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France race analysis - Ferrari are back! 02 Jul 2007

Race winner Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari and second placed Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari celebrate a 1-2 finish for the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Race, Magny-Cours, France, Sunday, 1 July 2007 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2007 and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22 line up on the front row.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Race, Magny-Cours, France, Sunday, 1 July 2007 Robert Kubica (POL) BMW Sauber F1.07.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Race, Magny-Cours, France, Sunday, 1 July 2007 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R27 leads Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren Mercedes MP4/22.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Race, Magny-Cours, France, Sunday, 1 July 2007 Jenson Button (GBR) Honda RA107.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, French Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Magny-Cours, France, Saturday, 30 June 2007

That news, so clearly demonstrated at Magny-Cours, has given the world championship fight a fresh injection of adrenaline, just as it seemed that McLaren were about to start dominating.

Asked what was better about the F2007 in France, race winner Kimi Raikkonen simply said: “Everything! You can feel the improvement everywhere, really. In every corner. We are back where we expect to be.”

At the same time, Lewis Hamilton said: “Both Kimi and Felipe (Massa) said they made a good step forward at Silverstone, and we made a step forward too, but when you are behind people, as we were here, it is a lot harder to show your true pace. I don’t think they were as quick, as much faster, as it looked today. Traffic and strategy had a lot to do with that, so I still think we can bounce back at the next race, without a doubt.”

Silverstone marks the midpoint of the world championship, and McLaren currently have 114 points, Ferrari 89. Everything is still out there to play for.

The battle between BMW Sauber and the improving Renault team is as fascinating. The former had another good day on Sunday, with Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld bringing home another nine points for fourth and fifth places respectively. Their score is now 48, whereas Renault only gathered three more for Giancarlo Fisichella’s well-driven progress to sixth place. It certainly did not help that Heikki Kovalainen was taken out of the equation on the first lap when Toyota’s Jarno Trulli struck the back of his R27. Interestingly, Fisichella lapped quicker than either Kubica or Heidfeld; he was fifth fastest in 1m 16.703s compared to Kubica, 10th in 1m 17.153s and Heidfeld, seventh in 1m 16.875s. For the record, Massa did 1m 16.099s, Raikkonen 1m 16.207s, Alonso 1m 16.495s and Hamilton 1m 16.587s.

The lap times also brought good news for Honda, for Jenson Button set the sixth fastest lap (1m 16.770s) en route to a fighting eighth place. Better still, he qualified 12th with a fuel load big enough to take him to the 32nd lap, so the new package of aerodynamic and mechanical improvements on the RA107 has already borne some fruit. Button’s point was both his and the team’s first of the season, and much needed.

At one stage over the weekend Nico Rosberg seemed likely to score again for Williams, but the Honda improvement left the FW29 a little breathless round Magny-Cours and the team couldn’t squeeze what it needed from a package that has looked pretty competitive elsewhere.

Toyota looked reasonable in qualifying, with Jarno Trulli eighth and Ralf Schumacher 11th, but the Italian’s rare mistake took one TF107 out of the battle early on, and the other was bottled up behind fuel-heavy Honda of Rubens Barrichello until Schumacher finally got ahead during the pit stops to finish 10th. It wasn’t a great day for Red Bull, either. Mark Webber and David Coulthard had a race-long scrap for 12th and both finished, but this was by their own admission the team’s least competitive showing of the year. And things weren’t any better for Toro Rosso. Vitantonio Liuzzi got taken off on the opening lap by Anthony Davidson’s Super Aguri, rendering both retirements, while Scott Speed kept up with the RB3s but succumbed to their usual trouble, transmission problems associated with the change speed of the seamless shift mechanism.

A start-line problem allied to a refuelling rig glitch lost Takuma Sato far too much time in the second Super Aguri, making this a race for the team to forget, and Spyker had a litany of problems that began when Adrian Sutil’s car was pushed off the grid with electrical problems and had to start from the pits in the T-car.

Later a radio problem brought Christijan Albers into the pits on lap 28 while Sutil was already there. The team got around that, but then Albers moved off before the lollipop man instructed him to, resulting in him dragging half the refuelling rig down the pit road and instant retirement.

Meanwhile, Sutil got a drive-through penalty for exceeding the pit-lane speed limit, and finished last, two laps down. Not a great day here, either.

The British Grand Prix follows so quickly that nobody really has much time to do anything but fettle the cars and take them to the UK, but the race at Silverstone promises to be a great showdown between Ferrari and McLaren.

David Tremayne