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French Grand Prix - the drivers' preview 27 Jun 2007

Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda RA107.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, United States Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Indianapolis, USA, Saturday, 16 June 2007 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes. Goodwood Festival of Speed, Goodwood, England 24 June 2007. World © Bumstead/Sutton Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, United States Grand Prix, Race, Indianapolis, USA, Sunday, 17 June 2007 Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, United States Grand Prix, Race, Indianapolis, USA, Sunday, 17 June 2007 Alex Wurz (AUT) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, United States Grand Prix, Preparations, Indianapolis, USA, Thursday, 14 June 2007

Although Magny-Cours may lack the off-track diversions of other Grands Prix, the circuit’s mixture of long, sweeping corners and quick chicanes offers a unique technical challenge for both car and driver.

And with all 11 teams having conducted extensive testing programmes last week, many are confident of taking a step forward in France. Here, the drivers discuss their prospects for the weekend ahead…

Fernando Alonso, McLaren
2006 Qualifying - 3rd, 2006 Race - 2nd

“I have always liked racing at this track, when you hear people talk about circuits that are technical, Magny-Cours is definitely one of them. It is important to have good speed in the slow corners as they tend to lead onto long straights. You have to have good mechanical set-up for the corners and the same with traction for the exits. My favourite sections of the track are the two high speed chicanes at the back of the circuit. We go through them at speeds of up to 200km/h, which is very fast for a chicane; very special to drive through and unique in Formula One.

“Since the United States Grand Prix, I joined the test team at Silverstone for a day. We completed some key programmes as everyone in the team pushes hard to develop performance. I also attended an event for our Partner Mutua Madrilena in Madrid. After the back to back races it seems like a long time since we last raced, I want to get back on track and am really motivated to drive the MP4-22. It is a quick car and I hope we can get the best out of it at Magny-Cours. Although they have very different characteristics in general, there are some similarities between Magny-Cours and Monaco, as they have a lot of tight, twisty corners and both have a medium-high downforce set-up. The car performed well at Monaco and I am looking forward to getting it out on track in France on Friday.”

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“The French round of the GP2 championship last year was not my best weekend, I had a coming together in the first race and therefore started race two in 19th. I did make my way up through the field to 5th to score some points, so it is possible to overtake here. Although you always want to be on pole, you can pass at Magny-Cours and there is a short pit lane that means there are more strategy options, as it is not as much of a penalty when you stop for tyres and fuel. The pit lane is slightly longer than it used to be but it is still very quick.

“After the results in Canada and the United States it was great to come home and see my family and friends. I will also have the opportunity to go to the Goodwood Festival of Speed this weekend; I expect the atmosphere will be incredible and it should be great to drive the McLaren car up the hill in front of the British fans. For the past week I have been spending time at the McLaren Technology Centre working with the engineering team and catching up on some training and I participated in an event for Vodafone in London on Thursday. Now I just want to get back out on track. My aims remain the same, to take it race by race and keep focused on scoring good points for myself and the team.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2006 Qualifying - 7th, 2006 Race - 6th

“I have had the best years of my career so far with Renault, so it is going to be a great feeling to be representing the team again at Magny-Cours. The motivation in the team goes up a notch for this race, especially for the engine team who are racing in front of their friends and family. Does it make us try harder? Of course not. But it makes a good result extra special. We will doing our maximum to achieve that on Sunday.

“There are some very high speed corners, sharp changes of direction, and some heavy braking and traction areas. That makes it a hard circuit for the tyres too. Temperatures are generally very high, and the tyres quite soft, so you have to find a good set-up to make them last well through the stint, especially the softer compound we will be running this weekend. Exiting the slow corners is tough on the rear tyres as well, while the fast corners give the fronts a hard time. So you need a consistent balance to avoid taking too much out of the tyres.”

Heikki Kovalainen, Renault
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“I think I have some good momentum going at the moment - and I want to maintain that in France this weekend. It's no secret that France is a really important race for Renault, and racing in front of all the people from the factory at Viry, and the other Renault factories, makes the atmosphere very special for us.

