French Grand Prix: Qualifying Report

Qualifying for the French Grand Prix, the last from Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, started under patchy cloud with a track temperature of 45 degrees, air temperature of 24 degrees.

Q1:

Adrian Sutil was first to join the track with around thirteen minutes remaining, setting a time of 1:17.915. His time was quickly despatched by his team-mate Albers and Renault’s Fisichella and Kovalainen, the Finn setting a time of 1:16.054. Coulthard sets a time of 1:15.970 with around eight minutes remaining, but with his fellow Brit Hamilton setting a supreme lap of 1:14.805 on harder compound tyres. With 1:35 remaining a number of runners take to the track to improve their time. Raikkonen is second, with Hamilton on pole, team-mate Massa third. Both Ferrari’s made mistakes during their qualifying runs, with Raikkonen easily the fastest car if he has a tidy lap. Adrian Sutil pulls off the track in sector 2 at the end of Q1; he fails to make the cut. Davidson fails to set another time, cutting the beam a second too late.

Drivers Knocked Out:

22. A. Sutil
21. C. Albers
20. A. Davidson
19. T. Sato – Has 10 place penalty from Indianapolis Grand Prix
18. A. Wurz
17. V. Liuzzi

Q2:

As we have seen many times this season, David Coulthard is the first car to begin the session. However, as he approached the end of sector one, he locks up and struggles with downshifting beyond fifth gear. Hamilton sets a time of 1:14.795 with Raikkonen setting a time to go second on a 1:14.828, only for Massa to beat his time by just six one thousandth of second. Alonso goes fifth behind the BMW of Kubica on a 1:15.084. Webber failed to set a fastest lap earlier in the session despite taking to the track, possibly due his team-mates issue, and his last ditch attempt left him struggling back in fourteenth.

16. D. Coulthard
15. S. Speed
14. M. Webber
13. R. Barrichello
12. J. Button
11. R. Schumacher

Q3:

Raikkonen leads the pack out, with team-mate behind, with both McLarens behind him. At the end of the first lap Alonso dives into the pit lane and is pushed back into the McLaren garage with engine problems. A replay showed the McLaren puffed smoke leaving the Chateaux d’Eau. Raikkonen leads with seven minutes remaining, having set a reasonably slow 1:16.173 during his initial fuel burn run. Massa sets a time of 1:15.034 in the first major battle of Q3, with Hamilton second, Raikkonen third. BMW follow with a fourth and fifth, given Alonso’s demise. Raikkonen starts another flying lap, a ten adrift in the first sector, possibly running with a heavier fuel load. Hamilton improves but fails to jump Massa – setting his fourth pole of the season.

10. F. Alonso
9. N. Rosberg
8. J. Trulli
7. N. Heidfeld
6. H. Kovalainen
5. G. Fisichella
4. R. Kubica
3. K. Raikkonen
2. L. Hamilton
1. F. Massa

Alonso is likely to start from tenth on the grid, as Martin Whitmarsh confirms that the failure on his McLaren is gearbox related.

Ferrari Back On Track

Ferrari have rejuventated their season by topping the time sheets with a one-two in second Friday practice for what is to be the last French GP at Magny Cours.

Under performing Kimi Rakkonen was fastest in the morning session but his teammate Felipe Massa led the way in the final session by the smallest of margins. Just 0.035s seperated the pair and the heated battle will almost certainly set to continue throughout the weekend.  Pushing each other all the way, Rakkonen had a slip up searching for that extra tenth.

Double race winner Lewis Hamilton, had a rough start to the day with some engine difficultes. It didnt effect him in the second session and put in a 4th fastest time, three tenths behind the Scarlet Ferraris. Fernando Alonso was lagging behind his teammate being three tenths off the Rookie and languishing down in 8th. Stress from the US GP has maybe still lingered with the Spaniard and showed with a ragged attempt in the first corner that led to an off track excursion.

