The build-up to the weekend's Formula 1 German Grand Prix, at the Hockenheimring, continues with news on Lewis Hamilton's contract situation at McLaren as well as confirmation the Woking-based team will bring "significant" upgrades to this race weekend, as they try to play catch-up with Red Bull and Ferrari at the sharp end of the grid.
Whitmarsh on Hamilton
The Daily Mail quotes Martin Whitmarsh, the team principal, as being dismissive of any speculation surrounding the future of Lewis Hamilton at McLaren.
"Lewis has been a member of this team for a long time. I think there's been more speculation, more concern, more interest in this situation in the media than perhaps within the team or in Lewis' mind," Whitmarsh said, adding that he was equally unconcerned about Hamilton indicating a resolution of the issue by August.
"I don't think we should put any timeframe on it," he explained, "For both parties it's something that's got to be determined, preferably before the end of the season."
This has been, on the whole, a disappointing year for McLaren. It started well, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button locking out the front row at each of the first two races - Australia and Malaysia. Since then, an unexplained lack of pace and one too many tactical and human errors have cost McLaren dearly and both Hamilton and Button have repeatedly expressed their disappointment. The calls assumed urgent proportions after a particularly poor showing at the British Grand Prix last time out.
The pressure to deliver race-winning cars is now manifesting itself in pressure on the team to convince 2008 World Champion Hamilton to re-sign with the team. Hamilton's contract expires at the end of this season and he has been quoted as saying his future with the team will depend on the kind of car McLaren can give him.
"I've been ready all year to win. We should have won a lot more races than we have, but there's many more races to go. We still have a lot more chances to get some wins, and I think it's possible. Up until now we've not developed as fast as other people. Other people have brought some more upgrades in the past than we have, but we have a big upgrade coming for the next race, so let's hope that it does the job and gets us in a fighting position," the BBC quoted Hamilton.
There was an earlier IBTimes UK report that suggested Hamilton might be offered a whopping £100mn five year contract to tempt him to stay but, if his quotes now are to be believed, it is a genuine shot at the driver's title rather than a fat contract that will seal the deal now.
No German Grand Prix for 2013?
It appears there is a possibility we may not have a race in Germany next season, given the financial difficulties presently weighing the Nurburgring down. According to an arrangement between two of the country's Formula 1 venues the German Grand Prix rotates between the Hockenheimring and the Nurburgring.
However, a report in the Daily Mail indicates the Nurburgring GmbH, which maintains nearly 90 percent of the circuit, owes the Rhineland-Palatinate bank £235mn for redevelopment in 2009. There has been an appeal, to the European Union's Executive Commission, for an emergency loan of £10nm, but this is unlikely to be granted. The bottom-line, therefore, is that the state has been forced to admit a "high probability of insolvency at the end of the month due to a lack of liquidity".
Ferrari Hope to Continue Top Form
Despite a slow start to the season - the team had to wait till the Spanish Grand Prix for a front row qualifying position and have recorded only five podium finishes in the nine races so far (all for Fernando Alonso) - Ferrari are on a definite upswing. The Italian marquee outfit turned their fortunes around with a first pole position of the season (at Silverstone) and at Valencia Alonso was the first driver to win two races this season. In addition, the slow improvement in form for embattled No 2 driver Felipe Massa has reinvigorated the team's challenge for the constructors' title as well. Going into the weekend's German Grand Prix, Alonso leads the drivers' title and Ferrari have moved up to second in the constructors' championship.
One of the major challenges at the Hockenheimring is the need for outright speed, something the Ferraris have not been too capable of providing, so far this season. However, in an interview on the team's official Web site, Alonso's race engineer, Andrea Stella had some thoughts on that issue.
"You always want to get more and more top speed as it brings benefits in terms of reducing the lap time and it makes life easier during the race," he explained, "But of course, top speed is the counterpart to downforce and in a way, if we are limited when it comes to top speed, that is partly because our car is performing well when it comes to downforce."
"We simply adapted the aerodynamic development of the car and progress also came as we gained a better understanding of the tyres," he added, "In fact, the tyres have been a major challenge this year, as well as optimising the aerodynamics, the latter because of the change of rules in this area compared to last year. However, another important challenge we all face this year is not so much a technical one, but stems from the fact that the performance level of many of the cars is extremely close."
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!