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French Grand Prix - preview quotes 13 Jun 2008

Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari with Chris Dyer (AUS) Ferrari Race Engineer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 8 June 2008 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 8 June 2008 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 8 June 2008 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 8 June 2008 Canadian Grand Prix winner Robert Kubica (POL), BMW Sauber. BMW Sauber F1 Pit Lane Park, Warsaw, Poland, Saturday 14 June 2008. World © Sutton

While its location in the pastoral peace of the French countryside may mean Magny-Cours lacks the glamorous off-track diversions of the some of its rivals, the circuit’s mixture of long, sweeping corners and quick chicanes keeps the drivers busy enough. Here they and team personnel discuss their prospects for round eight...

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
2007 Qualifying - 3rd, 2007 Race - 1st

“I think that things will look really different at Magny-Cours, compared to the last GPs. The smooth surface of the French track, its demanding corners and the quick changes of direction will underline the characteristics of the F2008.It was here in France last year that my season practically started all over again; and this is what I need now, after the two races with no points. I like this track and I think that it's perfect for our car. I think we'll be competitive and that we can go for the maximum result.

“All the races are important and one point can make the difference, like in 2007. This year will be an equally balanced championship and that's the reason why you always need to bring home something. Kubica is leading the standings and, apart from the first race, has always collected some points. Hamilton will start further back, due to the penalty. But you should never underestimate McLaren: we have to give our best to keep them behind. We'll bring some new technology and here the Team is giving its best, but that is what also our competitors do.”

Felipe Massa, Ferrari
2007 Qualifying - 1st, 2007 Race - 2nd

“We had three good days (at last week’s Barcelona test) and that means I am expecting to have a really competitive car for Magny-Cours. It is a nice track that usually suits the characteristics of our car. 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. I like Magny-Cours: I came second here last year, having started from pole, but then I lost a bit of time in traffic and I also came third in 2006. It's a good track for me. Let's hope we can repeat last year's one-two finish, but maybe in a different order!”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India
2007 Qualifying - 5th, 2007 Race - 6th

“Magny-Cours is actually one of the tracks I do not enjoy on the calendar. It's the circuit where I had my biggest accident in Formula One, back in 2002 and I had to miss the race after crashing in practice so for sure I don't have great memories of it. Also I don't see any particular challenge with it. As you know though, in our job you have to accept the good and the bad.

“Under normal conditions we need to finish the race, as we have not seen the chequered flag for the last three events. I'm still disappointed about Canada as I could not show my true colours on a circuit I love so much, but we have more races this year, and more chances to show what we can do.”

Adrian Sutil, Force India
2007 Qualifying - 22nd, 2007 Race - 17th

“Actually I quite like Magny-Cours. I know a lot of drivers don't enjoy it, but it's 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 I am quite quick around there! I've had some good results in F3 there, and then did my first F1 practice at the track too. Now with some race experience I've got a lot of good memories.

“I hope now I can get another good memory from France. The last two races have been disappointing in results, with two DNFs which is never good, but we have been quite competitive in the races. In Monaco especially, but in Canada also I was very close to the Toyotas, but just couldn't find a way past. It could have been a good race, it was a shame not to finish.

“I hope then in Magny-Cours we are able to do a really great race. I have experience now, I know the track so I am really confident I can do well. We are also getting better in qualifying, but are just not close enough to get into Q2. We have to work on this in France.”

Colin Kolles, Force India team principal
“I hope that France will be kinder to us than Monaco and Canada have been. We have had some problems, for sure, but overall the pace and performance have been good, even if the results have not been there. In the races both drivers have shown they can compete with the group in front and if we can qualify higher up then we stand a better chance of finishing higher. From the drivers' point of view Giancarlo has been doing a good job, as expected from someone of his experience, and Adrian has reacted to this.”

Mike Gascoyne, Force India's chief technical officer
“Magny-Cours in France is a more standard circuit compared to the last couple of tracks in Monte Carlo and Montreal, which are both unique. We will not introduce any major changes for this race, the main reason being we are working on a large package of updates for the Silverstone test following this race and the British Grand Prix itself.

“We were not at the test in Barcelona as the logistics for us to test immediately after the flyaway Canada race were very difficult, so we elected to test at Silverstone for one day instead. Obviously we have had some reliability items on the gearbox, so we had a large programme of work aimed at this.

