It's another quick turnaround for Formula One this week, the British Grand Prix already looming on the horizon after France. Magny Cours turned out to be quite a good weekend, albeit with the same winner that we've come to expect. Ferrari's pit...
It's another quick turnaround for Formula One this week, the British Grand Prix already looming on the horizon after France. Magny Cours turned out to be quite a good weekend, albeit with the same winner that we've come to expect. Ferrari's pit stop gamble worked like a dream for Michael Schumacher, which was probably just as well seeing as Renault was very strong on its home ground.
On the track Renault was able to challenge Ferrari but the Scuderia still had the edge in strategy -- but it's taking Ferrari until the second stops these days to get Schumacher ahead. Fernando Alonso's pole position was well deserved and while the win was perhaps a little optimistic, it was about time the Spaniard was back on the podium. Alonso did nothing wrong in the race, Ferrari just figured it out better.
Alonso second and Jarno Trulli fourth was Renault's best result of the year but it could have been better. Trulli gifted Rubens Barrichello third at the last corner -- unsurprisingly Jarno said he was "gutted" about it. Barrichello, on the other hand, was happy to land a podium spot after starting tenth. BAR has been the team trying to challenge Ferrari mostly this season but Renault looks ready to join in.
BAR was a bit lacking in France. Jenson Button was not happy to finish fifth and Takuma Sato was even less happy with another engine giving up on him. "It is extremely frustrating to have another engine failure on Taku's car shortly after his first stop and this level of unreliability is unacceptable," said technical director Geoff Willis. It's costing BAR in the standings -- Renault has widened the gap to 17 points between itself and BAR.
The debut of the McLaren MP4-19B was something of a non-event as far as results were concerned. David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen finished sixth and seventh respectively which doesn't seem much of an improvement on the previous car. However, Coulthard's third on the grid was a good qualifying result, although Raikkonen messed up his own lap.
The new car was pretty quick and overall the team was fairly happy with the initial performance. "It might not be apparent from our finishing positions but the MP4-19B is definitely a significant step in the right direction," said boss Ron Dennis. "There will be continuous development on the 19B for the rest of the season, and we should be able to improve further for McLaren's home race next weekend."
Williams was lacklustre in France. Juan Pablo Montoya scraped a single point in eighth and he and Marc Gen? had an unsettled time. Montoya suffered neck pain after a heavy shunt on the Friday and Gen? had a clutch problem at the start of the race, which lost him places. Both said the car simply wasn't quick enough -- not very good news for Williams. Gen? will be deputising for Ralf Schumacher again this weekend.
France was surprising in that 18 cars finished the race. Minardi's Zsolt Baumgartner was the other retiree, spinning into a gravel trap. With a much lower rate of attrition, the smaller teams don't have much of a chance for picking up points. But at the front there's still hope that someone will actually beat Ferrari before too much longer.
Seven of the ten teams can describe the British Grand Prix as their home race. Silverstone has suffered some heavy criticism in recent years but it is managing to hang in there to keep Britain on the F1 calendar. Italy and Britain are the only two countries to have hosted a race every year since 1950.
A fair amount of testing goes on at the circuit so it's one that most drivers are familiar with. Fast and medium speed corners combined with three straights requires a trade off between speed and traction and downforce will medium. Silverstone is one of the faster tracks on the calendar and the surface is quite abrasive, so tyres from the mid to hard end of the compound range are the choice.
The British weather has often thrown a spanner in the works at Silverstone. Formerly an airfield, the circuit can be subject to changeable winds. Here in the UK in the last few days we've had sun, we've had rain and even the odd thunderstorm, which is not particularly unusual for July! Michelin's Pierre Dupasquier suspects it could be a wet weekend.
"Silverstone promises to be an interesting weekend -- not least because the long-range forecast suggests we will certainly need to put our wet-weather tyres to the test," he said. "I feel confident about our chances whatever the conditions. We have done plenty of development work with our dry-weather compounds at Silverstone and the results were most encouraging."
Last year's British GP was one of the best races of the season. A couple of safety car periods -- one after a protester managed to get on the track -- threw everyone's strategy out of line and an action packed race ensued. Barrichello took the win, with Montoya in second and Raikkonen third.
"We haven't managed to collect many points in the last few races so we really must get it right at Silverstone, especially as it's the home race for WilliamsF1," said Montoya in regard to this weekend.
Michael, as always, is ready to get back on track. "I think that we can take the enthusiasm of Magny-Cours with us into Silverstone," remarked the German. "A team performance like last Sunday's will strengthen us even more."
Renault chairman Patrick Faure is pleased to have strengthened the team's second position in the constructors' standings and hopes for more improvements to come. "The R24 underwent some fairly significant changes for Magny Cours," he explained. "Engine steps are planned for Germany, in three weeks, and Monza. In terms of the chassis, Enstone is pushing forward, and there will be new parts at Silverstone."
Button is optimisitc of a better result this weekend. "I'm approaching my home race in a positive frame of mind," he commented. "We have a well-balanced chassis, a strong engine and good Michelin tyres -- and we should have some new parts available, so the car will be even better than it was when we last tested here."
It seems the competition -- or at least some of it -- is gaining ground on Ferrari with every race. It's perhaps too soon to expect a different driver on the top step of the podium this weekend, but maybe it wouldn't be a big surprise. Oh, and Toyota finally confirmed Ralf Schumacher for 2005 in a three year deal -- that's no big surprise either!