2013 German Grand Prix Preview

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There is no rest for the wicked in Formula One. Just one week after Pirelli’s woes peaked at Silverstone, the teams are back on the road and visiting the legendary Nurburgring for the German Grand Prix. The track may not be as fearsome as it was in the days of Hunt and Lauda, but it still poses a unique challenge to the drivers thanks to its stop-start nature and changes in elevation, requiring maximum concentration to tame as Sebastian Vettel found out to his cost back in 2011.

German Grand Prix Talking Points

Rosberg to enter the title fight?

Nico Rosberg’s win at the British Grand Prix has been called “inherited” by many after both Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton experienced car failures when leading. However, the German driver has now racked up two wins in 2013, and he will be gunning for a third at his home race this weekend. If he can take another 25 points at the Nurburgring and see his triple-champion compatriot falter, he could quickly become a force in this year’s championship.

Ferrari’s seek the remedy to Silverstone pace

Despite making the podium at the British GP, Ferrari admitted that their pace simply was not good enough as both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa struggled in qualifying (P10 and P12). In the race, Alonso benefitted from fresh tires at the end whilst Massa’s race blew up with his left-rear Pirelli; regardless, the F138 is clearly the third quickest car out there. A strong weekend is required from the Italian team who have a mammoth 22 victories at the German GP.

Vettel’s July hoodoo

Sebastian Vettel has never won a grand prix in the month of July: fact. Similarly, he has never won his home race; a notable blot on any legend’s stat sheet. Therefore, this race, just a few days after his 26th birthday, has added importance and his DNF last time out at Silverstone means that there is ground to make up (or more ground to put between himself and his rivals). If Red Bull are looking to have both titles sewn up early in order to focus on 2014, then the next two races are crucial.

Grosjean and Perez in need of a good result

Romain Grosjean has failed to score since his charge to P3 in Bahrain, causing many to once again question the Frenchman’s place in the sport with Davide Valsecchi waiting in the wings, and it is unlikely that his side-swipe with Mark Webber did his reputation many favors (regardless if he was to blame). Similarly, Perez is without points since Spain, so a good charge from the Mexican could do wonders for his own and McLaren’s confidence. Question marks are certainly hanging over both drivers though.

Oh, and Pirelli

Yes. We had to mention it, really. Pirelli have brought a new construction of tire to this weekend’s race despite claiming that the compounds used at Silverstone were safe, and the Italian supplier is set to bring back the 2012 constructions in Hungary. It is unlikely that the Nurburgring will be as aggressive on tires as Silverstone was, yet all eyes will still be on Pirelli for this weekend. A trouble-free race on the part of the tires would be welcomed by all involved with the sport, one would imagine.

Track: Nurburgring
Laps: 60 (5.148km)
Corners: 15
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:29.468 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2012 Winner: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
2012 Pole Position: Fernando Alonso 1:40.621
2012 Fastest Lap: Michael Schumacher 1:18.725
DRS Zones: T11 to T14; Main Straight (T15 to T1).

Thursday – Free Practice 1: 04:00am ET
Thursday – Free Practice 2: 08:00am ET
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 05:00am ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 08:00am ET
Sunday – Race: 08:00am ET

*2012 race was held at Hockenheim.

Helio Castroneves: ‘I have nothing to lose’ Sunday in bid for 4th Indy 500 win

All photos: IndyCar
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You might say Helio Castroneves comes into Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 with a “less is more” philosophy than he’s had in years past:

* No pressure

* No worrying about points

* No worrying about winning a championship

Take away all those things and the very popular Brazilian driver could be in the best position he’s ever been to achieve the biggest goal of his career:

Winning a fourth Indy 500, making him a member of motor racing’s most exclusive club, joining legendary drivers A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as the only drivers to conquer the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway four times each.

Like his car number, Castroneves has won the Indy 500 three times. He wants to change that number to four times in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. Photo: IndyCar.

“For sure, I definitely don’t have much to lose in terms of points, championships, and things like that,” Castroneves told MotorSportsTalk earlier this week. “I don’t have to think that I don’t have a car to win, I’m not going to risk that much because there are still championship points (to earn if he was still racing full-time in the series).

“Not that I did that before, but if the situation occurs, people just need to know I have nothing to lose this time.”

Castroneves three prior triumphs in the 500 came in his first two years in the field – 2001 and 2002 – and again in 2009. In addition, he has finished twice in the last four editions of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing in 2014 and 2017.

Coming so close last year, losing to Takuma Sato by .201 of a second, is something Castroneves hasn’t forgotten about. To come so close to No. 4 has only made him more hungry to get it done on Sunday.

“Yeah, but if it were easy, we would likely have had more than four wins by now,” he said. “We’ve had opportunities in the past, the last four years we were really competitive, we were right there, especially in ’14 and ’17, we were right on it.

“Last year, I thought it was going to be the hardest 500 for me and look what happened: we were battling to the end for a victory,” Castroneves said. “It’s not just about trying hard, it’s about being there at the right place at the right time.

“And this place, Indianapolis, I’ve always said the track winds up choosing who is going to be the winner. Hopefully, with safety and luck, we’ll be part of it and be on the right side.”

Team owner Roger Penske decided after last season to put Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya as the chief drivers of Team Penske’s new two-car effort in the IMSA WeatherTech Championship sports car series.

When the announcement was first made, many feared that Castroneves had run out of chances to get that elusive No. 4 at Indy.

But Penske sweetened the deal for Helio to go sports car racing by promising he’d field a car for him at Indy. And Penske has proven to be a man of his word, giving Castroneves everything he needs to finally win No. 4.

“I feel we’ve prepared as much as a team, we’re doing everything possible in relation to preparation,” Castroneves said. “The preparation we had in the previous year helps us tremendously to give us an opportunity fighting there for a win, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Castroneves has taken to the new style Indy car with aplomb. During the first week of practice leading up to last weekend’s qualifying, he was consistently one of the fastest drivers in the field.

The 43-year-old even topped the speed charts in the Fast Nine last Saturday before ending up eighth in the following day’s pole qualifying.

As a result, he’ll start Sunday’s race from the middle of Row 3, anchoring Team Penske’s four-man Top 8 starting lineup effort in the 500. When the green flag drops, to his left will be Danica Patrick and to his right will be four-time IndyCar champ and former 500 winner Scott Dixon.

And millions of others right behind him, so to speak.

“I feel the sense that everyone wants it to happen,” he said of winning No. 4. “We’re talking about being part of history here. The last guy to do it was Rick Mears in the ‘90s (1991).

“I mean, how cool would that be if I would be in the position and to see No. 4 in my era. I hear a lot of the fans, even those supporting different drivers, all saying ‘Man, I want to see you win No. 4.’ That just shows how special this place is.

“(The Indy 500) is part of a lot of people’s lives. I just would be very fortunate to hopefully to have this generation see someone do No. 4.”

While he’d rather not think about missing out on a fourth win at Indy for a ninth straight year, Castroneves is using reverse psychology somewhat.

He’s going into Sunday’s biggest race in the world fully believing he will finally win No. 4.

And if he does, forget the idea that he would never come back to race at Indy again.

“Not at all. Why? You’re so close to getting four, and then when you get four, you stop it? It doesn’t make sense.

“I think I still have at least four or five more years, there’s no question about it. As long as Roger (Penske) gives me the opportunity, I’m going to be going for it, for sure.”

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