“Overall the main aim for the French Grand Prix has to be to have a two-car finish. Canada and Monaco were disappointing as they are races where you can easily pick up places, with safety cars and so on, but we didn't get either cars to the flag. Our race pace is clearly more competitive now but at the moment we make life difficult for ourselves by starting at the back. We really have to address this as quickly as possible.”

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2007 Qualifying - 10th, 2007 Race - 7th

“There are always lots of people associated with Renault watching the race and wearing the team's colours, which is a big source of motivation. Also, it's the French Grand Prix and the team is French, so I have enormous motivation to have a good weekend, and I will once again give my maximum.

“It's a circuit where the car must perform well in all parts in order to do a good lap time. There are some quick corners and direction changes, the brakes are important and you need good acceleration. The temperature is usually quite high, so you have to find a set- up that allows you to make the most of the tyres and optimise the general balance of the car. I don't have any specific concerns and we will work on these different points in free practice on Friday.

“We completed three days (of testing) in Barcelona last week. It was a case of validating the latest developments on the car, especially the aerodynamic and mechanical components that we plan to use at the French Grand Prix and the coming races. That went well, the team got a lot of information and I hope that we will see more progress this weekend. That is important for the morale of the team because we still have a lot to do in order to catch up with the leaders. But I am happy and I know that whatever happens I will give my maximum to get the best from my car and to do well in the race.”

Nelson Piquet, Renault
2007 Qualifying - NA, 2007 Race - NA

“I am remaining focussed and will head to Magny-Cours determined to do the best I can for the team. The car should work well there because it is a circuit where you need good aero, and our car was good in Barcelona and Istanbul, where aero is especially important. It's a smooth track, but you need to be able to ride the curbs, so I need to work well in free practice to find a good set-up with my engineers to put me in good shape for qualifying. It's an important race for the team and I would love to get my first points on Renault's home ground, so that has to be my target. We had a good test last week in Barcelona and have some new things on the car which will help. I'm sure there will be a lot of support for the team and I will try and draw on that. I will need to qualify well as it's a difficult track to overtake on, but if I can do that then I think we can have a strong race.”

Jenson Button, Honda
2007 Qualifying - 12th, 2007 Race - 8th

"The French Grand Prix takes place around a great track which I really enjoy driving. The Circuit de Nevers is very smooth and has some fast chicanes but despite being a lot of fun to drive, it is actually quite tricky to get your lap absolutely right. The key to a really quick lap 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 a car with good stability and good change of direction to make the most of the high speed chicanes. In the race, the start is particularly important and you need to position yourself well for the first corners to get a run down the straight to the Adelaide hairpin which is really the only place on the circuit where you have a real chance of overtaking.

"I'm looking forward to the race, particularly after a disappointing weekend in Canada where we were really off the pace with the RA108 in a low downforce set-up. I've had some good results in Magny-Cours previously and the race can be quite exciting, so I expect us to have a better weekend there."

Rubens Barrichello, Honda
2007 Qualifying - 13th, 2007 Race - 11th

"We are optimistic that we will be able to perform well at Magny-Cours. The circuit is unusual in that the corners are either very fast or very slow. Turn three is a long fifth gear corner at over 200kph and the chicanes at turns six and 11 are even faster, whilst the rest of the corners are taken in first or second gear. It is the sort of circuit where you can run the car very low and close to the ground as the surface is so smooth, which should help us as we have struggled at the bumpier tracks this year.

"Magny-Cours is a really flowing circuit which the drivers generally enjoy. The high speed changes of direction between turns four and five, and also turns seven and eight, are particularly challenging but exciting at the same time. The last chicane has big kerbs and if you have a car that can ride them, there is a lot of time to be gained here. A few of the corners lead into one another so it is also important to have a stable car that allows you to brake and turn at the same time. It's not an easy circuit to overtake but there are possibilities at the turn five hairpin and coming into turn 15."

Ross Brawn, Honda team principal
"We expect the RA108 to be back on the pace of our midfield competitors in Magny-Cours this weekend. Whilst Rubens led the last race in Canada for a short time and scored valuable points, we are fully aware that his race was helped by the safety car and retirements. The track at the Circuit de Nevers requires a much higher level of downforce and has a smooth surface which should suit our car much better than the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal. I expect a stronger performance this weekend and we will be looking to get into the points on the merit of the car's performance."

