French GP Benetton preview

Pat Symonds, Technical Director: "In preparation for the French Grand Prix Benetton Formula 1, in common with the other teams, spent three days last week testing at Magny Cours. As is normal with tests prior to a Grand Prix, the concentration was...

Pat Symonds, Technical Director:
"In preparation for the French Grand Prix Benetton Formula 1, in common with the other teams, spent three days last week testing at Magny Cours. As is normal with tests prior to a Grand Prix, the concentration was on developing set-ups specific to the forthcoming race. In addition, an initial evaluation of the tyre compounds was undertaken although this will be reconfirmed during the course of the Grand Prix weekend as it is extremely sensitive to conditions. In general, the testing was successful and, although not many new developments were tried, a reasonable balance was found for the cars."

The Race:
"The only thing in common between the last race in Montreal and the French Grand Prix is the language. From the low downforce configuration used in Canada, we return to a typical medium to high downforce European circuit. Magny Cours is characterised by its very smooth low grip surface. The smoothness of the track enables very low ride heights to be run in the search for grip. Magny Cours is also a circuit where changing weather conditions can affect the set-up of the car, the lap times and even the tyre choice dramatically and, in spite of the extensive testing last week, the final decisions will have to made during the course of practice.

The weather in Magny Cours is generally either extreme or variable and this can add to the difficulties of the circuit. There is only one overtaking opportunity on the track and that is under braking for the Adelaide hairpin although the very fast right-hand corner that leads on to the preceeding straight makes even this a high risk opportunity. For this reason Qualifying is obviously extremely important. The circuit itself is typical of a modern European circuit which although very safe lacks character. It is expected that it will not lead to an enthralling race, although the tyre choice and strategies may inject some excitement."

A lap of Magny-Cours with Giancarlo Fisichella:

"Magny Cours is unusual in that it is probably the only circuit where you cross the start/finish line in first gear accelerating up towards the first left hand corner which is taken at full throttle in fifth gear at around 275 km/h. Leaving this corner, I remain in 5th gear reaching over 280 km/h before a very light touch on the brakes into turn 2. This is a very long right hand corner taken in fourth gear at around 190 km/h.

It is very important to balance the car here as it will tend to understeer as the corner progresses. It is also a very important corner as it leads on to the long straight down to the hairpin. On this straight, I accelerate up to over 300 km/h before braking hard for the first gear hairpin which is taken at just under 60 km/h. From this hairpin, traction is important as you accelerate up to 5th gear at around 285 km/h before entering the first of the fast chicanes taken in 4th gear at over 200 km/h.

A short acceleration up to 250 km/h leads into the braking area for the left-hand hairpin which is taken in 2nd gear at just under 80 km/h. Again, traction is important out of this corner as it leads into the next fast chicane taken in 4th gear at around 205 km/h. Very shortly after leaving this chicane, I'll brake very hard down into second gear for the long right-hand corner taken at around 95 km/h. This is the corner where the cars tend to oversteer a lot on exit and it is necessary to control the wheelspin very carefully.

A short 4th gear straight where the cars will reach 260 km/h leads into the final relatively difficult chicane taken in second gear at 125 km/h for the first part and then down to 110 km/h for the second. Finally, I enter the last corner, which is a very tight 1st gear corner taken at around 65 km/h, which leads straight on to the start/finish line."

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Giancarlo Fisichella
Teams Benetton