The 2001 Grand Prix schedule has been tough with only one weekend between each of the nine races to date. However, that at the moment seems a luxury as the BMW WilliamsF1 Team has just a four-day gap between the end of the European Grand Prix and...
The 2001 Grand Prix schedule has been tough with only one weekend between each of the nine races to date. However, that at the moment seems a luxury as the BMW WilliamsF1 Team has just a four-day gap between the end of the European Grand Prix and the first day of practice for the French Grand Prix. As the team was still celebrating both Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher finishing in the points on Sunday, the cars were being stripped down and the engines and gearboxes changed in the Nurburgring garages. The mechanics were finishing these tasks on Monday morning before loading the cars into the trucks for the journey to Magny Cours. This is a logistics headache as there is no time for the cars to be sent back to Grove for the usual rebuild and any parts needed will have to be sent directly to the French track where the mechanics will start working on the cars on Wednesday. This schedule has reduced the usual time they have for this work from an average of six to about two days. Despite this, the team is looking forward to Magny Cours where WilliamsF1 has won four of the ten races held there since 1991.
"Magny Cours is one of my favourite race tracks. It has many fast corners and the surface is very even. At at the end of the straight it is possible to overtake, but I have just one point to crticise and that is some parts of the track could have more run off areas. We had some very promising testing in Magny Cours, so I think we should be fairly competitive there."
Juan Pablo Montoya
"I never raced at the track. I tested there quite a few times when I was a test driver, but I have only done a day there this year. It should be all right as the car was quite quick at the last test with Ralf driving so I feel we could be quite competitive. Also after having such a good car at the Nurburgring I have to be optimistic."
Sam Michael (Chief Operations Engineer)
"After a reasonable test at Magny Cours at the end of May, we feel Michelin has produced a good tyre for this event. The track surface grip varies quite a lot with temperature and cloud cover, and this means the timing of your runs during the session is important. The circuit is dominated by fast chicanes and slow to medium speed corners. The surface is the smoothest on the F1 calendar and this allows for a different spring and damper setup if required. Overtaking is always possible into the hairpin at the end of the long back straight, but quite apart from that a good race strategy is key here."
Dr Mario Theissen (BMW Motorsport Director)
"We are going to use the same engine specification in Magny-Cours as we did at the Nürburgring. The circuit should suit both our car and the Michelin tyres. We tested there four weeks ago and were very satisfied with the results. Because of this we think we have a good chance to do well at the French Grand Prix. It was good for the team not only to get both cars to the finish in the Nurburgring, but also for both drivers to score points. This has shown we are both competitive and reliable and the nine points have put us in a stronger position in the Championship."
This will be the 51st French Grand Prix and it has had seven homes since the first race in 1950 - the others being Reims, Rouen, Clermont-Fèrrand, Le Mans, Le Castellet and Dijon-Prenois. The only country to have held races at more venues is the USA with a total of nine.
The first race at the Magny Cours Circuit, near Nevers in central France, was in 1991and although there have been some great races at the track, the move there from the picturesque Le Castellet track in the south of France was not a popular one.
The circuit is 2.642 miles (4.251 km) long and the 72 lap race will be held over 190.109 miles (305.886 km). The race will start at 14.00 local time (12.00 GMT) on Sunday, 1st July.
The lap record was set in 1992 by Nigel Mansell in a WilliamsF1-Renault FW14B with a time of 1m 17.070s (123.355mph/198.521km/h) and the fastest lap last year was set by the winner, David Coulthard, in his McLaren-Mercedes in a time of 1m 19.479s (119.644mph/192.548 km/h)