Nico Rosberg, Williams
2007 Qualifying - 9th, 2007 Race - 9th

“I really like the Circuit de Nevers. I’ve had some great races there in the past, and it’s a return to Europe as well, which is good. Magny-Cours hasn’t been one of our strongest tracks in recent years, so we’ll need to push hard. Unfortunately, it’s going to be harder than usual as I have the ten-place grid penalty from the pit lane incident in Montreal to contend with as well. We had a three day test in Barcelona last week, during which we did some set-up work for this race and tested some new parts, all of which will hopefully help us this weekend to achieve a good result.”

Kazuki Nakajima, Williams
2007 Qualifying - NA, 2007 Race - NA

“I have some experience of Magny-Cours because I raced there last year in GP2. It’s a nice track to drive, so I feel quite confident going into the weekend. We showed good pace at the past two races in Monaco and Canada and we need to carry that with us to France and make up for the recent drought in points. As for the place itself, it’s really in the middle of nowhere and so a bit quiet, very different to Montreal, but I quite like that and am looking forward to getting there.”

Sam Michael, Williams technical director
“We will be bringing various aerodynamic and mechanical upgrades to the FW30 for the French Grand Prix to further improve the cars’ performance. All the parts were tested at the Barcelona test last week and all were successfully signed-off. The Circuit de Nevers has a good mix of corners which create a great challenge for the drivers and engineers. Aerodynamic efficiency and a good balance in the long, high speed corner before the back straight is essential for a strong time in sector one. The circuit then transforms to one made up of slow speed corners and chicanes for the remainder of the lap. Strategy is always interesting in France because the time that is lost in the pitlane is relatively minimal, which allows for a three, or even a four-stop strategy, both of which have been used in the past. Bridgestone are taking the medium and soft tyre compounds to this race which will also play a part in the outcome of the race.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2007 Qualifying - 8th, 2007 Race - DNF

"Magny-Cours is an exciting circuit. It has a lot of quick chicanes, which I like, but also some slow and medium speed corners so this makes it an interesting and challenging track. I enjoy visiting France and I feel quite at home there. The French fans are always very supportive to me and I hope we can really show them how competitive our car is by scoring points again. In particular we want to achieve a strong result this weekend as a tribute to Ove (Andersson) because without him I'm not sure whether Toyota would be competing in Formula One now. He helped build up the factory from scratch back in the rally times to what it is now; a real Formula One facility with the potential to produce world championship-winning cars. He loved motorsport and it was his passion to see Toyota succeed so I hope we can achieve something fitting this weekend."

Timo Glock, Toyota
2007 Qualifying - NA, 2007 Race - NA

"To me Magny-Cours isn't a particularly special track; it's okay and quite challenging but it's by no means a favourite of mine. It was great to finish in fourth place in Canada, particularly because it was a good reward for the hard work which everyone at the team has put in this year. I knew we had the potential to get a good result but it was a matter of everything coming together, and this happened in Canada but I was very close previously when circumstances denied me. Now I have scored my first points for the team I look forward to scoring more in the near future. I think our car will be reasonably competitive in Magny-Cours and we had a good test in Barcelona last week so we are well prepared. I know the team is quite shocked at the moment because of Ove Andersson's accident so it would be nice to give them a result. Personally I didn't work with Ove but I have heard a lot about him and it was very sad news."

Pascal Vasselon, Toyota’s senior general manager chassis
"Obviously this is a sad time for the team and we are all shocked about what happened to Ove. This gives us added motivation to succeed this weekend. Following our result in Canada, we are of course optimistic for this race and we hope to again challenge for the points. I like Magny-Cours. It's a really good place to race because there are no distractions and no extra pressures; everything is about the racing. Also, we are in a very French part of the season after French-speaking races in Monaco and Montreal so I have to say I appreciate that. From a technical point of view we are back to track with average demands; there are no special issues and downforce will be medium-high. It is a high-grip track and it is not too bumpy so you can really maximise the suspension set-up for aerodynamic efficiency; the main concern there is to make sure you go well on a couple of kerbs."

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
2007 Qualifying - 6th, 2007 Race - 15th

"I’ve always loved racing at this place. For a racing driver it’s a bit of a challenge as there are some very high-speed corners and a couple of fast chicanes - and you can’t just throw the car into them, it requires a lot of precision. They’re the sort of corners I really love.

