French GP: BAR preview

Less than a week since the teams raced at the Nürburgring they will be back on track at Magny-Cours for the French Grand Prix, round 10 of the 2003 World Championship. Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda has been busy stripping down and rebuilding the cars...

Less than a week since the teams raced at the Nürburgring they will be back on track at Magny-Cours for the French Grand Prix, round 10 of the 2003 World Championship. Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda has been busy stripping down and rebuilding the cars at the French circuit as there is no time to send them back to its Operations Centre. Any spare parts required for the rebuild are transported direct to Magny-Cours from the UK.

The Circuit de Nevers is well-known for its unusually smooth surface, which causes grip levels to change throughout the day as temperatures rise and fall. This causes headaches for the drivers and engineers who have to chase the set-up as conditions change. The track itself is made up of a combination of slow hairpins, medium-speed turns and fast chicanes so set-up has to be a compromise. Overtaking is notoriously difficult at Magny-Cours with the best opportunity being under braking for the Adelaide Hairpin.

Last year's race, whilst a joy for Michael Schumacher as he notched up his fifth World Championship, was a disappointment for B*A*R as both Villeneuve and Panis were forced to retire. Jacques scored fourth place at Magny-Cours for B*A*R in 2000. He came fourth there twice before in 1997 and 1998 and took the second step of the podium in his first year of F1 in 1996. Jenson Button secured a sixth place finish in last year's French Grand Prix.

Jacques Villeneuve:

"We don't test at Magny-Cours so I'm not really sure what to expect this year. The last few corners of the track have been changed and we have not had the chance to drive on the new bit, so I'm not sure whether it is an improvement or whether we will have the chance to overtake there. From what I have seen on TV, watching other cars drive on the new part of the track, it doesn't look like its offers any more overtaking opportunities, but we will have to wait and see."

"We expect a hot race and we will be fighting the tyre war in Michelin's own backyard, so I am a little concerned as to how competitive we will be in Magny-Cours. To be honest, I am not really looking forward to driving there. The race should still be exciting though. There is heavy breaking at the Adelaide Hairpin so there should be some good overtaking there."

Jenson Button:

"After a difficult weekend at the Nürburgring, I was pleased that we managed to come away with two valuable points at the end of it. It looks like Magny-Cours will be another challenging race for us, but it's a track I enjoy so I'm looking forward to it."

"Qualifying is very important at Magny-Cours as it's very difficult to overtake here. We start with the cars set-up low as there are no bumps on the track, but you need to have a good amount of grip for the tight corners and good traction for exiting the hairpins. Grip will be a key factor again but hopefully we'll fare slightly better than at the Nürburgring. It's a smoother track and there are more quick corners, which should suit the car more."

David Richards, Team Principal:

"Despite a difficult weekend at the Nürburgring, we emerged with two much-welcomed points and moved up to fifth place in the Championship, which has given the team a boost. We now head directly to Magny- Cours where we will be looking to ensure a stronger weekend for both drivers."

"Jacques will understandably have been disappointed with his performance last weekend but with only a week between these two races, a quick return to the track should provide him with the momentum he needs. We expect this circuit to provide the strongest tyre challenge so far this season but we are confident that a points-finish for both cars is a possibility."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director:

"Given the team's relatively poor form at the last two races, we will be working hard to improve the performance of the cars with the Bridgestone tyres at Magny-Cours, another low-grip circuit. The track layout has been modified since last year, with a reprofiled downhill approach to the last corner and pit entrance, but it has kept its main characteristics."

"It is a smooth circuit with a mixture of high-speed corners and chicanes together with low-speed sections. The track puts a premium on car stability and aerodynamic efficiency, and once again tyres will be a decisive factor, particularly given the likelihood of very high track temperatures here."

"It's a quick turnaround for this race coming just a week after last weekend's race, so there's very little opportunity for changing anything on the car. We will of course be reacting to the gearbox problem we experienced on Jacques' car having investigated its cause."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:

"I was encouraged that we scored some more points at the Nürburgring and feel it's important that we keep this momentum going and collect even more points at Magny-Cours."

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Michael Schumacher , Jacques Villeneuve , David Richards , Shuhei Nakamoto