French GP: McLaren preview

The 2006 Formula 1 Championship returns to Europe this week following the two North American fly-away races. France is the location for the 11th Grand Prix of the season. Pedro de la Rosa will join Kimi Raikkonen in the race driver line-up...

The 2006 Formula 1 Championship returns to Europe this week following the two North American fly-away races. France is the location for the 11th Grand Prix of the season.

Pedro de la Rosa will join Kimi Raikkonen in the race driver line-up for the French Grand Prix, as Team McLaren Mercedes and Juan Pablo Montoya have mutually agreed for him to step down in the forthcoming races of this year's Formula 1 World Championship. Pedro will make his second race appearance for the team following a thrilling points scoring debut in the 2005 Bahrain Grand Prix.

100 years ago, France was the location for the first automobile race to be called a Grand Prix. On 26th June 1906 32 cars set-off at 90 second intervals on the circuit, which was formed of public roads. The race lasted for two days over a distance of 1,238 km. The race, which was staged near Le Mans, was won two years later by Christian Lautenschlager, clinching the first Mercedes victory in the event. The four-cylinder engine of his car had a displacement of 12.8 litres and an output of 135 bhp.

The French Grand Prix has also been a permanent fixture on the calendar since the start of the Formula 1 World Championship in 1950, with the exception of 1955. The race was initially run at Reims where Mercedes-Benz took a one-two victory with Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling on their return to Grand Prix racing in 1954. The French Grand Prix then alternated between Rouen, Reims, Clermont Ferrand, Paul Ricard, Dijon-Prenois and Le Mans before moving in 1991 to its current home at Magny Cours.

Kimi Raikkonen:

"The team has been testing really hard last week, and we will be bringing new parts to the car for the French Grand Prix. The car felt good at Indy and with our strategy we would have secured a couple of solid points finishes. Magny Cours can be quite a challenging track to set-up for, because its characteristics change a lot, probably more so than at most other circuits. However I quite like driving here, it seems to suit my style and I hope we can have another good race this year."

"It is a slow track, with low speed corners, hairpins and no major straights, it is a total contrast to the previous three circuits we have raced at. Magny Cours has a smooth surface, with no bumps and less kerbs, as a result we can run with more front wing and a lower ride height, as the car is less upset by kerbs and bumps. You tend to generate high tyre temperatures here, so blistering can be a problem, this is because the track gets very hot during the day due to the blackness of the asphalt. The track also has reasonable grip levels.

Pedro de la Rosa:

"I'm of course extremely thrilled to have this opportunity to race the MP4-21 -- a car in which I'm really comfortable. People don't always link it to Magny Cours, but you can overtake here, you just need to make sure your set-up allows you to do so. The only real place to do it is by getting good speed along Golf, the stretch between Estoril and Adelaide."

"You need to take Estoril really well behind the car ahead, and this needs to be considered when you are working on set-up. If you get the right set-up you can then push the limits through the sweeping Estoril and have the speed you need in order to pass. Most things about Magny Cours are fairly medium in nature from the downforce, brake severity to tyre wear. Another characteristic of the track is the number of corners, and this means it can be quite physical if it is hot."

Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula One, Team McLaren Mercedes:

"As always winning is our aim and, with all the hard work the team have done, we are pushing very hard towards achieving that result. The MP4-21 has made a step forward, and we hope that at France, which is of course Michelin's home race, we are able to demonstrate this. Everyone within the team welcomes Pedro to the race car this weekend, who has completed more than 9,500 test kilometres in the MP4-21 to date."

"We completed a comprehensive test programme last week at Jerez and now have one more session remaining before the August break. The work completed will allow us to bring online developments to the cooling package. The test team have an intensive work load and are pushing the development programme forward as we seek to find the performance enhancement we need from the MP4-21."

Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:

"It was bitter to lose both cars already at the second corner after the start of the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis. The three races before the team had shown an upward trend. We had a chance of winning in two races and finally claimed three podium positions. A podium would have been possible also in the USA, not least because of our tyre choice and our one-stop strategy."

"At Magny Cours our aim is to continue that trend and we all welcome Pedro at his first race since Bahrain last year. Our last test at Jerez was positive and we now have to improve in order to win races. A focused and concentrated process will help to achieve our targets."


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Mercedes , McLaren