The story of the session has been the perfromance from the Red Bull squad and their sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso. David Coulthard broke through the 1:15 minute barrier to record the 6th fastest time. The STR boys stole the limelight though with an eye-catching 3rd and 5th from Speed and Liuzzi respectfully, with both teams using the Adrian Newey design to full effect. Mark Webber can’t catch a break, with his car halting on the side of the track with a problem, and was all the way back in 16th position.

Williams driver Nico Rosberg performed nicely with a solid 7th, proving that the test at Silverstone in midweek has giving them an upper hand this weekend over the midfield teams. Anthony Davidson gave Super Aguri 9th spot while an under pressure Ralf Schumacher rounded off the top ten.

Suprisingly the Renault team have gone backwards from their encouraging performances in North America with Fischella 11th and Kovalainen 17th. The returning Robert Kubica got a feel once again with the BMW car with 12th spot ahead of the second Williams of Alex Wurz and the Toyota of Jarno Trulli. 

The eagrly anticpated new Honda RA107 was rather dissaponting leaving a disheartened Jenson Button in 15th and his teammate Rubens Barrichello a lowly 16th.

Nick Heidfeld had a niggling back strain and it showed, posting a time to leave him 19th. Takuma Sato was 20th and Adrian Sutil once again outperforming his more experienced teammate Christjian Albers to leave the Dutchman at the back of the pack.

French Grand Prix: Friday Press Conference

Attending: Flavio BRIATORE (RENAULT), John HOWETT (TOYOTA), Colin KOLLES (SPYKER), Jean TODT (FERRARI)

Q: John, first of all, a couple of good times during Silverstone testing. Are you expecting those good times to be reflected here?
John HOWETT: We hope so. There s still a gap, obviously, between us and the top teams, but we re making steady progress and we hope to see that progress reflected this weekend.

Q: Was that a jump forward more than you expected, because obviously everybody else was developing and bringing out new bits?
JH: I still don t think it s a jump forward. Basically we re evolving the car, we have a lot more to come for the rest of the season but we hope we ll be back more to the competitive position of Barcelona here and at Silverstone.

Q: What s been the basic problem for Ralf Schumacher, he has a problem with the car, what is that problem?
JH: Really, you have to ask him but the fundamental issue is the front end of the car and the tyre grip at the front and getting the car balanced and giving enough front potential to give him something he can use with the style he has. We are gradually improving that.

Q: And it affects him more than Jarno?
JH: Yes, I think he has probably less acceptance of an understeering car and therefore we need to get more front performance and more potential onto the front of the car for him.

Q: We had Franck Montagny in here yesterday, and obviously the French are interested in whether he has any chance of a race drive.
JH: That probably depends on next year. We have two race drivers and he s the test driver and third driver in the team and that s the status that we support. The issue really is whether we continue the contract with Ralf next year, which we are discussing with him and obviously then, if not, what we would do in the future. But the priority at the moment is to focus on this year, improving the performance and giving Ralf the maximum opportunity with the car.

Q: Colin, there s a report that you re not happy with the updates on the Super Aguri cars; or maybe just not happy with the Super Aguri cars full stop. What is the situation with customer cars at the moment?
Colin KOLLES: Well, actually I already said everything in this respect. There is nothing new. Arbitration is on-going and there s nothing more to say.

Q: So you haven t said anything more on the recent updates on the Aguri Hondas?
CK: It was just information to all the teams, informing them of what s going on.

Q: Is there a timescale when something might happen?
CK: I don t know. It s a legal issue, so I cannot give you any detail. As you know, the court is setting up dates, so I cannot tell you.
Q: But you haven t got any dates yet?
CK: No.

Q: What about your situation with regard to drivers: we saw them doing a fair amount of auto-crossing today. I guess it s not an easy car to drive, that doesn t help. But Adrian Sutil has out-qualified Christijan six-to-one which I would have thought was a bit of a surprise given Christijan s experience.
CK: Yes, it s for sure a surprise, and today was not the best day, to be honest and I m not very happy today. I cannot hide it, obviously. One monocoque is broken so it s not very good.

Q: What s the cure?
CK: A better car.

Q: And when is that coming?
CK: In Turkey.

