Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Hamilton expects rivals to alter gear

Lewis Hamilton feels this weekend's German Grand Prix will serve as a barometer for the remainder of the season.

After 10 of the 19 races it has so far been a Formula One campaign full of twists and turns, with no clear indicator as to who will be crowned world champion.

"The big question mark for this weekend surrounds some of the other top teams," Hamilton said yesterday. "They've shown improved performance over the past two, three races, even if they've not fully managed to score the results their pace suggests.

"So it will be interesting to see just how close things have become at the sharp end because this could affect the way the championship plays out, particularly if more teams start challenging for victory in the second half of the season. So I think this race will give us a very good read on form for the second half of the season."

In terms of strengthening his own hand, Hamilton would love nothing more than a repeat of his victory when the race was last at Hockenheim in 2008.

Such a prospect is likely to be determined by whether his McLaren team opt to use the performance-enhancing exhaust blown diffuser following a rigorous day of testing tomorrow.

The device was tried and ditched after Friday practice prior to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone 12 days ago, but the team are hoping they have cured its teething problems.

"I'm quite optimistic," said the McLaren team principal, Martin Whitmarsh. "It could have been a mistake, but I'm glad we did it and I'm glad we took it off."

* Corporate backers are behind Jacques Villeneuve's plans for a Formula One comeback next season, the Canadian said yesterday. In a statement on his website ( www.jv-world.com), the 39-year-old confirmed a link-up with the Italy-based Durango in bidding to become the 13th team on the grand prix starting grid for 2011.