Williams-BMW should win, McLaren-Mercedes’ Kimi Raikkonen must win and a furious Michael Schumacher is playing down Ferrari’s chances of victory… Here’s what to expect at this weekend’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.

Williams-BMW should win, McLaren-Mercedes’ Kimi Raikkonen must win and a furious Michael Schumacher is playing down Ferrari’s chances of victory… Here’s what to expect at this weekend’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.

Last year’s event illustrated that the revised Hockenheim is less demanding than the old circuit and medium downforce setups are adopted by most teams.

Previously a hard track for engines, Hockenheim is now only about 60 per cent full throttle but the weather is frequently hot which needs good cooling systems. There is a combination of slow and medium speed corners and the emphasis is on traction and grip.

With the new layout and resurfaced track last year, tyre choice was a bit of a gamble. The temperature also has a bearing on which compound to use but the track is generally not very abrasive so a softer tyre is likely.

Schumacher took his second Hockenheim victory last year, his first in a Ferrari, leading from pole position to the chequered flag. Raikkonen suffered from tyre problems, as did Renault’s Jarno Trulli who eventually crashed out. BAR, Jaguar, Arrows, Minardi, none of them finished the race, only nine cars made it over the finish line.

The five-time world champion is anticipating a tough fight for victory this weekend... Hockenheim is a track that is not expected to play to the strengths of Ferrari's F2003-GA chassis. Although Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello won at Silverstone last time out, Hockenheim's circuit lay-out is much more tight and twisty, which could lead to a close fight between the Italian giant, BMW WilliamsF1 and McLaren this weekend.

"Last year I had the opportunity to come as newly-crowned world champion to Hockenheim and celebrate the title with the home crowd," said Schumacher. "It is clear that I can hardly come back and repeat this.

"This year, the race definitely looks a much tougher prospect than last season's and everyone at Ferrari is aware of that, but it is not an impossible task. Recently, we have made significant progress, so we feel well prepared. We can expect a very tough race," he added.

Schumacher slams F1 hypocrisy over team orders

The German also dropped a bombshell this week when he claimed Raikkonen had been allowed to overtake McLaren-Mercedes team-mate David Coulthard at the British Grand Prix, despite team orders being outlawed for this season.

"If the same would have happened with Ferrari there would have been a big story about it, yet it has happened with McLaren but nobody has talked about it. It's a funny business," Schumacher said. "I am totally surprised there has been no speculation how easy Kimi was able to overtake David as the situation for me was very clear and very normal.

"David was on a different strategy but he let Kimi by very easily, but then could go at the speed he was able and make things more difficult for all the other drivers than he did for Kimi,” Schumacher added.

More tweaks for the MP4-17D

Meanwhile, in lieu of the controversial new MP4-18, McLaren will introduce an updated version of the current MP4-17D over the next two grands prix in an attempt to keep Raikkonen's title challenge alive. With only five races left this season, the young Finn will need to score the maximum number of points – and Schumacher as few as possible – to wipe out the five-time world champion’s lead of seven points.

McLaren have been outpaced by rivals Williams-BMW in the last two races and are aiming to boost their speed with the improvements to the MP4-17D car and its Mercedes-Benz engine. Some parts will be ready for the German Grand Prix, with others waiting until the Hungarian event on August.

McLaren-Mercedes managing director Martin Whitmarsh said: "We're reasonably competitive at the moment, but it's very close (between us and Williams-BMW). There is no doubt Williams are making good progress and I'm sure we'd rather have a larger margin."

Whitmarsh would not specify what the improvements were, but said they would only be obvious to a trained eye.

Williams-BMW confident of victory

Buoyed by Williams-BMW's pace at Silverstone, a track that didn't particularly favour the Grove-based team, chief operations engineer Sam Michael believes a correct tyre choice and strategy would be the keys to a Ralf Schumacher or Juan-Pablo Montoya victory at Hockenheim.

Even though the team failed to continue its winning streak at Silverstone, Montoya finished second and Williams-BMW expects to carry its form over to the German Grand Prix.

"The FW25's pace was the best we've seen with the car at Silverstone," said Michael. "Hockenheim is dominated by slow- and medium-speed corners which will dictate the set-up options we select over the weekend.

"Traction and tyre selection will be important factors. The data from last year's race demonstrates that tyre degradation can be a problem at Hockenheim, so making the correct choice with Michelin will be crucial," he added.

However, Michael added that strategy and the efficiency of the pit crew would likely decide the outcome of the upcoming grand prix: "After seeing how much time the crew managed to gain our drivers in the pitlane during the safety car period at Silverstone, we are confident of another strong showing in Germany. We've also made several improvements to the FW25 - which will hopefully keep us at the front.

We have always been fairly competitive at Hockenheim," Montoya said, "even when our car wasn't as good as it is now, so I don't see why we shouldn't be confident in achieving a good result this year".

Original article from Car