French GP: Honda preview

Round eight of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to Magny Cours, a picturesque village situated in the Burgundy region of the Loire Valley, for the French Grand Prix. The 70-lap race takes place at the ...

Round eight of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to Magny Cours, a picturesque village situated in the Burgundy region of the Loire Valley, for the French Grand Prix. The 70-lap race takes place at the 4.411km (2.741-mile) Circuit de Nevers.

After the glamour of Monaco and the cosmopolitan city of Montreal, Magny Cours provides the F1 circus with a quieter, more rural backdrop. The French Grand Prix is the oldest Grand Prix in the world. The first race was staged in June 1906 and since the inception of the World Championship in 1950, the race has been staged at seven different tracks throughout France. It has been run at the Circuit de Nevers since 1991.

Michael Schumacher has the best record of any driver at the track, having won eight races between 1994 and 2006. Rubens Barrichello, meanwhile, has scored three podiums, while Jenson Button's best result is fourth in 2005.

CIRCUIT DE NEVERS - THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE

The track surface at the Circuit de Nevers is very smooth, but the idiosyncrasies of the asphalt provide the teams with some of the biggest technical challenges of the race weekend. A small change in the track temperature can have a big influence on grip levels, so the engineers have to monitor any changes closely and alter car set-up accordingly.

Traction, particularly this year without traction control, has a big influence on lap time because the cars accelerate out of five first and second-gear corners around the lap. The two high-speed chicanes are much spoken about and keep the attention of the drivers, but neither is a big technical challenge because the relatively high downforce levels used on the cars ensure good turn-in and stability through these sections.

The key corner on the lap is turn three. A good balance through this long right-hander is crucial because a straight follows, at the end of which is the Adelaide Hairpin, which is the main overtaking point on the lap. Drivers need to be able to get the power down early, while the car is still under high lateral loads.

Full throttle: 60% Brake wear: Low Downforce level: High - 8/10 Tyre compounds: Medium / Soft Tyre usage: Low Average speed: 210kph (130mph)

HONDA TEAM TALK

Ross Brawn, Team Principal

Q. How do you expect the Honda Racing F1 Team to perform at the French Grand Prix?

"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."

Q. What did the team learn at the Barcelona test last week?

"As our next aerodynamic upgrade is not due until the Silverstone test, we used the three days in Barcelona last week to evaluate the handling and set-up of the RA108 in order to increase our understanding of the car's performance. At Montreal, it was evident that braking stability and the car's ride quality over bumpy surfaces are not our strong point. This leads us to make comprises in other areas which prevents our drivers from achieving the balance that they are looking for. In Barcelona, we made some good progress with addressing this issues and improving the mechanical set-up of the car. We also continue to improve the driveability of the engine and even small steps here can find valuable laptime."

Jenson Button

Q. You've always been fast at the Circuit de Nevers. What's the secret to a good lap?

"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.

Q. After three races without scoring points, are you confident that you can reverse this trend in France?

"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

Q. The Circuit de Nevers has a mix of fast chicanes and slow corners. How do you expect the RA108 to perform?

"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."

Q. Describe the challenge of racing at the Circuit de Nevers.

"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."

Honda in France

Since Honda began operations in France in May 1964, sales have increased steadily to the all-time record of 15,631 vehicles in 2007. The backbone of Honda's recent growth has been the Civic and the CR-V.

Honda Europe Power Equipment has a facility in Ormes, near Orleans (200 kilometres north of Magny Cours) which began operations in 1986 and is responsible for the import, manufacture and distribution of power products.

-credit: honda

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Ross Brawn , Gilles Villeneuve
Teams Honda Racing F1 Team