The 2012 Formula One season resumes this weekend with the German Grand Prix, which returns to the 2.842-mile, 17-turn Hockenheimring circuit.
With nine of 20 grand prix completed this season, Fernando Alonso from Ferrari holds a 13-point lead over Red Bull's Mark Webber in the world championship standings. Webber won the British Grand Prix earlier this month and joined Alonso as the only drivers with multiple victories so far this year.
Webber's teammate, Sebastian Vettel, the two-time defending F1 titleholder, trails Alonso by 29 points, while McLaren's Lewis Hamilton is 37 points behind the leader. Hamilton won last year's German GP, which was contested on the 3.2-mile Nurburgring circuit.
"(This) weekend will mark my 100th grand prix," Hamilton said. "That's incredible, because I still remember my first as if it were only yesterday. I guess Formula One has that effect on you.
Hamilton started on the pole and won at Hockenheim during his 2008 world championship season.
"It's always been a regret of mine that I arrived in Formula One too late to race on the classic, old Hockenheim layout, where the track disappeared for miles into the forests and was only broken up by a couple of relatively high- speed chicanes," he said. "It must have been incredible battling around that track with minimal downforce, locked in a slipstreaming battle with another car and waiting for just the right moment to pounce and overtake. Still, I very much enjoy the updated track."
Vettel is among the five Germans competing in front of their home crowd. Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, the seven-time F1 champion, as well as Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and Timo Glock from Marussia are the others.
"Hockenheim is only half an hour away from my home town (Heppenheim), so I have a lot of friends and family there, and it's always a special crowd to race in front of," Vettel said. "I've driven on that circuit in different series, and it's always been great. The campsites near the new circuit are fun, and it's special to meet the fans there. I haven't won the German GP before, and of course, I would like to."
Vettel has finished second, third and fourth in the last three German GPs. Schumacher has won this race four times (1995, 2002, '04 and '06).
"People often ask me whether there is any such thing as a home advantage in such an international sport as ours, and my answer is, perhaps not a home advantage but certainly a home-race feeling," Schumacher said. "As a German driver, you naturally have a different sense of excitement when you arrive at the German Grand Prix, and know that all the spectators in the grandstands are supporting you. That makes you proud and always boosts your motivation even higher."
Schumacher finished third in the June 24 European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain. It was his first podium appearance since coming out of retirement in 2010. Schumacher took a three-year break from the sport following the '06 season.
When the German GP was last held at Hockenheim two years ago, Alonso won it under a cloud of controversy. Felipe Massa was robbed of a potential win after his Ferrari team instructed him to move aside and allow his teammate, Alonso, to take the lead with 20 laps remaining.
Shortly before Alonso made his winning pass, Massa's race engineer, Rob Smedley, told his driver over the radio that "Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understand the message?" Massa finished second.
Hours after the race had concluded, F1's governing body, the FIA, determined Ferrari breached sporting regulations and fined the Italian team $100,000. Race stewards determined Ferrari gave team orders to Massa, which interfered with the race result.
Ferrari maintained their action did not constitute a team order.
Alonso won the German GP for the first time in 2005 when he drove for Renault.
Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, July 22. Race: German Grand Prix. Site: Hockenheimring. Track: 2.842-mile (4.574-kilometer), 17-turn road course. Start Time: 8 a.m. (et). Laps: 67. Miles: 190.4 (306.458 km). 2011 Winner: Lewis Hamilton. Television: FOX (tape delay - noon ET).