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Magny-Cours - the drivers' preview 29 Jun 2005

Olivier Panis (FRA) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Japanese Grand Prix, Preparations, Suzuka, Japan, 7 October 2004 Second place Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Ferrari in the post race press conference. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, United States Grand Prix, Race, Indianapolis, USA, 19 June 2005 Jenson Button (GBR) BAR 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, United States Grand Prix, Race, Indianapolis, USA, 19 June 2005 Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, First Qualifying Day, Monte Carlo, Monaco, 21 May 2005

Olivier Panis and Ralf Schumacher are back for this weekend's French Grand Prix meeting, the former in a one-off third driver appearance for Toyota at his home race, the latter safely recovered from his unfortunate brush with the wall at Indianapolis. They and their Formula One rivals look ahead to the Magny-Cours event.

Olivier Panis, third driver, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 14th, 2004 Race - 15th

"I'm really looking forward to returning to the cockpit at Magny-Cours. I first raced at the circuit in 1994 so I have over a decade of knowledge of the track. Now I hope to use that experience to help Toyota at the French Grand Prix. I think it would be a big shame to go through the entire Magny-Cours race weekend without any French drivers. As well as assisting the team, I hope to give something back to the spectators and to the French TV and press who supported me so well throughout my F1 career. I hope to enjoy myself as well!"

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"I'm fully recovered from my accident during Friday practice for the US Grand Prix and I'm looking forward to getting back to racing in France. Magny-Cours is not my favourite track of the year, but the French Grand Prix is one of six races which I have won in my career so far. I also took my first F1 pole there in 2001. I did not take part in last year's event, so this week's race will mark my first trip since I won in 2003. After Canada and Indy, two low downforce circuits, Magny-Cours marks a return to higher downforce levels. The track does not pose any unique challenges to the driver, but it is characterised by its extremely smooth asphalt. This naturally means a less bumpy ride for us drivers in the race, but it also means that the performance of the track can differ considerably depending on the weather and track temperature. It is hard to know how we will perform there this year, but our overall package is still competitive with half of the season now gone, so we will certainly be looking for more points."

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 5th, 2004 Race - 4th

"I enjoy racing in France and Magny-Cours is the definition of a technical F1 circuit, with pretty much every kind of corner that you can get. There are some fast chicanes with quick changes of direction, here are slow hairpins and fast sweeping bends. That means that it is an enjoyable circuit for driving an F1 car. The track is famous for having one of the smoothest surfaces on the F1 calendar. That makes life slightly more comfortable than usual within the cockpit and means we can push the ride heights pretty low. The car itself needs to be able to react well to every type of corner. You need responsive handling and a good change of direction, especially through the faster sections, which are the most crucial parts for improving the lap time. I've spent a lot of time working for French teams in my career and I also speak French so I have a lot of support in France and it almost feels like another home race. I'm fairly optimistic and I hope to be able to come away with another good points finish to keep our season going well."

Jenson Button, BAR
2004 Qualifying - 4th, 2004 Race - 5th

"I really enjoy racing in Magny-Cours. The circuit surface is smooth and very flowing - which is how I prefer it. We had a reasonable result there in 2004, when I finished in 5th position, and hopefully we will be more competitive there this year. We hope to be a lot closer to the McLarens and Renaults than we were in Indy and we have had a positive test this week in Jerez, so I'm looking forward to the race."

Takuma Sato, BAR
2004 Qualifying - 7th, 2004 Race - DNF

"We showed the potential of the car at the last two races and although we were running a very different set-up package to the one we need at Magny-Cours, we are confident that we should be strong there. We are carrying forward many positive aspects from the Jerez test this week and I believe that we can reproduce the performance and be as competitive as we were in North America and I am very positive going to the race next week."

Mark Webber, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 12th, 2004 Race - 9th

"I always enjoy going to Magny-Cours as it's in rural France, and in a part of the country I particularly like. The weather is usually good and the whole feel to the weekend is quite relaxed. The French GP is a pretty low key event in terms of off-track activities for the drivers as well. I enjoy being among the French fans and actually having the time to be able to concentrate on the job in hand without any distractions.

