hockenheim. Both sessions are live on Live Extra, with FP2 being shown at 2:30pm ET on NBCSN. Be sure to join us then.

Merhi confirmed for WEC return with Manor at the Nürburgring

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CEFC Manor TRS Racing has confirmed that Roberto Merhi will return to the FIA World Endurance Championship for next month’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne.

Merhi previously raced for Manor in both Formula 1 and the WEC, making his most recent appearance with the British marque at last November’s 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Merhi’s last racing outing came in the Formula 2 double-header in Spain and has flirted with a move into Formula E, but was confirmed on Wednesday to be making his racing return at the Nürburgring on July 16.

Merhi will deputize for Vergne in the No. 24 Oreca 07 Gibson while the Frenchman is in New York for the city’s inaugural Formula E event.

FIA to re-examine Vettel/Hamilton Baku clash

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The FIA has confirmed that it will re-examine the clash between Formula 1 title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix to see if further action is warranted.

Vettel and Hamilton made contact twice behind the safety car in Baku, with the second incident deemed to be an act of dangerous driving on Vettel’s part.

The FIA stewards in Baku handed Vettel a 10-second stop/go penalty for the clash – the harshest available penalty besides disqualification – but faced calls to issue a stricter punishment post race.

Hamilton said that the incident set a dangerous precedent for F1 and wider motorsport, but Vettel believed his rival deserved a penalty for allegedly brake testing him.

On Wednesday, the FIA confirmed that it would be re-examining the incident in a meeting on July 3, with a verdict set to be delivered ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

More to follow.

Wickens not interested in full-time IndyCar switch despite practice run

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Robert Wickens is not interested in making a full-time switch to the Verizon IndyCar Series in the near future despite his practice run-out at Road America last weekend for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Mercedes DTM driver Wickens was called up for Friday practice at the KOHLER Grand Prix in the No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda after Mikhail Aleshin was unable to make it in time due to immigration issues.

Aleshin was able to return to the United States in time for Saturday’s final practice and qualifying at Road America, with Wickens stepping back down.

The Canadian got his first taste of an Indy car in a car swap with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe in March, paving the way for his practice appearance at Road America.

However, Wickens is not looking to make a full-time move over to IndyCar anytime soon despite enjoying his run-out, with his focus lying with DTM.

“Not really, to be honest,” Wickens said when asked if IndyCar was something he would like to move into in Mercedes’ ‘Tales from the Paddock’ press newsletter.

“I just want to race cars. That’s the main thing. I have no urge to leave the DTM at the moment.

“Everything is going well, and I’m really happy with Mercedes.”

Wickens also went into detail about how rapidly things moved with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, having only been told the day before practice that he was required for the running.

“I planned on having a relaxing weekend at home, but on Thursday afternoon I got a call from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which is the team that we did the ride swap with involving James Hinchcliffe back in April,” Wickens said.

“They asked if I could go to Road America and fill in for Mikhail Aleshin who had immigration issues. Fortunately, Toto [Wolff] was happy for me to do it and I was able to jump on a plane and get to Wisconsin.

“We didn’t get to the hotel until about 10pm on Thursday, and Free Practice 1 was on Friday morning very early. It took some getting used to.

“The practice itself was fun. The track was really good. It would be amazing to have a DTM race there one day.

“I definitely wanted to do the full weekend, but the full-time driver got his immigration stuff sorted and he made it to the race track by Friday night. My duties were finished, but it was still a really fun Friday.”

Force India’s Celis gets FP1 appearances in Austria, Hungary

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Force India youngster Alfonso Celis Jr. will make his first Formula 1 race weekend appearances of the season next month, taking part in first practice for the grands prix in Austria and Hungary.

Celis, 20, joined Force India as a development driver ahead of the 2016 season, enjoying six FP1 run-outs across the course of the year.

The Mexican driver returned for 2017, taking part in pre-season testing and the running following the Bahrain Grand Prix in April.

Force India confirmed on Wednesday that Celis will return for FP1 in Austria next week, before also featuring in practice in Hungary at the end of July.