The F1 circus arrives in France this week, at the quiet countryside location of Mangy Cours, near Nevers. It's a long way from the likes of Monaco's glamour or the bustle North America and Red Bull is doing its usual amazing job of loving-up the...
The F1 circus arrives in France this week, at the quiet countryside location of Mangy Cours, near Nevers. It's a long way from the likes of Monaco's glamour or the bustle North America and Red Bull is doing its usual amazing job of loving-up the French. Expect to see the paddock motorhome spattered with ripe, smelly brie.
Magny Cours is not hugely startling, sad to say, it's just kind of average. There's no real demands on the engines or set up, although the smooth track surface can be temperamental with the temperatures. It's a fairly technical track with an interesting combination of tricky corners which provide some novelty.
"Magny Cours serves up an interesting mix of slow and fast turns," says BMW Sauber's technical director Willy Rampf. "The Adelaide hairpin sees the drivers drop down from 300 km/h to 60 km/h, and the right-left combination before the start/finish line is also slow. These corners place great demands on the traction, in contrast to the fast esses in the middle section of the circuit."
The track surface is one of the smoothest on the calendar. "The track at Magny Cours is relatively recent and is a very flat track," said Michelin director Nick Shorrock. "As such, it allows for lower ride heights and the use of a relatively stiff chassis."
Fernando Alonso took the honours in France last year for home team Renault. "It was a fantastic race last year, one of the best for me. McLaren were really strong during that part of the season and we won the French Grand Prix because we deserved it," he said. "It was a perfect race, with a fantastic atmosphere."
Perfect maybe, but Ferrari is homing in on Renault and Michael Schumacher is determined to spoil Renault's party. "As we know, the gap to Alonso is 19 points and we want to make this up," said the German. "I have certainly not given up hope; on the contrary, the challenge of a making up the gap will bring out the best in us."
Juan Pablo Montoya finally gave up on McLaren as much as the team did on him and the Colombian has now departed the F1 circus. Excuse me while I cry into my beer -- it's a dirty rotten shame. Tester Pedro de la Rosa will step into the breach and the team barely even acknowledged Montoya's departure.
"I'm of course extremely thrilled to have this opportunity to race the MP4-21 -- a car in which I'm really comfortable," said de la Rosa. "People don't always link it to Magny Cours, but you can overtake here, you just need to make sure your set-up allows you to do so."
Honda is forever promising it will get better but we've seen scant results as yet. The team still hangs grimly on to fourth place in the constructors' standings but is way behind the top three. Rubens Barrichello managed to pick up a couple of points at Indy and is optimistic about Magny Cours.
"The circuit at Magny Cours is a very good track for the drivers as it's a lot of fun to drive and also very fast," he said. "The high speed changes of direction between turns four and five, and also turns seven and eight, are quite challenging. The race is usually an exciting one and if the weather follows the usual pattern, it will probably be very hot."
Jarno Trulli did Toyota proud at Indianapolis, scoring a fourth place finish despite starting from the pit lane. Like other teams Toyota was hard at work on the test track in Spain last week; a press release described the days as 'red hot and long'. Ooo-er missus.
"Magny-Cours is a fun place to drive an F1 car too because it is a technical circuit with pretty much every kind of corner there is," said Trulli. "There are fast, sweeping corners along with slow hairpins and also some quick changes of direction at the chicanes."
That French-loving Red Bull outfit didn't do too bad in America, David Coulthard picking up a couple of points for the parent team and Tonio Liuzzi scoring Toro Rosso's first ever official point, after Scott Speed was stripped of his effort in Melbourne.
After last year's critique on France, which went down badly with the Gallic contingent, Red Bull 'apologised' profusely in its latest French-bashing out put. "We are sorry this race is not taking place at Le Castellet," was one of the contrite comments. Fair enough observation, actually.
Super Aguri's Franck Montgany will give the home fans someone to cheer for at Magny Cours but tester Sakon Yamamoto wil be in the second race seat, alongside Takuma Sato, for the German Grand Prix. The new SA06 will also make its debut at Hockenheim.
"I am very happy to be going to Magny-Cours as other F1 drivers really like this circuit," said Montagny. "It has a fast chicane and slow corners, so it has a good balanced mix. Our new car was originally scheduled to be launched here but now it will be the final race for the SA05 and so we shall do our best and try to make a good race until we have the SA06 in Germany."
For folks who like entertaining characters, Montoya's sudden absence will be noticeable. The French Grand Prix is rarely an exciting event and, good or bad, Montoya was usually guaranteed to spice things up on track. There's still the interest of the Renault/Ferrari tussle but without that small, exuberant Colombian, F1 has lost a little sparkle.