Q: Is that a complete redesign? What sort of modifications?
CK: On the mechanical side it s basically a complete new car. It will be the basis for the 2008 car and aerodynamically it will be a complete new update: basically new engine cover, side pods, front wings, rear wings. It s basically a complete new car.

Q: I guess it can t come quick enough.
CK: For sure, yes. I hope it s also quick enough, which is a big question mark.

Q: Will it be tested before the Turkish Grand Prix?
CK: No, I don t think so, there is no time for it.

Q: Flavio, were you encouraged by testing at Silverstone last week?
Flavio BRIATORE: I don t know. Testing is testing. It s greater encouragement when you have a podium after a race. To be quick in the test I don t think makes a big difference.

Q: So what about today, then?
FB: On Fridays everybody has different strategies. We are quite happy. If you see the numbers not (very good) but really we have some fuel (load) and we are quite happy. We have recovered a little bit in respect to the beginning of the season.

Q: It was said that you weren t particularly happy with Heikki Kovalainen s performances round about Monaco time. Since then, the two North American races, are you happier?
FB: Our problem is not with Heikki, our problem is the car. We are late and we are not happy because this year we are not… we have not done the job properly. This is our problem. We developed the 2006 car to the end for obvious reasons and now we are late and this winter we did the normal job which Renault does normally and now… In this job, if you make a mistake, you pay and now we are paying. We are recovering, that s for sure, and I hope we are competitive here. Competitive means being behind Ferrari and McLaren. Our fight is with BMW. This is what we are doing. We try to have something new at every race because now, finally, something is happening at the factory and we believe we are in good shape, maybe after Silverstone. But really it s the normal process. When you re late with these pieces it s very difficult to catch up because everybody is so good and everybody s improving.

Q: So what s the goal in the championship?
FB: The goal in the championship is quite easy, I think. It s very difficult to achieve but it s easy (to say): to finish third in the Constructors Championship. We are not dreaming: McLaren and Ferrari are stronger than us this year and we need to make sure we finish in the first three.

Q: Jean, improvement in testing at Silverstone. You were four tenths ahead in testing; are we seeing that reflected here today?
Jean TODT: I think we had less fuel in the car, you know. As Flavio said, ten kilos is between three to four tenths so what is important is the race, the qualifying day. You have a good idea about the fuel level, particularly in Q2, because everybody is with low fuel, and then during the race. At the beginning (of the season) we were in front, then since three races we are behind, so we will see where we are from race number eight.

Q: Tomorrow and over the weekend, you are involved with the ICM Foundation and you have Michael Schumacher and Zinedine Zidane as well. Can you give some indication of what all that is about?
JT: ICM is a foundation of which I am one of the founders. It s a medical foundation for research on the brain and spinal cord. It s going to start building by the end of the year a 25,000 square meter (department) inside one of the most important hospitals in Paris: eight floors, a thousand doctors and to do that, because it s a private initiative, we need to find money and every action we can do all those here are welcome to give some money. I know some of you are doing so and that s a way to let people know about it and again to get some finance. We get some State finance and we need some private finance so that s the aim of the initiative. Flavio promised he was going to contribute very highly, thank-you Flavio.
FB: You re welcome.
JH: He s not signed it yet.

Q: Going back to Ferrari, there were reports after the last Grand Prix that there had been a breakage in your wind tunnel. How has that affected development over the last few races?
JT: Yes, that s true, we had a problem with the carpet (moving road), the metallic carpet and we lost about two weeks development, but that s not an excuse.

