Friday race preview 18 Jul 2003
Welcome back to the British Grand Prix weekend at Silverstone. With private testing being held this morning on a dry track, and seeing the Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli finishing first and second, French hopes are currently running high.
"Silverstone should suit us very well," said technical director Mike Gascoyne, who has overseen the modifications to the cars for this weekend that have merited the new designation R23B. "The circuit most obviously akin to it is Barcelona and we ran very strongly there earlier this season, coming close to winning the race. Silverstone is a circuit which rewards strong aerodynamic performance, and we have further improvements in that area for this race. I think we can have a very competitive weekend, and take points off our direct competitors."
Michelin is also very buoyant, and believes that, Bridgestone's intensive tests in Spain and Italy notwithstanding, it will still have the upper hand this weekend. As long as the weather stays dry. This could be the key to performance this weekend. The general perception is that Michelin will be dominant if the track stays dry; Bridgestone will come to the fore if it rains. It could go either way, with showers forecast on all three days of the meeting.
Meanwhile, at Williams, the answer to Juan Pablo Montoya's prayers may have taken the form of former Williams, Lotus, Ligier and Arrows engineer Frank Dernie. He recently rejoined Williams from the Lola racing car company, where he worked closely with Montoya during the Colombian's ChampCar years with Chip Ganassi Racing. Having taken a general role initially, Dernie will now move fulltime on to Montoya's car. The Colombian is generally adjudged to have all the speed and aggression that a racing driver needs - witness the overtaking moves he has pulled on Michael Schumacher - but lacks Ralf Schumacher's ability to dial in a good chassis set-up quickly enough at races. With Dernie helping out, that should enable Montoya to close the small but crucial gap his team mate has opened up in recent races,
At McLaren, David Coulthard received a much-needed boost yesterday when he was presented with the Hawthorn Trophy, an annual award made by the late Mike Hawthorn's family in recognition of the highest placed British or Commonwealth driver in the World Championship, a position the Scot filled last season. Hawthorn was Britain's first world champion, with Ferrari, in 1958, but was killed in a road accident in January 1959.
At Ferrari, Michael Schumacher had an impromptu game of cricket in the pit lane this morning, courtesy some Ferrari team sponsors, and the champion was in good form. "I think football is more my game," he joked.
As far as performance is concerned, he seems unconcerned about Williams' recent charge. "We had a very strong test here recently," he reiterated, "so I don't see any reason why we should not be quick here this weekend., We know that our car is very good aerodynamically, and I am confident we can fight to extend our championship lead."