German race will provide answers: Lewis Hamilton
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.
Ahead of Sunday's race, Hamilton holds a 12-point lead over McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, with feuding Red Bull rivals Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel 17 and 24 adrift respectively.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who is confident of a third title, also cannot be discounted, even though he is 47 points behind Hamilton.
As for Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Renault's Robert Kubica, although they are in the reckoning, the gap is growing to the leaders.
However, in driving for teams who are refusing to stand still when it comes to development, Hamilton appreciates they are likely to have a major say in the destiny of this year's championship.
“The big question mark for this weekend surrounds some of the other top teams,” said Hamilton.
“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.
Although starting from pole and comfortably leading for the first 35 laps, it ended up being far from straightforward as a safety car, following an accident involving Timo Glock, almost proved costly.
Hamilton, however, ultimately triumphed in a car that carried him to world title glory that season.
“I won the last race at Hockenheim in 2008 when we had a fantastic car,” added Hamilton.
“I got pole position and had a great battle through the field after a mid-race safety car to win, so I'd really love the same outcome this weekend.”
Such a prospect is likely to be determined by whether the team opt to use the performance-enhancing exhaust blown diffuser following a rigorous day of testing tomorrow.
The device was trialled and ditched after Friday practice ahead of the British Grand Prix 12 days ago, but the team are hoping they have cured its teething problems.
“I'm quite optimistic,” said team principal Martin Whitmarsh, who made the crucial decision to return the car's set-up to that used in Valencia for the European Grand Prix two weeks previously.
“We gained some good ideas that will hopefully take us forward in Germany,” he added.