Ferrari hopes for turn of fortune on Vettel's home course

HOCKENHEIM, Germany (AP) " A shake up in the technical department and Sebastian Vettel's home course give Ferrari some hope of narrowing the gap to dominant Mercedes, although Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are still the drivers to beat in Sunday's German Grand Prix.

Eleven races into the season, Ferrari is still winless and on Wednesday parted company with technical director James Allison and appointed Mattia Binotto as chief technical officer.

With 10 races remaining, most teams are already working on cars for next year and it remains to be seen if the move will change Ferrari's fortunes.

"Short term, it doesn't change much," Vettel said Thursday. "Mattie has been with the team for a long time, he knows the team inside out. "It's a big change although it will not have an impact tomorrow. But we are heading in the right direction.

"We are missing a bit to take it to the Mercedes, maybe three, four tenths (of a second), that's quite a bit but we try to do our best, a lot can happen and that's why we go racing," Vettel added.

Vettel will be racing on his home course for the first time in a Ferrari.

The four-time Formula One champion with Red Bull was born and raised in nearby Heppenheim.

Germany used to have two races a year in the hay days of Michael Schumacher. Now it has one race every two years.

"Michael was the first to make Formula One popular in Germany, it didn't have a local hero before," Vettel said. "In the last couple of years there has been some bad press, the cars don't sound the same and the tickets are too expensive."

The Nuerburgring has gone broke and Hockenheim is slated to host another race in 2018 but may drop off the calendar after that. Race-day crowds have halved at Hockenheim since Schumacher's days.

"It is nice to come back after last year, when we didn't have a German Grand Prix. It is great to go back to Germany and be able to race. Being German, I think that for all the German drivers it is a privilege to go to your home country and race in front of your home crowd, so I am definitely looking forward to it," Vettel said.

"It is the first time for me with a Ferrari car, so I think it should be a special feeling turning up. I know the track itself quite well from junior categories. I raced there a lot," Vettel added.

"I usually like it and hopefully we can be very competitive. I think it is a good mix, there is everything a driver can ask for. It is quite technical, not that easy to get everything right, and quite tough also to find the right balance of the car because you have so many corners and different speeds, but it is definitely a fun place."

Hamilton has won five of the last six races and his win in Budapest last Sunday gave him a six-point lead over Rosberg.

Hamilton won the Hockenheim race in 2008, which he said "seems a lifetime ago," and also raced there a lot as a junior.

"The last few races have been good for me. So if I can continue that form into this weekend, I'll be in good shape," Hamilton said.

Rosberg, winner in Hockenheim in 2014, said he was disappointed to lose the race in Hungary in the first corner despite starting from pole.

"But I was really happy with my pace all weekend so that gives me good confidence moving forward," Rosberg said.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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