French GP preview

MAGNY-COURS, France, Thursday, June 29, 2000 - This year's Formula One season will reach its midpoint on Lap 36 of Sunday's French Grand Prix. The 72-lap race is the eighth of 17 on this year's calendar. Michael Schumacher, a ...

MAGNY-COURS, France, Thursday, June 29, 2000 - This year's Formula One season will reach its midpoint on Lap 36 of Sunday's French Grand Prix. The 72-lap race is the eighth of 17 on this year's calendar. Michael Schumacher, a four-time winner of the French Grand Prix, heads into this year's race with a 22-point lead in the World Championship over David Coulthard and a 24-point advantage over Mika Hakkinen. "Our strong advantage has been that we have been both reliable and fast," Schumacher said of his Ferrari team. "We obviously hope to keep that, and there is no reason why that should not continue. I believe there will be races in which we will be a bit slower than McLaren, and others in which we will be stronger. But it has been like this (in the recent past), and it will continue." This year, Schumacher starts the second half of the season on top of the points chart, and that's the opposite of the situation he's faced in recent years. "In all the other years," he said, "we haven't been strong enough at the beginning of the season, and we caught up by midseason. This year, we have been up there since the beginning of the season. "Obviously we don't have that much potential to improve from the base we have, and nor, I believe, does McLaren. If two teams are together and have strong (engineers) behind them for development, they should develop (to the same extent). One may fall slightly behind but will usually catch up again. We are in the position in which we always wished to be." As for the West McLaren-Mercedes team, the first half of the season did not go as smoothly as Hakkinen hoped it would. "I'm definitely a bit less happy than in the past," Hakkinen said. "But I still feel confident for the rest of the season. There are still plenty of races to go. We have some strongly committed people on the team; great people who can make the car go even faster in the rest of the season. "There were some situations earlier in the year when we were struggling with reliability. That was one thing to make me feel uncomfortable. But that is in the past, and I am happy about the developments we can expect for the future. I have been promised that things will get a lot better. "I believe in the people who are designing the cars and running the team. They are doing their best at the moment. We are very competitive and fast, which give me good reasons to believe we can continue." While the focus of the World Championship is on the McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari battle, don't discount the rest of the teams. In last year's French Grand Prix, for example, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who recently toured the new F1 track at Indianapolis, scored a strategic win in the rain in his Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda. The midpoint of the F1 season takes place in the middle of France at the Magny-Cours circuit near the town of Nevers and next to the village of Magny-Cours. The circuit has been the home of the French Grand Prix since it was rebuilt for the 1991 event. France has a rich tradition in motorsports, and this year marks the 100th anniversary of the first major auto race. While contests between automobiles took place as early as 1894, the first major international race was the Gordon Bennett Trophy from Paris to Lyon in 1900. Fernand Charrom won driving a Panhard. The term Grand Prix, French for "Grand Prize" was first used in a local race in Pau, France, in 1901, but the first major race to be called the Grand Prix took place at France's Le Mans circuit in 1906. The first time the term was used in the United States was a "Grand Prize" race in Savannah, Ga., in 1908.


Where to watch: Television viewers in the U.S. can watch the French Grand Prix live on Speedvision at 7:30 a.m. (EDT) July 2. Fox Sports Net will air the race tape delayed at 10 a.m. in all time zones July 2. Check local listings. Speedvision will show qualifying live at 7 a.m. (EDT) on July 1.

Jordan gets factory Hondas: Honda will supply identical specification works engines to both British American Racing and Jordan next year. In 1998 and 1999, Jordan used engines supplied by Honda's sister company Mugen-Honda. Jordan's new, long-term contract with Honda starts next year.

"Along with our joint development of chassis technology with BAR, supplying works engines to Jordan represents a new challenge in Honda's third period of participation in F1," said Takeo Fukui, senior managing and representative director of Honda Motor Co., Ltd., in charge of Honda's motorsports activities. "Through these efforts, we will continue to do our utmost to meet the expectations of motorsports fans."

New safety rules: The FIA has introduced several safety and other rule changes for the 2001 season. The changes include:
*Larger cockpit dimensions.
*The driver's removable seat fixings will be standardized to allow the seats of all cars to be removed using the same tool.
*Two cables, rather than one, must be used to tether wheels to the car.
*A new roll structure test.
*To reduce downforce, the front wing will be raised by 50 mm.

Honda changes personnel: Honda, which uses Formula One to train its engineers, rotates its personnel halfway through the season. With the exception of the senior management and race engineers, all the Honda personnel involved in the F1 project for the first six months of 2000 have returned to Japan, and a new group has replaced them.

Toyota postpones F1 entry until 2002: Toyota has stated that it will not enter F1 until 2002. It had intended to race in 2001 but changed its plans after the FIA announced that only V10 engines would be allowed until 2008. Toyota, which was developing a V12, said it needs the extra year to develop a V10.

More power: Peugeot plans to fit the latest version of its V10, the A20 evolution 4, in the Gauloises Prost cars for qualifying Saturday. In addition to a higher top speed, the engine develops nearly 800 horsepower.

Montoya to stay in the U.S.: It's doubtful that 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya will race in F1 next year. While the Williams-BMW team has an option of the Colombian driver, he is in the second of a three-year contract with Chip Ganassi's Champ Car team. "Montoya is under contract for a further year to Chip Ganassi," said team owner Frank Williams, "so until Chip decides to release him early, which I'm sure he won't do, (the situation is unchanged.)"


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Williams , British American Racing , Jordan