Friday race preview 04 Jul 2003
As these words are written David Richards, team principal of BAR, has been battling for his team's right to run at Magny-Cours this weekend, following seizure of its assets in the pit lane late on Thursday evening.
This follows an injunction brought against the team in Monaco by businessman France Corbeil, who claims that monies owing to him on a sponsorship deal in 1997 remain unpaid. In Monte Carlo BAR was able to race after having the injunction lifted. Now Corbeil has tried again. Richards said last night that he is confident the problem will be solved in time for BAR's drivers Jenson Button and Jacques Villeneuve to practice as usual this morning, though the team will have suffered as its mechanics were unable to do any key preparation work on the cars last night.
There was also activity last night at Ferrari, where team principal Jean Todt and technical director Ross Brawn, together with drivers Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa, had high level talks over dinner with senior representatives of Bridgestone. This follows mutual determination after last week's Grand Prix of Europe to gain a more competitive edge over their Michelin opposition.
Meanwhile, Nurburgring winner Ralf Schumacher was playing down his chances of closing the 15-point gap to brother Michael in the title stakes in the remaining seven races. "Under the new points system introduced this year it is very difficult to catch up," he said, "unless the other guy has a problem, in which case the gap disappears quickly! But 15 points is so far away. Let's try and win this one and see what happens."
Williams has an excellent chance of doing that, especially if the race is held in the expected high ambient and track temperatures. Though teams have had little chance to do more than transport the cars from Germany in the week between the races (which are back-to-back to facilitate the three-week 'holiday' gap between the German and Hungarian Grands Prix), several have had revised aerodynamic components flown out. Williams in particular is getting on top of its set-up recently, and poses a major threat.
Likewise McLaren and Renault are expected to be strong this weekend. But Kimi Raikkonen said yesterday that the fact that he lost his maiden Grand Prix victory here last year after leading Michael Schumacher in the closing stages of the race prior to sliding wide on oil dropped by Allan McNish's expired Toyota would have no influence whatsoever on the way he approaches his weekend here.
"I don't even think of that," he admitted. "It isn't a factor. I have won by first race since and all I am thinking about now is how we are going to run our programme this weekend." After his runaway lead in Germany last weekend was frustrated by engine failure, the Finn will be determined to get his title aspirations back on track this weekend.
In this morning's practice session the drivers will be getting used to changes to the Chateau d'Eau corner and the final section of the lap, where the old chicane has been removed in favour of a short straight. This leads into a tight hairpin and a new chicane, which takes the cars back on to the original start/finish straight.