“Magny-Cours is a great track. It has a good mix of high and low speed corners and a short pit-lane which lends itself well to several pit stops and some good racing. We are quite excited by the prospect of some new aero parts on the car which we’ll be running for the first time at Magny-Cours. I hope we’re able to get the most out of them and enjoy a good start to the return of the European part of the championship."

Nick Heidfeld, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 17th, 2004 Race - 16th

“I have good memories of Magny-Cours, having won there while competing in F3 and F3000. Although some people don’t like this Grand Prix because it’s in the middle of nowhere, it doesn’t really affect the drivers as it means we can concentrate on the actual racing, which I prefer. I like the track itself because it’s challenging, especially the two quick, blind chicanes which also have very tight apexes. We are taking a new package to Magny-Cours, so I hope we will make a good step forward with it as we need to keep scoring the points to remain competitive in the standings.”

Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"The last week was very pleasant. The BMW/Sauber announcement was great news to me, and we also had a two-day test in Jerez which was very productive. We did a lot of laps and I am very happy with the work we did with the C24. Jerez was really warm but the track tends to be quite hard on the rear end of the car, which is a kind of similar to Magny-Cours where we are racing this weekend. I also think that we did some good work with the tyres and I am pretty optimistic with the race in France – I think that we found some good options.

"I have to admit that Magny-Cours does not appear in my favourite track list, but there are a couple of high-speed chicanes which are fun. There is heavy breaking and a good overtaking opportunity at the Adelaide hairpin, but the rest of the circuit is quite slow. I have usually had good races there in the past so I am looking forward to it. The atmosphere is always pretty laidback too."

Felipe Massa, Sauber
2004 Qualifying - 16th, 2004 Race - 13th

"Magny-Cours brings us back to the high downforce tracks. It can be an odd place, because it gets really hot after 11 o'clock in the morning so the set-up of the car tends to keep changing all day with the temperature rise. You end up chasing a moving target and it is not easy to get the best out of the car because of this.

"It can be a tricky circuit to get a good lap on. There are a lot of difficult corners, ranging from slow through medium to quick. I really like the first sector which is fast and flowing, I like the hairpin because you have a chance to overtake there, and also I like the first quick ess after that. But the last sector is a bit Mickey Mouse."

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 1st, 2004 Race - 2nd

“For me, Magny-Cours is a normal race: I don't feel more pressure just because we are racing in France. But for the team, it is something very special - we see a lot of Renault fans and supporters, and lots of people from the factories in France and from the team, so it is important for us to be quick and to show them a good performance. When I race for Renault in Magny-Cours, in front of those people, I feel very proud and I want to give a good performance for the team.

“It will be a close fight - McLaren will be fast, like they are everywhere, but Magny-Cours has been a good circuit for Renault. Last year, I got pole and had a strong battle with Ferrari for the win. This year, we are going there with a better car, and we will expect to be competitive. Will it be enough to win? I don't know. It definitely won't be easy - I think the battle at the front will be much tougher this year than in 2004.

“There are some parts (of the Magny-Cours circuit) I really enjoy. There are two high-speed chicanes that are very challenging, and this is the only circuit in the world with chicanes like this where you have to attack them at over 200 kph - that is a special feeling for the drivers. Then, the last chicane is quite difficult as well - it is very slow, and the kerbs are high which means you must find exactly the right line or you can possibly damage the car. You have to be careful through there in the race, and I think it is a difficult section for everybody.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 15th, 2004 Race - 12th

“I had a great qualifying in Indy, and I could have been very quick in the race I think, so I want to get to France and race - I have not been on the podium since Melbourne because of different problems, so that will be my aim. Everybody knows that this is a very important race for our team, and we will be concentrating very hard to put in a really strong performance.