“As I’ve been saying all season, I’m gradually getting to grips with this car even if the results haven’t backed it up. And I really enjoy Magny-Cours so I’m looking forward to making progress throughout practice and being in a very good position for the race itself.

"I’m not really looking at the points tables at the moment. The world title is still wide open, and having an opportunity to score good points in France will only help me. I’m still absolutely determined to get my first win under my belt."

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2007 Qualifying - 2nd, 2007 Race - 3rd

"Mentally, (my ten-place grid penalty) is just something that you learn to overcome quickly. It certainly won’t affect my preparations for the French Grand Prix. We’ve already looked at the best ways of optimising the strategy to help us move up the field and I guess I’ll just have to pass some cars if I want to get into the points!

"Magny-Cours isn’t the easiest place to overtake but it’s certainly possible. You can dive down the inside into the Adelaide Hairpin and also have a look into the penultimate corner. But an area we can really focus on is the strategy - Magny-Cours has a relatively short pitlane which does open up the strategic options available to us in the race.

"Although the result in Canada may have been disappointing, our overall pace was a great boost for the whole team. Last year, we lacked a little bit of pace in high-speed corners, but this year’s car definitely seems to have overcome those shortcomings. We are in good shape."

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren Formula One CEO
"We feel like we've made substantial improvements to the MP4-23 and, while it didn't exactly pay off in Canada, we go into France in a very positive frame of mind. One of the aims of our winter development programme was to improve the car's high-speed performance and we feel we've been able to do that - and both Magny-Cours and Silverstone will give us the opportunities to demonstrate that.

"Obviously, we go to France knowing we only have the capability to field one car on the optimum strategy, so our job will be a little different from normal. But we still expect to extract the very maximum performance levels from both cars. Both Lewis and Heikki are very confident about their chances and we will be working hard with the strategists and engineers in order to provide them both with the optimum strategy for the race."

Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"As our record shows, the French Grand Prix has never been an easy race for us. At most of the other circuits we have won more regularly than at Magny-Cours. Last year, Lewis finished third after starting second on the grid, on the dirty side of the track he lost out at the start to Raikkonen in the Ferrari. This time, Lewis’s race will begin significantly further down the grid. We’ll be counting on Heikki to drive with the same spirit he showed in the first six races. Maybe we will find a special strategy for Lewis which will help him to move up, his task is downright difficult, as according to our experience of Magny-Cours there is some kind of ban of overtaking there! However, we won’t give up."

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2007 Qualifying - 7th, 2007 Race - 5th

“I like the Magny-Cours track and also the rural surroundings. I'm lucky enough to spend the GP weekend here each year in a small moated castle. There are only a handful of rooms, which don't come with a TV, radio or other luxuries but do have three-metre-thick walls. Among the distinguishing characteristics of the circuit are its extremely even surface, several blind corners and two high-speed chicanes. Turn Two stands out - an extremely long and fast right-hander which leads you through a hollow and then sends you sharply uphill on the way out. The circuit has been modified in some areas, and the final chicane does not fit in so harmoniously with the rest of the track. It has very high kerbs, which you have to ride - and this often produces spectacular shots of cars on two wheels.”

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2007 Qualifying - 4th, 2007 Race - 4th

"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.”

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport director
"We may have had a party to celebrate the one-two in Montreal, but this did not impinge on our preparations for the French Grand Prix. As we have up to now, we will focus on the next race and are aiming to put in another strong performance at Magny-Cours.

“The atmosphere in Monaco and Montreal is one of the highlights of the season, but personally I also greatly appreciate the rural surroundings of the Circuit de Nevers, as here it is all about the sport. The circuit is very demanding, and the travellers' community atmosphere in the paddock has its own particular charm. I will never forget the moment back in 2001 when we recorded BMW's first pole position since making its return to Formula One.”

Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber technical director
"The Circuit de Nevers offers an interesting mixture of slow sections, which demand a high level of grip, and fast S-shaped sectors, in which good car stability plays a significant role. The Adelaide hairpin at the end of the long straight is the perfect place for overtaking, as the circuit is very wide here and there is a generous run-off area. The track has an extremely flat surface, which the teams take into account with car set-up - the cars run low ground clearance here. At the same time, it is important that the drivers can also be aggressive through the chicane before the start/finish straight, where the kerbs are very high.

"Our one-two in Canada gave a huge motivation boost to the whole team, of course, and we will be pulling out all the stops to defend Robert's lead in the world championship standings.”