It was rather easy to lose count of the various showers that drifted over the Hockenheimring during today’s two practice sessions.
Certainly there were at least three this morning, a further two brief sprinkles in the break and then another couple of heavier cells during second practice, as energy from the sun added some potency to the narrow band of rain. Another downpour during GP2 qualifying rounded off what was an extremely difficult day for everyone concerned.
As I write this, the northern edge of today’s band of showers is still hovering around the Baden-Wurttemberg region and could continue to hang around for some time. Eventually, the showers will clear away, leaving a mainly dry night with a minimum ambient of nine degrees.
The German word ‘wetter’ may take on its English translation in the literal sense tomorrow, with further showers set to make an appearance.
Yesterday, the source region or trigger point for today’s rain during practice was around Le Mans and the evolution of the band of rain across France and into Hockenheim was clear in the hours leading up to practice. Tonight, those of you with a weather eye on final practice and qualifying need to focus on another famous racing location to see where tomorrow’s weather will originate from – Spa-Francorchamps and the Ardennes region in general.
Showers are expected to build over the south-east portion of Belgium overnight and then slowly continue in this direction towards western parts of Germany. It should dawn dry with some early morning clear spells at Hockenheim, but light showers from the north-west may reach the circuit before final practice.
From then on, the sun’s influence kicks in and in a similar fashion to today, showers will become more widespread with the potential for heavy pulses coming through during qualifying. A repeat of Saturday at Silverstone two weeks ago could be on the cards – it just depends on where and how many showers there are in the region once we get to the knockout session. But certainly, the latest numerical weather models published since practice indicate a higher risk of showers than there was today. Given the maps, a wet qualifying session seems guaranteed and there is likely to be further fun and games when the GP2 and GP3 series hit the track for their races.
Heavy, thundery showers are expected on and off throughout the afternoon and a light north-westerly breeze will just continue to feed them through in a general path over the region. This pattern could last until at least 18:00 local time, leaving the teams and race engineers experiencing major headaches, but equally it should provide drama of the highest order for racing fans. Air temperature is expected to peak at 19 Celsius by mid-afternoon.
The irony of all this, is that high pressure is finally expected to take some control into Sunday, resulting in a dry race with a fair amount of sunshine. The teams’ understanding and plans regarding tyres and varying fuel loads will be in tatters if both sessions are damp/wet on Saturday, because there is virtually no data to go on. They will be praying for the morning showers to hold off, just long enough to get a couple of long runs in during final practice. If they don’t, we are guaranteed an overtaking freak show on Sunday into the Turn 6 hairpin almost every lap.
It’s a delicious situation; the teams will have to work overtime during the next two days to keep on top of everything, while as viewers we get to enjoy watching some of the best racing brains in the business pit their tactical wits against eachother. The development (or not) of morning showers prior to final practice will be the keystone for the rest of the weekend. All eyes on Spa then…
Next forecast: Late Saturday afternoon GMT, looking ahead to the race weather.