French GP: BAR preview

The midpoint of the season sees the Formula One calendar returning to Europe for round 10 of the 2004 World Championship. The teams' will be back on track at Magny-Cours for the French Grand Prix following the exciting and eventful races in both...

The midpoint of the season sees the Formula One calendar returning to Europe for round 10 of the 2004 World Championship. The teams' will be back on track at Magny-Cours for the French Grand Prix following the exciting and eventful races in both Canada and the US, where Lucky Strike B*A*R Honda celebrated podium finishes for both Jenson Button and Takuma Sato respectively.

The fortunes of Takuma were finally reversed when he made his podium debut in the United States Grand Prix. By contrast, Jenson experienced his first mechanical retirement of the season, however he retains third position in the Drivers' Championship on 44 points whilst Takuma moves into seventh place with 14 points and edges the team that little bit closer to Renault in the Constructors' Championship.

The coming three weeks is an intense period for the B.A.R team. All three drivers are undertaking the testing duties in the B.A.R Honda 006 in Jerez this week and will be immediately attending one of the most popular events in the UK motorsport calendar, the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Jenson and Takuma will be will running the 2003 B.A.R Honda 005 up the legendary hill during the weekend, whilst Anthony Davidson will be behind the wheel of a McLaren Honda MP4/4. The team will then be travelling to Magny Cours where they may debut new aerodynamic upgrade components for the back to back races, the French and British Grands Prix.

The 4.4 km Circuit de Nevers in Magny Cours 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.

Jenson Button:

"I am really looking forward to racing in France. The Michelins should work extremely well in Magny Cours and I am confident that our strong package should definitely enable us to fight for a podium finish. Our car felt fantastic in Indy last week so it was disappointing that I was forced to retire from the race. We need to focus on getting both cars to the end of the race and well in the points if we are to challenge for second place in the championship."

Takuma Sato:

"After having such a good race at Indy and achieving my first podium, I am really looking forward to the next Grand Prix. Magny Cours is a unique circuit, where the track surface is incredibly smooth and the temperatures can range from being extremely hot to quite cool, so it is always produces an exciting race. This week we have been testing in Jerez where it has been very hot indeed, but we are happy with the tyre programme that we have chosen for France. Magny Cours is Michelin's home grand prix, so I am looking forward to us performing strongly next weekend."

David Richards, Team Principal:

"I am sure everyone in the team is very happy to be heading back to our European base, and to have a small breathing space before the next race after such a busy time in North America. Having said that, we are looking at back to back races which will be very hectic, turning things around between the French and British Grands Prix, and in these situations, everyone in the factory has an even bigger role to play."

"At this mid point of the season, our entire team must feel very proud of what we have achieved to date, however, we are under no illusion that the second half of the year is going to be just as demanding in order to maintain the momentum and performance we are currently showing."

Craig Wilson, Chief Race Engineer:

"At the halfway stage of the season, we have returned from the back-to-back North America races with two 3rd places to help reduce the gap to 2nd place in the Constructors' Championship and consolidate our current standing. It was great to finally see Takuma get a just reward for the hard effort and determination he has shown after the set-backs he has suffered so far this year."

"However, we head to Magny-Cours with still the challenge of finishing both cars high up in the points, after two further separate car stopping failures in the last two races. Reliability and performance development are key if we are to maintain our challenge for the 2nd half of the year and we have been using the testing this week in Jerez to work on future developments and bug-fixing for the upcoming races."

"We have also been testing with Michelin to finalise both dry tyre compound choices for their home French GP. The Magny-Cours circuit presents its own challenges as it is quite a smooth track surface but the grip level can vary a lot depending on the ambient conditions. "

"The mixture of very low speed corners requiring good traction, to the long medium speed turn 2 and the high speed chicanes makes it demanding on the tyres and the right choice will be critical to overall performance. The track layout also marks a return to the higher end of the downforce settings after the low to medium set-ups used in Montreal and Indianapolis."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Engineering Director, Honda Racing Development:

"In the second half of the season we are aiming to close the performance gap to Ferrari so we can fight for the middle step of the podium. We will continue to push hard with engine development and are targeting a good result at Magny Cours for our partner Michelin's home race."

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Takuma Sato , Jenson Button , Anthony Davidson , David Richards , Shuhei Nakamoto
Teams Ferrari , McLaren