French GP: McLaren preview

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has returned to Europe following the North American fly-aways for the 2007 French Grand Prix on Sunday 1st July. The team arrives in France with a 35 point lead in the Formula 1 Constructors' World Championship, with...

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes has returned to Europe following the North American fly-aways for the 2007 French Grand Prix on Sunday 1st July. The team arrives in France with a 35 point lead in the Formula 1 Constructors' World Championship, with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso lying in first and second positions in the Drivers' standings with 58 and 48 points respectively.

FAST FACTS

What are the key characteristics of the Magny Cours track?

One of the main features of the circuit is the smooth track surface. There are very few bumps or dips that can affect handling and this allows the teams to run the cars with very low ride heights. For the majority of the track, the kerbs are also fairly low, however at the final chicane, they are higher and can lead to damage to the cars if the exact racing line is not used.

The asphalt is also very dark, and this sees it retain heat, which can have an affect on the wear rate of the tyres. The traction required for the exits of the numerous slow corners can also have an affect on tyre wear. The Magny Cours circuit has reasonable grip levels.

Are there many overtaking opportunities at this circuit?

There are a number of places where you can pass at Magny Cours, for example the run down to the Adelaide hairpin allows drivers to slipstream and pass under braking. Another opportunity is into the penultimate corner, the right hander before the final chicane. Again it requires slipstreaming and late braking to take position.

When did the first French Formula 1 Grand Prix take place?

The 2006 race marked the 100th anniversary of the first race that was designated a Grand Prix. Staged near Le Mans on 26th June 1906, 32 cars left the start line for a race that lasted two days and covered 1,238km. Two years later, Christian Lautenschlager clinched the first Mercedes victory in the French Grand Prix; the four-cylinder engine of his car had a displacement of 12.8 litres and an output of 135 bhp.

Since the start of the Formula 1 World Championship in 1950, the French Grand Prix has been a permanent fixture on the calendar, with the exception of 1955. Initially held at Reims, the event alternated between Rouen, Clermont Ferrand, Le Castellet, Dijon-Prenois and Le Mans before moving to its current home at Magny Cours in 1991, located some 160 miles / 257 kms south of Paris.

Fernando Alonso:

"I have always liked racing at this track, when you hear people talk about circuits that are technical, Magny Cours is definitely one of them. It is important to have good speed in the slow corners as they tend to lead onto long straights. You have to have good mechanical set-up for the corners and the same with traction for the exits. My favourite sections of the track are the two high speed chicanes at the back of the circuit. We go through them at speeds of up to 200km/h, which is very fast for a chicane; very special to drive through and unique in Formula 1."

"Since the United States Grand Prix, I joined the test team at Silverstone for a day. We completed some key programmes as everyone in the team pushes hard to develop performance. I also attended an event for our Partner Mutua Madrilena in Madrid. After the back to back races it seems like a long time since we last raced, I want to get back on track and am really motivated to drive the MP4-22. It is a quick car and I hope we can get the best out of it at Magny Cours."

"Although they have very different characteristics in general, there are some similarities between Magny Cours and Monaco, as they have a lot of tight, twisty corners and both have a medium --- high downforce set-up. The car performed well at Monaco and I am looking forward to getting it out on track in France on Friday"

Lewis Hamilton:

"The French round of the GP2 championship last year was not my best weekend, I had a coming together in the first race and therefore started race two in 19th. I did make my way up through the field to 5th to score some points, so it is possible to overtake here. Although you always want to be on pole, you can pass at Magny Cours and there is a short pit lane that means there are more strategy options, as it is not as much of a penalty when you stop for tyres and fuel. The pit lane is slightly longer than it used to be but it is still very quick."

"After the results in Canada and the United States it was great to come home and see my family and friends. I will also have the opportunity to go to the Goodwood Festival of Speed this weekend; I expect the atmosphere will be incredible and it should be great to drive the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes car up the hill in front of the British fans."

"For the past week I have been spending time at the McLaren Technology Centre working with the engineering team and catching up on some training and I participated in an event for Vodafone in London on Thursday. Now I just want to get back out on track. My aims remain the same, to take it race by race and keep focused on scoring good points for myself and the team."

Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula 1, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes :

"Magny Cours is, despite the faster sections, characterised by low speed hairpins and medium-fast corners and chicanes. As a result you see the team opt for a medium-high downforce configuration. On Thursday of this week, we completed one of our most intensive tests of the year so far, our test team worked tirelessly to prove a myriad of components alongside a massive amount of effort being put in across the organisation."

"We have a fight on our hands to maintain, and ideally extend, the lead we have in the Constructors' World Championship and the Drivers' table with both Fernando and Lewis. Ferrari and BMW are not standing still; our job within the team is to keep providing Fernando and Lewis with a car capable of winning. There is no complacency and the motivation is considerable."

Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:

"Our brand and motor racing have both a long tradition in France. 113 years ago, the first-ever automobile race in the world was staged here, and it was won by a car with Daimler engine. 101 years ago, the first race with the name Grand Prix was held in France. Mercedes-Benz won this event 99 years ago with Christian Lautenschlager. In the brand's first Formula 1 race, Mercedes-Benz took a 1-2 victory with Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling on 4th July 1954.Compared to that, our balance in Magny-Cours so far is not as good --- only one win with David Coulthard in 2000."

In 2007, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes have so far achieved results, which are unique in the history of Formula 1. The team have always finished in the points with both cars and have taken 12 out of 14 possible podium positions. On average, we scored more than 15 points per race with 18 points as the maximum in best case. A good interim balance; however, not more than that. We will all continue to work hard, to assure our reliability and to further improve our speed; the upcoming ten races are even more important than the first seven."

-credit: mclaren

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers David Coulthard , Fernando Alonso , Norbert Haug , Lewis Hamilton , Juan Manuel Fangio , Martin Whitmarsh
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren