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.


  • 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.


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.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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