“When I last raced in Magny-Cours in GP2, I had one win and one podium, and it's a circuit I enjoy: there are some quick corners, and some good high-speed chicanes that you need to attack to get a good lap-time. I think we made another step with the car last week at Silverstone, so I am looking forward to getting out there on Friday, and seeing how things stack up. We got the maximum out of our package in Indy. We have to do the same again this weekend.”

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
2006 Qualifying - 6th, 2006 Race - 5th

“Last week was a prefect week. We had a very good test in Silverstone: the car was much better than at the races in North America. So I'm really very confident of the race in Magny-Cours. We have new components, above all in the section of aerodynamics; and we have taken a step forward as far as the performance is concerned: if it is enough, we'll only know in France.

“It's true, I never came in first here, but I really enjoy driving on this track. The tarmac is extremely even and the track offers slow and fast corners; that makes it very challenging. Good aerodynamics and good traction for the exits of the slow corners are very important here. Five years ago I came close to victory: I was leading the race, but then I spun off the track due to oil lost by a Toyota and Michael (Schumacher) passed me to win his fifth of his seven titles. I hope that this year things will be different!”

Felipe Massa, Ferrari
2006 Qualifying - 2nd, 2006 Race - 3rd

“I think we have some good ideas for the next upcoming races, which can change the situation. But we have to ensure we make no more mistakes and it would be nice to think it is time for our rivals to make some mistakes to give us a bit of breathing space. At Silverstone, we tried a new aero package and I immediately felt it was working well and I was very happy with the balance of my F2007.

“Magny-Cours and the French Grand Prix could be a good weekend for us. Last year, I finished on the podium and it was the start of a good run for me in the second half of the championship as things started to come right for us.”

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2006 Qualifying - 5th, 2006 Race - 4th

“I have a good record at Magny-Cours - I have happy memories of my first pole position there in 2001 and victory there in 2003. But apart from that, I can’t say I am that keen on Magny-Cours from a driving perspective. To retire from the race at the first corner in the last race at Indianapolis was obviously very disappointing, especially after a pretty good qualifying performance but I am determined to have a better race in France.

“Jarno’s (Trulli) result demonstrated what the team can achieve and I expect us to be fighting for points again. I had the chance to test at Silverstone for a day last week which was productive and I also recorded the fastest lap time of the day. It went well and we had no problems at all with the car. I am reasonably optimistic we can fight for points again this weekend. Also, it is my 32nd birthday on Saturday so I’m hoping for a strong qualifying to celebrate and then some points would be a good present!”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2006 Qualifying - 4th, 2006 Race - DNF

“Personally, I enjoy visiting France and I have had some good results at Magny-Cours. In the past I have spent time working for French teams, and I also speak French, so I have a good relationship with the French fans and I always feel very much at home there. As a circuit, Magny-Cours is an interesting place to drive because the fast, sweeping corners and the quick chicanes make it very technical. This means we need a stable car with good handling which is comfortable in different types of corner.

“We will be working hard on that from the start of practice on Friday. I had a fantastic result in Indianapolis after a really great job by myself and the team. At the start of the weekend I did not expect to finish as high as sixth but we made no mistakes and we had perfect reliability. This shows we are capable of strong results and I am optimistic we can fight at the front again in France.”

Nico Rosberg, Williams
2006 Qualifying - 9th, 2006 Race - 14th

“I can’t wait to get to Magny-Cours. I really like the track and I’ve always seemed to do well there. It’s a nice place to go as well and has a good vibe so it’s a shame this is going to be our last visit. I have good memories of Magny, I’ve won a few races there and it was where I won my first GP2 race. We’ll definitely have made some progress with the car as our test at Silverstone last week went really well. It’s also going to be exciting to see how the new upgrades work in competition.”

