The French Grand Prix preview - Ferrari favourite for Magny-Cours? 19 Jun 2008
Ferraris Kimi Raikkonen is busy telling the world that he wants to satisfy his lust for winning; BMW Saubers Robert Kubica is quietly determined not to lose his lead in the world championship; and Lewis Hamilton has been admitting to the pressure he is feeling as McLarens (and his countrys) golden hope for title honours.
Frankly, the odds favour the Ferrari and BMW Sauber teams in Magny-Cours rather than Hamilton, as he will be given the 10-place grid penalty for his gaffe of running into the back of Raikkonen recently in Canada.
Raikkonen proclaimed earlier this week: "I don't remember when I had such a great lust for winning. The team had prepared a car, which was able to be strong on all the tracks, but it didn't go well during the last races.
I don't like looking back and think about what happened at the last race. I don't carry bad thoughts with me, because that would just make me lose time, as you can't change the result anyway. It's much better to concentrate on the upcoming GP and try to get the best result possible."
The Finn won here last year, of course, and needs a strong result to contain the increasing challenge not just from Kubica but also from team mate Felipe Massa who drove storming races in Monaco and Montreal. For his part, Massa believes the F2008 will be well suited to Magny-Cours, though the Brazilian remains wary of the BMW Sauber threat.
It is a nice track that usually suits the characteristics of our car, he said. In recent years, people would say that Canada and Monaco suited McLaren better than Ferrari, while it was the other way round in France and Britain, but I don't think that is really the case this year, as apart from any other factors, we have to consider the BMW team in this equation.
Meanwhile, Hamilton told British broadcasters the BBC: The sport is fun, but there's a way you have to learn to enjoy it. There's so much pressure, and I can't begin to explain how much pressure I have on my shoulders.
The grid penalty will make it almost impossible for Hamilton to win at Magny-Cours, a circuit that historically favours the Ferraris and on which it is horribly difficult to overtake. However, there may be one thing that could disrupt anticipated form and thats the weather. Severe thunderstorms are currently predicted for race day, after rain for qualifying.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself, and when you don't succeed it doesn't feel so great," Hamilton acknowledged. "But these are character-building days and the days that make you stronger. I didn't win the last race but I'm loving this. I get to come back here, work with the guys and push forward, and there's a great atmosphere, always pushing to get better and I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm really enjoying myself."
He has put down his mistakes earlier in the year to the fact that he put a lot of pressure on himself. "Too much. And that led to mistakes, being too on the limit. I wasn't really enjoying it, to be honest."
Kubica, like Raikkonen, keeps his emotional cards close to his chest and never gives much away. Barely alluding to his lead in the world championship for drivers, he said: "For many people Magny-Cours is a boring place, but I like the track quite a lot. This is the place where I came back last year after my accident. It's an interesting track because it has all kinds of corners - high-speed, low-speed, high-speed chicanes, a hairpin and heavy braking. So I'm looking forward to the race and I hope that I can do as well as possible here, as I have done in most of the Grands Prix since the beginning of the season.
I hope we will again have some improvements on the car that will help us to close the gap to Ferrari and McLaren. My goal is to score as many points as possible and to still be in a strong position after the race.
Bridgestone will bring the 'soft' and 'medium' tyre compounds from their 2008 range to this race, which, with characteristics akin to Monaco, is known to be particularly tiresome for rubber.