Q: But it must have hurt the team a little bit?
JT: OK, but it s up to us to have a wind tunnel that doesn t break.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Gaetane Morin Le Journal du Dimanche) A question to Flavio, Jean and John, as a constructor s representative, is it important for you to run in France? And, if yes, will you tell Bernie so that we can save the GP here next year?
JH: I think as teams the first point is that we have to go and compete wherever the Commercial Rights Holder decides we have to do it. Obviously, as a country, France is very important for Toyota. We have few plants here and therefore it is a country that we want to race in, but ultimately, the decision is that of the Commercial Rights Holder. We hope that there will be a Grand Prix in France.
JT: Formula One is a business, so it is not a question, but if you ask me personally I love the French Grand Prix and particularly because on Sunday it will be 14 years that I have been running Scuderia Ferrari and it has been a great time, but let us leave sentimental reasons behind. France is a very important country and economy. It is one of the leading countries in the European environment and it is important to have a Grand Prix in France. It is not up to me where it should be, but in answer to the question I hope that France will have a Grand Prix for the future and it is important as well for the Formula One calendar.
FB: I think the same as Jean. France is one of the important counties in Europe and for Renault it is important to have a race in France. Really we don t care about the logistics, if it is in Magny-Cours, or in Paris, but I am sure it is important for Renault and I think it is important I think for everybody because France, Italy, Germany, Spain and England are the five countries in Europe that are important for the history of Formula One. Maybe not in Magny-Cours, but I hope we hold a Grand Prix in France and maybe in a better location.

Q: (Tony Dodgins Autosport) For Jean, what is your gut feeling about what would be a good future venue for the French Grand Prix?
JT: Definitely, if you are asking me, a dream Grand Prix would be in Paris. I mean like if you asked me about a Grand Prix in London, it would be amazing. But unfortunately, I don t think it is practical.
FB: Along the Champs-Elysee, next to your house…

JT: You have so many things about the environment, all the historic places, however, where you cannot make noise and where there is not the proper asphalt and all that so that is why definitely it has to be in a motor car stadium and in France you don t have so many of these or what you also call a racing circuit.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) For Mr Todt, about Nigel Stepney s situation, everyone knows he was not happy with his situation in the team after the end of last year, why did you keep him in active role in the team? And if his position was uncertain would it be a handicap to bringing back Ross Brawn because they were very linked together?
JT: I am not going into speculation on the second part of the question. On the first part, it is true to say that there is a legal case going on and as with every court case I cannot allow myself to make any comment at the moment.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Mr Todt, on the evidence of today, it seems that Ferrari are back where they were at the beginning of the season. Is that also your impression?
JT: No, as I said earlier, it is far too early to comment on how competitive we are in this race. I am convinced that as from the beginning of the championship we will be among the most competitive of the teams, and then it is step by step. We will see in qualifying and then the race… Today, we had some encouraging results that followed the results we had in Silverstone with a new development that had been added to the cars and I really hoped that we would be in a position to be able to fight for the first position. I mean it is crucial if we want still to pretend to have a chance for the championships. But overall Ferrari has been competitive since the beginning and we wished we had more success, but it is like with the wind tunnel, we did not work as well as our competitors and that is why they are in front. But saying that Ferrari is among the leading teams and has a group of people and great drivers and it is up to us to do our best for the next ten races.

Q: (Mike Doodson Honorary) Also for Jean, can you tell us how long the wind tunnel was out of action and what alternatives did you have to fall back on?
JT: I repeat the information I gave earlier: two weeks 14 days. And, we did not do any other alternative job in our wind tunnel because it was not working. Nothing.

Q: (Heinz Prüller Kronen Zeitung) Jean, after tomorrow s drive by Michael with Zidane, what are your next plans for the FXX? Will Schumi drive at other circuits as well for your medical foundation?
JT: It is not only Michael tomorrow who will do a few laps with Zidane, in the FXX, but also Kimi will do a few laps with a 599 I think and Felipe on Sunday. And that is part of the ongoing programme for fund raising.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) Jean, when exactly did the problem happen with the wind tunnel? And will you be going to the launch of the Fiat 500 car and did you have experience when you were young of driving a car like this?
JT: So, the wind tunnel was about two months ago, but if you want to be more precise later you can come to the motor home and we give you the precise dates. And concerning the launch of the 500 in Torino, on Wednesday evening at 10 o clock. It is a big event, which is organised, and I am among the fortunate invited together with the drivers so we will all be there. For me the 500… when I was much younger I had a Fiat 500 and being much older now my dream will be to find a Fiat Arbart to keep at my home, but it is very difficult so if you have any ideas please let me know.

