Boosted by their success at Silverstone and with five points under their belts, it's a buoyant Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda team that head to Magny-Cours this week for the 2002 French Grand Prix. Olivier Panis was thrilled to be part of the team's...
Boosted by their success at Silverstone and with five points under their belts, it's a buoyant Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda team that head to Magny-Cours this week for the 2002 French Grand Prix. Olivier Panis was thrilled to be part of the team's home Grand Prix success story but he'd be happier still if he could notch up another strong performance on his own home asphalt this Sunday. As the only French driver in Formula One at present, he's assured of a big reception and eager to reward the loyal support of his fans.
Olivier enjoyed a two-day stopover in his home town of Varces before heading to Monza, where the team have been testing in preparation for September's Italian Grand Prix. Anthony Davidson and Patrick Lemarie joined him on-track during the three-day programme, which also featured an exploration of some minor aero items for this weekend's race. The updates are designed to help the team achieve the compromise set-up required to contend with Magny-Cours' notoriously tricky track characteristics.
Despite being widely regarded as one of the least charismatic circuits on the calendar, Magny-Cours does however put driver skill to the test and provides a considerable technical challenge for both the drivers and their engineers. It's a challenge the team are eager to get their teeth into though after their last race and whilst morale has never been in short supply over the last few months, B.A.R will have an extra spring in their step this weekend. The sweet taste of champagne was richly-deserved but it hasn't distracted anyone from the fact that a great deal of hard work still lies ahead. The team go into this race more focused than ever.
The circuit is located on an open plain and the local weather effects can be difficult to predict, so the French Grand Prix is renowned for producing some impressive racing. As we saw in Silverstone, the Bridgestone-shod BAR004 laps up inclement weather and the team will once again be looking to capitalise on any opportunity which could help them score in the top 6, particularly in the event of changeable conditions.
Over the course of the last few races, B.A.R have made a considerable step forward in extracting more from the revised BAR004. Top 10 qualifying performances are well within reach and this can only put the team in a better position to engineer their own luck on race day.
David Richards, Team Principal
"The British Grand Prix was a fantastic race for B.A.R. It was standing room only at our post-Silverstone debrief at the factory last week and practically everyone turned out for a glass of champagne and to hear the full story of what was a quite compelling weekend for the team. I have no doubt we can look forward to many more in the future."
"In the meantime, it's very much business as usual again and we're taking nothing for granted. No one has slowed down or lost sight of what is still a long road ahead. We expect the French Grand Prix to present another tough challenge but, as we have demonstrated, the right strategy and great teamwork can take us a very long way. This is of course Olivier's home race and we wish him the same success he enjoyed at the team's home race two weeks ago."
Olivier Panis on the French Grand Prix
"It was fantastic to be part of B.A.R's first points finish of the season, especially at the end of such a difficult weekend for me. It was a great team effort and it was nice to be able to thank everybody at the factory the next day."
"The French Grand Prix is my home race and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to finish in the points in Magny-Cours also. We have to be realistic though and accept that we still have a big challenge in front of us. Racing in front of your home crowd is always something special. The massive amount of fans cheering for you makes the atmosphere thrilling. On the other hand, for me the job is the same everywhere and wherever the race is I keep focused on the job at stake with only one target, which is to give 100%. I'm racing to win."
Jacques Villeneuve on the French Grand Prix
"The team put on a good show at the British Grand Prix and we should continue to be fairly competitive in Magny-Cours. The track has suited us in the past and the car should be quite good there."
"I've had four points finishes here in the past, most recently a 4th place two years ago with B.A.R. It's not one of my favourite tracks, although there are a couple of high-speed chicanes which are fun. There is a good overtaking opportunity at the Adelaide hairpin as well, but the rest of the circuit is quite slow."
The Circuit de Nevers is located in Burgundy, the geographical heartland of France and has been home to the French Grand Prix since 1991. Although drivers and fans alike often describe the track as modern and bland, it has had its fair share of exciting races over the years - notably the wet race in 1999. The eight-turn, 2.641 mile circuit is blessed with a smooth surface and boasts generous run-off areas. However, its twisty layout means that overtaking possibilities in dry conditions tend to be limited to the slow Adelaide hairpin.
Lap times vary noticeably at Magny-Cours depending on the ambient temperature. In common with other tight circuits, Formula One cars are set up to race with high levels of downforce, without completely compromising straight-line speed.