French GP: Williams preview

The Event Formula One returns to Europe this weekend for the 11th round of the season, the French Grand Prix. Formula One cars have raced in France every year since 1955 making the French race the oldest in the sport's history and...

The Event

Formula One returns to Europe this weekend for the 11th round of the season, the French Grand Prix. Formula One cars have raced in France every year since 1955 making the French race the oldest in the sport's history and the traditional home of Grand Prix racing.

Held at seven different venues since its inception, WilliamsF1 has won eight times in France, five of which have been one-two victories. Since the race moved to Magny-Cours in 1991, the team has won one in every three races entered, captured half of all available pole positions and secured five fastest laps at the Circuit de Nevers.

Between the races

Following the US Grand Prix, Mark spent two days in Jerez for the team's test session before returning home to the UK to drive last year's FW27C at the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed on Saturday. Mark then joined pioneering British solo round-the-world yachtswoman, Dee Caffari, on Monday for a day's sailing from Portsmouth at the start of the Big V Sail race.

Dee has just confirmed that she will be competing in Mark's Pure Tasmania Challenge in November. Meanwhile, Nico also enjoyed a trip to Goodwood at the weekend for a "car swap" with RBS Ambassador, Sir Jackie Stewart. Nico was given the opportunity to drive Sir Jackie's vintage Matra MS10 GP car, in which he won four races in 1968. Sir Jackie then completed demonstration runs in the FW27C.

Making the car go faster

The team headed to Spain after the North American double header for a four day test at Jerez in advance of the French Grand Prix. Mark and Alex shared driving duties, completing two days each, and carried out critical evaluations on various aero components on the FW28. The pair also ran upgraded engine parts and tyre selection checks throughout the 1,200kms covered over the four days.

Following a successful test in Spain, the Cosworth engine will feature an upgrade for the French Grand Prix to give a performance increment at high speeds and an overall improvement in peak power. As of this weekend, both cars will race with a new version of Petrobras' Formula One fuel, the 17-PodiumF1. Developed in association with Cosworth to compliment the new Series 6.01 spec engine, the new fuel has been designed to enhance engine power and reduce fuel consumption.

Magny-Cours from a technical perspective

Set amid rural surroundings in France's Burgundy region, the 4.4km Circuit de Nevers is characterised by a collection of slow hairpins, medium speed corners and high speed chicanes. The French track requires a high downforce set-up, one which provides stability through the twisty sections, but one which equally does not compromise straight line speed. Magny-Cours is renowned for its smooth surface which, when combined with the area's variable temperatures, provides one of the greatest challenges for the teams over the weekend.

The unpredictable weather, which can generate track temperatures in excess of 50°C, places high thermal loadings on the tyres, while the slower hairpins also generate longitudinal loadings, all of which can destabilise the balance of the car. With several acute braking events (the drivers will experience 4g when braking from 300km/h down to 60km/h into the Adelaide hairpin), durable brakes are also a pre-requisite. Aerodynamic efficiency and car drivability are therefore key for a successful race this weekend.

Mark Webber:

"It's good to be back in Europe on terra firma after the two recent fly-away races. Clearly it's a very difficult time for us at the moment as we're not demonstrating the kind of form we want and we need to address this by getting some pace back into the car."

"We will have some different parts on the car to help breach the gap to our opposition but, traditionally, most of the teams use the French Grand Prix as an upgrade point in the season, so it's important we make significant gains. I hope Alex's running is straightforward on Friday in order to give us a strong base for Sunday afternoon."

Nico Rosberg:

"I like the track at Magny-Cours. I won the GP2 race there last year, my first win of the season and the start of a great year for me. I wasn't at the test last week, but I know that the team has been working really hard on improving our aero package recently."

"We'll be using the Silverstone aero package for this forthcoming race which, I believe, will improve our pace relative to that seen in America. I enjoyed the trip to the States a lot, but it's now nice to be back in Europe, especially considering I can drive to this race from my home."

Sam Michael, Technical Director, WilliamsF1:

"We return to Europe this week for the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours. The team tested in Jerez, Spain, last week with Mark and Alex in an effort to improve the FW28 and to work on our tyres with partner, Bridgestone."

"For Magny-Cours, we will have some aerodynamic improvements that are part of our on-going development programme to bring performance to the car, notably for the front and rear wings. We will also have minor bodywork modifications and updated brake ducts."

"Magny-Cours consists of three high speed areas, the first section of the lap and the two chicanes, as well as some slow and medium speed corners. It is traditionally a very smooth circuit which has an interesting end to the lap because the track creates a good line into the pit lane. This means that time lost in the pit lane is low."

"The tarmac at Magny-Cours is more dependent on temperature than normal which means lap times vary significantly during the day. Strategy will be interesting in Magny-Cours because of the pit lane time and typically high tyre degradation that we see at Magny-Cours."

Simon Corbyn, Head of F1 Race Engineering, Cosworth:

"Following successful dyno and track testing, Cosworth will have CA2006 Series 6 engines available for WilliamsF1 for the French Grand Prix. Thanks to everyone at Cosworth for their hard work in delivering this upgrade in time for Magny-Cours."

-williams-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Mark Webber , Jackie Stewart , Nico Rosberg
Teams Williams