Magny-Cours, 28th June - With just one week between the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring and the French Grand Prix at the Magny Cours circuit in central France, the Scuderia Ferrari-Marlboro mechanics have had little rest in order to...
Magny-Cours, 28th June - With just one week between the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring and the French Grand Prix at the Magny Cours circuit in central France, the Scuderia Ferrari-Marlboro mechanics have had little rest in order to prepare, transport the cars and set up the garages in just four days. Fortunately for the teams, it is the only back-to-back weekend in the Formula One season, a week that tests their organizational and logistical skills to the maximum.
The French race marks the tenth round of the 2001 FIA World Championship calendar, Ferrari's Michael Schumacher having now opened up an impressive 24 point lead over his closest rival David Coulthard following Michael's fifth victory of the season at last weekend's race.
Coulthard took third place in the race behind Michael's brother Ralf in the BMW-Williams after what was another thrilling battle between the two brothers that fell in favour of big brother this time around. Like the Canadian GP, Coulthard's McLaren-Mercedes was never a strong contender for the win as the Ferrari and BMW-Williams teams emerged as the front-runners of the weekend.
"It certainly looks at the moment as though the French Grand Prix will be a fight of red, white and blue," said Michael after his latest win, referring to the close racing between the Ferrari and BMW-Williams teams and not the French national colours. "It's really too hard to predict who will have the upper hand, especially with the tyre situation. Sometimes the Michelin tyres are better and sometimes the Bridgestones depending on the weather, track conditions and even what stage of the race. Michelin performed well in testing a month ago, so I think it will be very close again and we will both have to run right on the edge to try and take the advantage," he added.
As a couple of incidents during the last race showed, they might be brothers, but neither are prepared give any quarter when it comes to taking the win. " Ralf is driving for another team and on the race track I treat him just like any other driver I have to compete against," explained Michael when questioned about his squeeze tactics at the start of the last race. "I made one move to the inside, which is allowed in the rules, to get a better line and to make sure I was first into the first corner as I did not know what strategy he was on and it was important to keep the lead," he explained.
The battles between the two brothers are sure to become a feature of the second half of the season as BMW-Williams and Michelin get into their stride pushing McLaren-Mercedes into the rear seat.
Hot weather and frequent summer storms are usually a feature of the Magny Cours venue where we have seen so many times in the past the best laid plans spoiled by a rain shower or wrong decision from the pit lane. Michael Schumacher has had good fortune on the Magny Cours track with four of his total 49 wins scored in the French Grand Prix, two with Benetton and two in 1997 and 1998 with Ferrari. "I like the circuit which is very smooth and around which you can find a good rhythm," says the World Champion who will be hoping for win number five on Sunday and his half century of career victories.