Q: (Gaetan Vigneron RTBF TV) A question for Flavio, knowing Fernando so well, what is your opinion and your analysis of his time with McLaren up to now?
FB: It is not me you want to talk to about Fernando. You need to ask Ron Dennis. I am sure Ron knows everything. Ron is the kind of a guy who knows everything about everything. So you ask Ron.

Q: (Gaetane Morin Le Journal du Dimanche) Jean, because of your new motor home and McLaren s new one for Silverstone, I just want to know if outside of the track there is also a competition in building hospitalities?
JT: The new motor home you are talking about, I have been invited to visit it once and I think it was in Barcelona, and it looked beautiful and I understood it is to welcome the Press, so you should tell me how you like it. For myself, I am still staying in the same one.

Q: (Alain Pernot L Equipe Magazine) A question for Jean Todt and John Howett what is your feeling about the new regulations for 2011?
JT: At the moment the only regulation we know for sure are 08, 09 and 10. Eleven at the moment it is just part of proposals and ongoing discussions between FIA and the teams. It is always good to have a draft document and we are working very closely with out team colleagues and with the FIA but there is nothing yet decided about the 2011 rules.
JH: I think roughly the same. It is purely a discussion document and we are waiting for a meeting to be held with the manufacturers consultative committee to discuss openly the opinions and try to formulate the next level of conclusion from this preliminary proposal.

Red Bull take inspiration from McLaren

According to German newspaper Bild, Red Bull Racing have been so impressed with Lewis Hamilton’s performance this season – performance which is partly creditted to the state-of-the-art driver simulator that McLaren have at their Woking headquarters – that they have decided to build their own F1 driver simulator.

It is understood that Adrian Newey, technical director at Red Bull, has given the nod for the simulator to go ahead.

Talking about Hamilton’s performances, Helmut Marko said, “He becomes so acquainted with the car on every circuit beforehand that he can slam in a quickest time on his second real lap.”

Moss: Hamilton’s the best

Stirling Moss has added his voice to the growing chorus of Lewis Hamilton fans by claiming that Hamilton is the best he’s ever seen.

Taking to newspaper The Mirror, Moss said, “I would be surprised and disappointed if Lewis didn’t win the world championship. I have been connected with motor racing for 60 years and he is the best I’ve ever seen. I feel sorry for his McLaren team mate Fernando Alonso because in any other era, he would be looking at years of supremacy – but suddenly this guy he’d probably never heard of has come along.”

High praise indeed for a man famed for his rivalry with Juan Manuel Fangio in the 1950s and who both helped usher in a golden age in Formula 1.

Schumacher’s struggle

Toyota F1 CarToyota test driver Franck Montagny has said that Schumacher’s lack of form this season has also affected him. The French driver explained that because of Schumacher’s lack of form, most of the private testing miles in the TF107 have been assigned to Schumacher, leaving Montagny to spend most of his time watching from the sidelines.

“We only have one car,” Montagny explained. “So unfortunately for me, all of my planned days have been taken away. That’s the deal – when you sign the contract, you know it can be like this. You hope it’s not but there is the possibility.”

Meanwhile, Schumacher has denied that an ultimatum is in place over his form over the next two races. “There was no such thing,” Schumacher said. “It was only your journalist colleagues,” he continued before adding that breaking his 2007 contract was not possible, even if he or the team wanted to.

Schumacher was then asked for his thoughts on the competition between himself and Trulli, with it pointed out that his record against Trulli this season currently stands at 0 – 7.

“What I am supposed to say about that?” Schumacher asked. “Only what I have said every single year in my career – that what is important is the final result. Until the last race, we were only two points apart and now, I think the gap is five. So for the moment I can live with that and it is true that the whole team can improve also.”

Last week, Schumacher said he was 100% sure he would still be driving in Formula 1 in 2008. With his Toyota contract expiring at the end of 2007 and with many speculating over his future, he was asked how he was so sure of the future. “Because I know it,” he said. “I gave this information because I know it and everything else will be revealed when it is the right time. And it is not yet.”

