After the bumps and bruises of Indianapolis it may come as a relief for some teams to have the French Grand Prix next on the calendar. The Magny Cours circuit has a variety of different types of corners but is less challenging for the drivers than...
After the bumps and bruises of Indianapolis it may come as a relief for some teams to have the French Grand Prix next on the calendar. The Magny Cours circuit has a variety of different types of corners but is less challenging for the drivers than some other tracks. Technically speaking, it could be described as middle-of-the-road.
"I'd say that overall Magny Cours is a very balanced circuit, almost medium in terms of everything," said Pascal Vasselon, Toyota's senior general manager of the chassis department.
"For brakes there is nothing special, in terms of downforce it's in the middle of the range and with tyres it distributes the stresses very well between the front and rear tyres, so it's not a front or rear-limited circuit, you have to take care of both axles."
"The only thing that makes the set-up a little bit difficult is that you have this very high kerb at the last chicane, where you sometimes see cars with four wheels off the ground. That's what stands out, otherwise it's very balanced with no extremes."
However, despite its lack of extremes, Magny Cours is not an easy circuit. "You have some ingredients that you would think would promote overtaking, like a very long straight followed by a slow hairpin," Vasselon explained. "But, before the straight you have the very long, fast Estoril corner where cars cannot follow each other closely without losing front downforce."
"At Indianapolis for instance, cars can follow each other closely in the banked Turn 13 and onto the straight because they are not at the tyre limit on the banking and don't lose the downforce by following closely. But, in the Estoril corner you are obviously at the car limit and tyre limit and so the cars cannot follow closely."
"The car in front therefore opens up a gap that is very hard to close enough on the straight to allow an overtaking move under braking for the hairpin. So, we do tend to have some processional races."
One thing that is notable at Magny Cours is the track surface: it's particularly smooth and dark. "As soon as you have the sunshine in Magny Cours you have 40 degrees track temperature and if you have a warm day you go to 55 degrees," said Vasselon. "So we often see extreme temperatures there, not because the ambient is hot but simply because of the characteristics and colour of the surface."
The location of Magny Cours, in the French countryside near Nevers, is somewhat remote and a far cry from the busier and more glamorous venues on the calendar. F1 has to create its own entertainment. "The paddock stays busy quite late because there is not much else to do," Vasselon commented.