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Preview - can Button win at home? 08 Jul 2004

Jenson Button (GBR) BAR.
French Grand Prix, Rd 10, Race Day, Magny Cours, France, 4 July 2004 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Mclaren MP4/19B.
French Grand Prix, Rd 10, Race Day, Magny Cours, France, 4 July 2004 Front row starters Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R24 and Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari F2004 line up on the grid.
French Grand Prix, Rd 10, Race Day, Magny Cours, France, 4 July 2004 Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) Williams BMW FW26.
French Grand Prix, Rd 10, Qualifying Day, Magny Cours, France, 3 July 2004 Nick Heidfeld (GER) Jordan Ford EJ14.
French Grand Prix, Rd 10, Race Day, Magny Cours, France, 4 July 2004

BAR man one of many in hunt to beat Ferrari

After Rubens Barrichello’s dominant victory at Silverstone last year, and Ferrari’s run of form in 2004, it would be a brave man who predicts anything other than a red car winning the British Grand Prix. But there are plenty of brave people in other race teams, and BAR, Renault, Williams and McLaren all fancy their chances.

After his disappointing fifth place at Magny-Cours, where he had hoped to challenge for victory, Jenson Button will have further aerodynamic revisions on his BAR for his home race, and again travels in hope. “Our car has been very competitive all season, so we are hoping that we can score strongly again this weekend and maybe challenge for the top of the podium,” he says.

Renault are still wondering how they lost the French Grand Prix last weekend, but their drivers remain upbeat about the chances of the fleet R24, which will be very good in the fast Maggotts/Becketts section of the track where rapid directional change is called for.

“I'm feeling great coming in to the Silverstone race,” says Magny-Cours polesitter Fernando Alonso. “That was a strong race for the whole team, and we really forced Ferrari into racing hard for the win - not many people have done that this year, so really we should be pleased. I think Silverstone should suit us quite well too: you need good aerodynamic performance there, and we have that. It is a power circuit, and we were a little bit behind our rivals at the last test in June, but we have found more performance since then. I am expecting us to be very competitive.”

Williams took their latest version of the FW26 to Magny-Cours (it is not, however, a ‘B’ according to Patrick Head), and in pre-qualifying it was blisteringly fast. It was less impressive in the race, for a number of reasons that are still being unravelled, but the team are convinced that they have taken a couple of steps forward over the north American races and again in France, and now they have yet further aerodynamic and mechanical improvements on their home ground they will be working very hard to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their first-ever victory in style, with their first triumph of 2004. Marc Gene again deputises for the injured Ralf Schumacher.

McLaren debuted their heavily revised MP4-19B in France and the car ran reliably to sixth and seventh places and lapped very quickly. This paid off the massive amount of work that went into preparing the new cars, and the team are very encouraged. “The French race demonstrated a major step forwards in terms of overall performance,” says team CEO Martin Whitmarsh. “We are fully aware however, that another significant step is required to reach the level we as a team strive for. As the British GP is the final back-to-back of the season, there is no opportunity to test this week, however we have the benefit of having tested 19B at Silverstone a couple of weeks ago and have some further developments to bring on line for out home race.”

Ferrari, however, start from their customary place as the pre-race favourite.

Sauber have some important aero tweaks for this race. After the new front wing arrived for Magny-Cours, there will be a lower engine cover this weekend. This is the second step in the aerodynamic programme initiated in Monaco with some lower radiators, which facilitate the lower engine cover. This in turn will improve airflow over the rear wing and thus increase downforce. Giancarlo Fisichella is hopeful of scoring more points.

Elsewhere, other teams will have aero enhancements of their own. And, at their home site, Jordan will be putting on entertainment for fans visiting the race, in their factory across the road from the main entrance. The Jordan Experience is a village of marquees housing such things as simulators and games, a bar and food, and pit stop challenges. A giant screen will show qualifying, and Eddie Jordan and drivers Nick Heidfeld, Giorgio Pantano and Timo Glock will put in appearances to sign autographs. Guests in the paddock include models Melinda Messenger, Emma Noble and Jordan.

Besides the need for excellent high-speed stability, Silverstone demands good traction and grip through the infield section of the lap that follows Bridge Corner. Tyre choice is also important because degradation is relatively high. Most teams opt for hard tyres, but some drivers might try the softer option.

The race starts at 1300 local time (1200 GMT) on Sunday, and will run over 60 laps.