This weekend marks a welcome return to Germany after a year off the calendar in 2015, F1 returns to Hockenheim with the championship hotly poised with only six points separating Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, the pair will be eager to maximise their performance and with the summer break looming it will be an important fight for the half term top spot going into the 4 week hiatus.
Hamilton comes into the race on the back of an impressive run of three consecutive wins, taking the honours in Austria, Britain and Hungary. The British driver may not have the incredible record here that he has at the previous circuit at the Hungaroring but he has won here before in 2008 during his championship year, with other notable showings including 2014 where he fought back from the back of the grid to finish 3rd and join Rosberg on the podium.
Rosberg of course enjoys his home race weekend (enough of the nonsense about Monaco and Finland) here and he will hope to overturn the six point deficit he faces, a win will guarantee the championship lead going into the break and he will certainly be aiming for a repeat of the last visit to Hockenheim, where he took a lights-to-flag victory.
If there is one place Mercedes will look to enforce their “rules of engagement” it should probably be here and with the fans expectant and bosses no doubt nowhere far away, Toto Wolff will know they cannot risk an embarrassing incident reminiscent of Spain and Austria, therefore I would suggest that the battle out front may not be particularly exciting.
Behind the Silver Arrows appears to be a direct fight for the final place on the podium and ultimately second best in the Constructors, between Ferrari and Red Bull.
Ferrari currently hold second place only a point ahead of the Bulls, but their grip of the spot could be lost this weekend given the contrast in form between the two teams with Ferrari disappointing many who saw 2016 as their chance to fight Mercedes for the title, Sebastian Vettel comes to his home track having endured a difficult season with various reliability problems and a genuinely lacklustre car in which he has managed 50 points less than the same stage last year, meanwhile team-mate Kimi Raikkonen is having a good campaign by his own recent standards, currently sitting 4 points ahead of Vettel and on the back of his recent contact extension and a “Driver of the Day” winning drive in Hungary, the Iceman could well consolidate his advantage over the home hero.
Red Bull are hot on the heels, with the ferocious pairing of Ricciardo and Verstappen quickly closing in on the Scuderia duo, the Australian may feel hard done-by this season after likely wins alluded him in Spain and Monaco but he was back on the podium last weekend and there is no reason why he cannot repeat that feat again, as for his team-mate, it will not be a totally new track for Max Verstappen despite the absence in 2015 but it will be his first F1 experience in Germany and his first time back at Hockenheim since he won a race there in Formula 3 only two years ago, he will hope for a less controversial race than last time out where he was criticised by some for his aggressive defending.
Behind the top 3 teams comes a clustered midfield with Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso and McLaren likely to be there or thereabouts in the top half of the field.
Interesting points from this group is whether Williams can turn the tide around on a bad run of form which has resulted in only 4 points being scored in the last three races by the team, all courtesy of Valtteri Bottas, both the team and particularly Felipe Massa need to perform this weekend if they are to go into the break feeling positive.
Another thing to look at is whether McLaren can continue their development and leapfrog Toro Rosso, although the long straights of Hockenheim may work against the Honda engine, as for Toro Rosso themselves it will be interesting to see firstly whether Carlos Sainz can continue his great run of form, secondly whether Daniil Kvyat can get a good result after reports suggest he has been confirmed to be leaving Toro Rosso at the end of the year.
The tail end of the field will likely be made up from Haas, Renault, Sauber and Manor, from this group I expect Haas to be somewhere closer to the midfield pack than the three more traditional 2016 backmarkers although I do expect Manor driver Pascal Wehrlein to impress at his home race, with experience of the track through his DTM campaign and the fact his Manor car should work well with the fast straights, he could cause a few surprises.
Either way, it should be another interesting weekend at the German GP with Hamilton and Rosberg battling for top spot, whilst Red Bull and Ferrari look set to lock horns once again to be best of the rest, remember to tune in for the race at 1pm BST.