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.

Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”