Full preview of the German GP at Hockenheim

The F1 circus visits Germany this weekend for the 11th round of the 2010 season.

The German GP is the home race for six of the 24 drivers in the F1 field and the local fans will accordingly descend in their droves.

See the pics from the British grand prix

No doubt all eyes will be on just two of the hometown heroes though – Michael Schumacher, on his first German GP since 2006, and Sebastian Vettel as he tries to restart his championship challenge.

With nine races left, the four leading drivers are separated by just 24 points, while in the constructors' championship McLaren lead Red Bull by 278 points to 249.

At present, Lewis Hamilton leads the championship with 145 points, but is only 12 clear of McLaren teammate Jenson Button. Mark Webber lies third, just five points shy of Button on 128, after his impressive victory at the British GP. Sebastian Vettel meanwhile is seven points behind him with 121.

There are plenty of challenges Vettel will have to overcome to move up from there, not least Webber who will be full of confidence from his winning peformance at Silverstone two weeks ago.

Webber will also be (sort of) returning to the scene of his first ever F1 victory. The German GP was held at the Nurburgring last year and he won convincingly despite being hit with a penalty.

This year, however, as part of a share deal between two circuits, the German GP will be held at Hockenheim in the south west of the country. While the circuit is a shadow of its former self since being redesigned after the 2001 race, it does provide plenty of opportunities for overtaking.

More importantly for the championship, there is a genuine possibility of a close race between the Red Bulls and the McLarens. The relative lack of high-speed corners means that the Red Bulls’ downforce advantage will be less evident. Equally, McLaren’s car development continues apace and they will be looking to close the gap back-up to Webber and Vettel.

Expect Ferrari to be up there too. Neither Alonso nor Massa have had a great deal of luck recently, but there have been signs that the pace is there.

Look out also for Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes who will be hoping to add to his third place finish at the British GP.

Of course, there is added intrigue: has Red Bull truly turned the corner in terms of its intra-team rivalry? Or has the clearing-the-air talk after Silverstone merely shovelled the acrimony under the carpet?

My bet for the race: Lewis Hamilton to repeat his crushing 2008 victory.

Andrew Papworth

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