“(Magny-Cours) is not one of my favourites, but there is a good mix of corners and some good challenges for the drivers. We have some slow speed corners, where you need good mechanical grip and traction; two or three very slow hairpins; and also some high speed corners like turn 3, where a good exit can give you the speed to overtake down the back straight. The car needs very good traction - and lots of downforce.

“I am very optimistic - our car will be good there. I think we have a good, realistic chance in Magny-Cours. It is hard to say exactly how we will stand compared to our rivals - the balance of speed has been different at each of the last four races between us, McLaren, Ferrari and even Williams. I think we are all expecting a big battle at the front but from my point a view, I want a clean race weekend, to finish the race and to be on the podium.”

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2004 Qualifying - 2nd, 2004 Race - 1st

“I love the countryside in the heart of France. The nature and the peace and quiet of the area make me eager to compete in the race. This is mainly because it is a demanding circuit and not an easy one to take on by any means. The surface temperature here can be very high, this makes things more difficult during races when the track can become very slippery. It is important to prepare for this but it is not something that I like. I prefer taking curves flat out without having to consider the grip levels of the circuit. Still, we have to consider what effects the track will have on our new tyres which, as we know, cannot be changed between qualifying and the race. We tested intensively last week at Barcelona and we are well prepared for Magny-Cours. We have scored good results here in the past and taking into account the progress the car has made over the past few weeks, I have to be optimistic about Sunday’s race.”

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - 9th, 2004 Race - 7th

"Magny-Cours is a technical track with special challenges for cars and drivers. Our car so far has performed well at tracks of this type, so I am looking forward to a strong qualifying and race. There are as many points available in the second half of the season as in the first one and I hope to start taking them in Magny-Cours. The track has a very smooth surface without bumps, so we run with low ride heights."

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - 6th, 2004 Race - 8th

"Magny-Cours is quite a slow track with low speed hairpins, medium speed corners, and as a result we run with a medium - high downforce configuration. The track has a couple of quick turns though, such as Grand Courbe. The only genuinely fast section is between Estoril and Adelaide. You need to take the sweep of Estoril really flat out, pushing the limits, so you have good speed when you exit onto Golf. This runs down to Adelaide, which usually sees some entertaining overtaking manoeuvres. It is one of the few places where you can pass at Magny-Cours. I am looking forward to this race and my wish is to do what I did in Canada, to challenge for victory."

Pedro de la Rosa, third driver, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"The Jerez test last week ran well, we completed the majority of the planned programme with myself, Juan Pablo, Kimi and Alex. We covered some 1700 kms in total over the three days. My programme on Friday at Magny-Cours will concentrate on tyre selection with Michelin, following on from the work we conducted already in Jerez. Magny-Cours is an interesting circuit to drive, it is very technical and as a result set-up is particularly key."

Narain Karthikeyan, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"I am glad we are back in Europe and that the next two races in Magny-Cours and Silverstone are tracks that I am familiar with. Magny-Cours is one of the circuits that suits my driving style. I always find a good balance and rhythm and enjoy driving here. Finding the limits of this quite technical, fast-corner circuit seemed not to be too difficult so I hope it will be the same experience driving a Formula One car."

Tiago Monteiro, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"We are heading to France after an amazing race and opportunity in Indianapolis with my first podium and points with the team. However, we also have to come back to reality, as we know we still have to improve the car a lot. We will have to keep up the good work and our reliability record to maybe hope for some more points later on in the season, but now we are even more motivated. France is very important for me. I have raced there at the beginning of my racing career and I have a lot of fans and friends there. I could nearly say that it is one of my home races. I also know the circuit at Magny-Cours pretty well. I have tested the new EJ15B in Barcelona last week and we experienced some teething problems. It looked very nice and aggressive but we definitely need more running before being able to use it for the race."

Robert Doornbos, third driver, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"I have raced in Magny-Cours in junior formulas, in F3 and F3000 and I was quite successful in both. It is a special circuit a little bit in the middle of nowhere. The track is quite challenging and pretty fast. You can make quite a difference with the chicanes there. Now with the upgrade on the car I look forward to driving it on Friday."