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Friday Preview from Magny-Cours 01 Jul 2005

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault walks the track.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, French Grand Prix, Preparations, Mangy-Cours, France, 30 June 2005 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) McLaren in the FIA press conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, French Grand Prix, Preparations, Magny-Cours, France, 30 June 2005 A BAR mechanic checks Michelin tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, French Grand Prix, Preparations, Magny-Cours, France, 30 June 2005 Jenson Button (GBR) BAR walks the track.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, French Grand Prix, Preparations, Mangy-Cours, France, 30 June 2005

Renault arrive at their home race at Magny-Cours sporting not just a dramatic new blue and yellow livery, but intent on regaining their level of performance after failing to score in either of the North American races.

Fernando Alonso crashed out of the lead in Canada where Giancarlo Fisichella retired after leading with electronic problems, and neither car raced in America. Renault still lead the constructors’ championship, with 76 points to the 63 of McLaren and Ferrari, but the gap is shrinking.

"It is the home grand prix of the Renault people," Alonso said yesterday, "A lot of them will be here and a lot of important people from the Renault Group will be here again so we are very optimistic for this race, especially regarding last year’s results. So I think we will arrive here in a very good moment. We are leading both championships, the car has improved a lot again last week in Jerez, so we arrive in a perfect point this weekend."

The Spaniard also said that he is keen to put the Indianapolis weekend behind him, and not to dwell too much on the loss of potential points and the ground that Ferrari, in particular, have made up.

"It was a difficult weekend for everybody and not a fantastic feeling when you have to come into the pits, but those were the circumstances. It’s true that we lost 10 points, but as Kimi (Raikkonen) says, always when we arrive at a Grand Prix we are thinking of points and we need to race and score points which is the main thing over the weekend, so hopefully this Sunday will be a good race for us.

"Last year I did the pole and then I had a close fight with Michael with a good race, different strategies, so it was quite an interesting race to drive and to watch also. So hopefully I think we can be very competitive here this year. The R25 is performing very well at all circuits and I think here, especially, maybe even more."

McLaren, meanwhile, have some more new things to try on the MP4-20, which was also very quick in testing at Jerez. Raikkonen, as self-contained as ever, simply said: "I think the car should be good."

Jenson Button, meanwhile, said that he does not think that Michael Schumacher will fight for the championship in 2005, despite scoring 18 points in north America.

"I think that Ferrari are about where we are," he suggested, referring to his BAR team. "We have maybe the third or fourth best car, but we are all chasing McLaren and I think that they have a clear advantage at present. I expect Kimi (Raikkonen) to be very quick this weekend."

Asked whether he could make it a three-way battle, Schumacher said: "I think it needs more than just another win here, honestly. But it would be the right way to go ahead."

Much could depend on the weather, and whether yesterday’s rain persists beyond its expected appearance at some time today.