French GP: Sauber preview

With one more point in their pockets team Sauber Petronas is heading towards the tenth race of the 2003 season in Magny-Cours. Thanks to the modified aerodynamics and front suspension the improved performance of the car was clearly visible at the...

With one more point in their pockets team Sauber Petronas is heading towards the tenth race of the 2003 season in Magny-Cours. Thanks to the modified aerodynamics and front suspension the improved performance of the car was clearly visible at the race at the Nurburgring.

Willy Rampf, (Technical Director):

"Tyre degradation is the major issue at Magny-Cours. There are two reasons for this. First the track is very smooth, so the car tends to move around; second, the grip level is changing with surface temperature so much during the day, much more so than at any other circuit. Between practice in the morning and qualifying in the afternoon, you can lose two seconds just because the conditions change. This puts you on your mettle to keep making the right changes to the car's set-up, to keep pace with the effects of the temperature change. It is a moving target."

"At every race we have the 15-minute warm-up session before final qualifying. This is where you concentrate on honing the balance of the car, and you always have a range of alternative settings that can quickly be adapted. At Magny-Cours this session will be even more crucial than usual."

"The tyre degradation factor also influences your strategy more than ever at here. With a harder compound you would go for two stops, for sure, but you might consider using a softer compound and making three stops. When making your calculations you have to factor in the very slow pit lane entry, but against that the exit is quite fast."

"In other respects, the track is quite straightforward and not particularly demanding. Like Barcelona it requires a high downforce set-up, but not the maximum, and overtaking is possible which means you have greater scope to experiment with set-up."

"Good traction is important. Without it you can lose time exiting the Adelaide hairpin, and again accelerating out of the last corner which is the slowest part of the track. This will still be the case despite changes to the final section of the lap."

Nick Heidfeld (59 GPs, 2 points 2003):

"Magny-Cours is a very modern, smooth circuit, and I like it. It has a nice series of corners and a quick chicane, and the second corner is quite difficult and therefore challenging. It is a long corner that gives the car more time to react, and if you have to you can get off the throttle to adjust your line without losing too much momentum. They have made some changes this year to the final section, which will be interesting and may give better chances for overtaking. Having said that, I quite liked the old layout there, with the chicane with the high kerbs."

"The smoothness of the track is unusual and helps some aspects more than others. It's more comfortable, although bumps are something you take for granted as a racing driver so you don't tend to notice them after a while, but the damping is still important for controlling the movement of the car, especially over the kerbs."

"In some ways the track is a bit like the Nurburgring, so with our new front suspension and rear wing, which improved the car during the recent Silverstone test, I am hoping that we will have a car well suited to the track."

Heinz-Harald Frentzen (150 GPs, 7 points 2003):

"Opinions vary about Magny-Cours. For me, it's okay. I'm going to be interested to see how they have changed the track for this year's race. The old chicane there made the last section very difficult because you had a blind entrance, and I always thought I had an extra tenth of a second or so there against my team-mates."

"I enjoy the second corner. It's got a quick entry and is quite challenging, and when you combine that with the Adelaide hairpin it's quite interesting and makes for possible overtaking moves. I like the fact that you can get closer to a rival through there that would be the case with a similar corner at, say, Barcelona."

"That's because at Magny-Cours you can choose your line. You can stay on the inside while they are a little further to the left, and still get quite a good tow without losing the front-end downforce on your car as you do elsewhere. That makes it a little bit easier to line up a good overtaking attempt at the hairpin. It would be nice to have more corners like that."

"The other special thing about the track, apart from its smoothness, is how conditions can change so much throughout the day. That can be crucial when you are setting up the car."

"Naturally I have fond memories of the track after my win there in 1999. It was one of the more surprising ones for me when I ran to the end after one stop; I hadn't noticed that the team filled the fuel tank to the brim until I felt how difficult the car was to drive when it began to rain."


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Nick Heidfeld
Teams Sauber