German Grand Prix - Preview
Lewis Hamilton will be looking to break the deadlock between himself and his World Championship rivals at this weekend's German Grand Prix.
Following the masterful display given by the 23-year-old and the McLaren Mercedes team in the wet last time out at Silverstone, the partnership will be chasing a second straight win at Hockenheim.
The German Grand Prix is also Hamilton's second 'home' race, with thousands of Mercedes employees congregating in their own private grandstand to cheer on the Englishman and team-mate Heikki Kovalainen.
With the Nurburgring playing host to last year's German Grand Prix - actually named the European Grand Prix - Sunday's race will be Hamilton's first in an F1 car on the 2.842-mile track.
"Of course I want to do well here," he said. "The support we get in Germany is amazing and it would be great to have a one-two."
Hamilton moved back to the top of the Championship following his victory in the British Grand Prix, albeit locked in a three-way tie alongside Ferrari pair Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa.
Teams congregated for a test at Hockenheim last week and, just as they had at Silverstone, both McLaren and Ferrari topped the timesheets during the course of the three-day run.
World champion Raikkonen has said that he is hoping for hot weather this weekend, knowing that Ferrari's F2008 is easier on its tyres in such conditions.
In contrast, McLaren's MP4-23 is rather more aggressive with its rubber, meaning that more heat can be generated for a single 'flying' lap in qualifying, but leaving it more susceptible to tyre wear.
Cooler conditions might therefore suit McLaren more and, with Sunday's forecast for showers, could their drivers be the ones to benefit?
Nevertheless, Raikkonen was right on Hamilton's tail ahead of their opening pit stops at Silverstone - the Finn's race coming unstuck after Ferrari made the wrong call on tyres.
Indeed, he could have won all of the last three races - Raikkonen also being rear-ended by Hamilton in Canada and suffering an exhaust problem whilst comfortably out front at Magny-Cours.
"We really need to win this one," Raikkonen said on his personal website.
"Last week we had a very productive test and tried various new parts. Judging by the lap times it's going to be very close again, but I feel Ferrari will be very competitive and we are fighting for the win," he added.
Meanwhile, after a performance at Silverstone which brought five spins and a 13th-place finish, team-mate Massa will certainly be keeping one eye pointed skywards this weekend.
Ferrari won the last grand prix at the circuit in 2006 with Michael Schumacher leading Massa in the seven-times world champion's farewell to his home crowd before retirement.
McLaren have to hark back a decade to their last win at Hockenheim, with Mika Hakkinen taking the chequered flag on his way to taking the title.
The Finn's victory was on the old 4.2-mile track, which comprised the stadium section followed by a blast through the adjoining forest.
The new circuit, designed by Hermann Tilke and introduced in 2002, retains the stadium, with the long, tree-lined straights which so characterised the old Hockenheim replaced instead by a truncated section.
Deprived of what made it unique, Hockenheim has nevertheless provided some good racing since its modification.
The track's primary overtaking chance comes into the 40 mph hairpin bend at the end of the 190+ mph 'straight' - such a speed differential resulting in high brake wear.
Because of the heavy braking into, and good traction needed out of, the slow corners which predominate, demands on tyres are also high, with Bridgestone supplying hard and medium compounds for the race.
In fact, there are no significant high speed changes of direction - perhaps a reason why McLaren are not running the 'shark fin' engine cover they tested there last week.
The vogueish design, already used by Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Renault and Force India - and also tested by Toyota at Hockenheim - is designed to improve high-speed cornering by providing a larger surface area to resist the tail sliding.
But, according to McLaren, it also has the potential to be affected by crosswinds and more testing will be carried out before a final decision is made on whether to use the cover later in the season.