Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
Ferrari Formula One driver Felipe Massa of Brazil is pushed back to his garage during the qualifying session of the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at Shanghai International circuit April 14, 2012. Reuters

The weekend's Formula 1 festivities are set to kick start with the first two Free Practice sessions for the 2012 Formula 1 German Grand Prix and all eyes will be on the McLaren team. The Woking-based outfit has not had an easy ride lately, with performance issues hampering their title charge and also leading to speculation 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton, whose contract expires at the end of the season, could refuse to re-sign. Meanwhile, rain has been forecast for Friday's Free Practice sessions at the Hockenheimring in Germany, leading to suggestions the weekend could be as wet and rainy as the recent race at Silverstone.

"Significant" Upgrades for McLaren

After a hugely disappointing last two race weekends, McLaren seem set to pull out all the stops for the end-of-the-month double-header. The set of two races - the German Grand Prix followed by the Hungarian Grand Prix - has been described by several drivers as being critical to maintaining a championship charge.

"The final back-to-back before we head into the summer break will be important for the whole team," Button explained pointedly, "Coming off the back of a couple of disappointing weekends, it's important that we capitalise on the opportunities available in Germany and Hungary."

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal, has confirmed the team will bring a lot of "noticeable updates" to the car for the German Grand Prix, adding that the challenge to understand how the Pirelli tyres worked remained as important as ever. Both their drivers, Hamilton and Jenson Button, complained of heating problems during the British Grand Prix.

"The sidepods from the front to the rear are quite different so you'll notice those and there are other bits and pieces that the sharper-eyed will see. And clearly there are some parts which are hidden to the naked eye. So they are the main area of modifications and they will be reasonably noticeable. In terms of Silverstone, it was about getting the tyres to work and getting them at the right temperature and not graining. We had graining on the option tyre," Whitmarsh was quoted as saying by Formula1.com

"We obviously had a poor qualifying session (at Silverstone). I think on the intermediate tyre we were reasonably competitive. Up until that point, on the dry tyre and the wet tyre I don't think we had enough temperature in the intermediate which was why we struggled in qualifying and the race thereafter was quite difficult," he added.

Alonso on Germany

Fernando Alonso has overseen a sea change in Ferrari's fortunes over the last couple of races. The transformation, though, is decieving, in that it is more a result of the Spaniard pushing the car to its absolute limits rather than it having outright pace, something which will certainly be a disadvantage for Hockenheim, given the long straights and high-speed corners.

"It's more or less the same as the last four or five grand prix. Whoever is leading the championship is not a big factor at the moment because everything is changing so quickly, positions in the weekends are never the same and it's always a bit of a mix. So I'm approaching this grand prix in the same way, trying to maximise what we have in our hands and trying to test some new updates on the car which we hope will work," the double world champion said to Ferrari.com.

Sauber Cautious ahead of Hockenheimring Race

Meanwhile, Giampaolo Dall'Ara, the head of track engineering for the Sauber F1 team has weighed in with his expectations of what the race will be like, both for his team and the field in general. Dall'Ara explained, to Sauber's official Web site, he expected the Hockenheimring to be similar to the race at Valencia, in that both straight line speed and braking stability and traction were important.

"The Hockenheim track is a mix of everything, although high speed corners don't have the same influence on the lap time as they do in Silverstone. The Hockenheim track is a mix of everything, although high speed corners don't have the same influence on the lap time as they do in Silverstone," Dall'Ara said.

Friday Weather

According to The Weather Channel, the forecast for Friday is for showers in the evening. the sky will remain mostly cloudy and the temperatures will remain between 16 and 19 degrees Celsius through the day time and will drop to as low as 12 degrees Celsius at night. There is 70 percent humidity and a 50 percent chance of precipitation, with wind coming from North North East at 2km/h.

Where to Watch Live

You can follow all the action from the Hockenheimring, live, from 8.45 am BST to 11.35 am BST on Sky Sports F1 HD. You can also follow the Free Practice sessions live, with real-time information and feeds, at the Formula 1 Web site.

Stay tuned to IBTimes UK's coverage of the 2012 Formula 1 German Grand Prix, as we continue to bring you race previews, driver quotes and tactical analyses, ahead of the weekend's race!