Alexander Wurz, Williams
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“After a positive Silverstone test, I am looking forward to this coming race weekend in France. All the other teams have also been testing upgrades as we have, but I think we have the car to bring home some points from Magny-Cours. Personally, I like the track, but I have not yet raced on the new layout of the last sector. I am sure that I will tune into the modified section very quickly though. There’s one certainty this weekend and that’s that it will again be a very competitive field and so it will be another fierce fight for points.”

Rubens Barrichello, Honda
2006 Qualifying - 14th, 2006 Race - DNF

“I really enjoy racing at Magny-Cours and it is a really flowing circuits which the drivers generally enjoy. The track has a mixture of high and slow speed turns, and although the track surface is smooth, it can be hard on the rear tyres. The high speed changes of direction between turns four and five, and also turns seven and eight, are particularly challenging. The weather conditions are usually very hot so the team will be well prepared for high track temperatures having spent three days testing in Jerez this week.”

Jenson Button, Honda
2006 Qualifying -19th, 2006 Race - DNF

“The Circuit de Nevers is quite a tricky circuit to get your lap absolutely right however it is a lot of fun to drive and very fast. The start is particularly important, regardless of what side of the grid you are on, and you have to position yourself well for the first two corners to get a good run down the straight to the Adelaide hairpin. This is really the only place on the circuit where you can have a real chance of overtaking.

“The key to a really quick lap around here is getting the front end of the car working well, particularly for turns one and two. You can lose a lot of time at turn two if you have too much understeer in the car. You also need to have good car stability to make the most of the high speed chicanes.”

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2006 Qualifying - 12th, 2006 Race - 8th

“The Magny-Cours circuit has a lot to offer - two tricky chicanes, a high-speed section and some slow corners. I'm looking forward to the race weekend. The track is demanding, I like the countryside around the circuit and you tend to eat very well in France. There's not a lot going on in Magny-Cours and it gets its fair share of criticism as a result.

“But I like a bit of peace and quiet now and again. And I think the relative tranquility will do the team good after the eventful time we've had recently. Although we only picked up a single point in the USA, it's clear that we are still making progress. In terms of pure performance, our car was the second-best in Indianapolis. I could have qualified third and also finished third in the race.”

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“I can't wait to get back into the car. I may not have been given the green light to compete in the USA, but I hope the medical examination at Magny-Cours will be a formality. The reason why I wasn't allowed to drive at Indianapolis had nothing to do with how I felt; the problem was the risk involved in suffering a second accident within such a short space of time. That's also why I wasn't allowed to test. I've used the time to focus intensively on preparing for the next race.

“I'm pretty neutral about the Magny-Cours track. It isn't one of my favourite circuits, but at the same time I don't have a problem with it. Magny-Cours is a lot more fun in a Formula One car than with the smaller cars I've driven there before in other categories of racing. You can particularly see the potential of the F1 car through the chicanes.”

Adrian Sutil, Spyker
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“I know the circuit very well. I did a Friday practice session there with the team last year and I did an F3 race in 2004. It's actually one of my favourite tracks as I like the layout with the quick chicane, the long right hander through the corner to the straight, the hairpin - it's exactly what I like and I already know am quite quick around there!

“Actually the first F3 test I did at the end of 2003 was in Magny-Cours and it was also the first time I met Colin. I got in his car the day after the race at Magny-Cours and beat his two drivers! I got in on the Monday and I was immediately one second quicker - Colin was delighted he could see his car worked and over the next two races started talks with Mercedes to get in a car, then I made it to Team Kolles in 2004. It's got a lot of good memories, as I got a big break there and a lot of good things have happened at the track.”

Christijan Albers, Spyker
2006 Qualifying - 16th, 2006 Race - 15th

“Some drivers don't like it, but I actually find it a very good circuit. The track layout is good, you have to have a good downforce balance for the high speed and low speed corners, so set-up is always a compromise. There are a few possibilities to overtake so you also have to have a good speed to be able to pass on the straight. I like the track though - the only problem I can see with it is it's in the middle of nowhere!

“We have to get the set-up right, get the confidence high and then go out and do our best. I like the track and I have done okay on it so far - in fact the only drama is getting out of the circuit on a Sunday night!”