French Grand Prix: Thursday Press Conference

Attending:

Fernando ALONSO (MCLAREN MERCEDES), Giancarlo FISICHELLA (RENAULT), Nick HEIDFELD (BMW Sauber), Franck MONTAGNY (TOYOTA), Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN (FERRARI)

Q: Giancarlo, do you feel encouraged after the test at Silverstone last week?
Giancarlo FISICHELLA: First of all, I wasn t there. But it was a good test for us. I think we made another step forward. We ve got a new floor and new rear suspension. You know, it s a small step which is quite encouraging for this weekend.

Q: You ve only had two sixth places here which suggests it is not one of your favourite or best circuits.
GF: Yeah, unfortunately over the last couple of years I was a little bit unlucky, especially two years ago when I stalled the engine in the pit stop. There was a possibility to get on the podium there. But yes, in the past it hasn t been good for me, but usually in the qualifying session I was close to my team-mate or in the first few rows. It s going to be alright.

Q: You re quite encouraged then; obviously with Renault in France it s quite important.
GF: Yes, it s very important for us. It s like our home Grand Prix and there are a lot of fans, a lot of people coming from the factory, so it s going to be a really important weekend.

Q: Franck, you raced here last year of course: 20th on the grid, 16th at the end; just a one-off, I think.
Franck MONTAGNY: It was good to race here in France, and Super Aguri gave me the opportunity to do it, so I was grateful and I had a good time with them. Now it s a different year and a different team.

Q: Quite difficult for you this year, you did some Friday testing last year but that s disappeared and not a lot of other testing either.
FM: No, not a lot of testing. At the beginning of the year it was quite OK. I had a lot of work to do with the team and we developed the car quite well, but since the beginning of the year one of the two drivers is struggling a little bit with the car, so he s asking to do more testing. We only have one car, so all my days which were on the planning have been taken off (by him) unfortunately for me. That s the deal; when you sign the contract you know it can be like this. You hope it s not going to be, but there is the possibility.

Q: And yet you had a busy week last week; tell us about it?
FM: Every time the car is on track, I am there because I want to be close to the team and I want to be involved one hundred per cent, so if I m testing or not, I want to be there. So last week I spent all the week at Silverstone and afterwards I went to Goodwood, so I spent all week with the team.

Q: Kimi, at the end of the Silverstone test the team was 0.4s quicker than anyone else. Were you encouraged by that?
Kimi RÄIKKÖNEN: I think we had quite a good test. The car felt good straight away. The race is always different to testing, but I think we had a good test.

Q: It s nearly half season now; is this where you would expect to be or are you a little bit disappointed, frustrated?
KR: For sure we don t expect to be in this position but that s racing and I think we just try to improve, try to get things how we like and try to start winning races and that s our main goal.

Q: Does it make a difference now that we are away from Monaco, the two overseas races, back in Europe?
KR: I hope so, I hope it makes a difference to the results but as I said, testing is always one thing but the racing is completely different. We will see tomorrow how the car is to know whether we can. But hopefully we can challenge the McLarens.

Q: Similar question to you, Fernando. What are your feelings after the Silverstone test? It was a very big one for McLaren, according to Martin Whitmarsh.
Fernando ALONSO: Yeah, it was a good week for us also. I think as a team we improved our car and our performance. We had some new bits on the car improving the aerodynamics, the suspension as well, brakes, so many new things on the car. You choose the good ones for here, for racing and take the bad ones back to the factory and try to find the problem. We developed the car, we improved the car and it should again be competitive here in France.

Q: How worried were you by those times from Ferrari?
FA: Oh nothing, nothing at all, nothing.

Q: We re just coming up to the half season. I m sure it hasn t quite worked out the way that you expected it to.
FA: Well, I think that in a way it has been a surprise, a good surprise how quick the car was. I moved teams, I left Renault last year and I was not so sure about what the McLarens would be like at the beginning of the season. I found a very good car straight away and I was able to win two races in the first seven races of the championship and I m second in the Drivers championship and leading the Constructors , so it has been a very very positive first half of the season but for sure, I would like to be first, leading both championships and for that, I need to be a little bit quicker than in the first seven races.

Q: You ve had two pole positions here, one win and twice second in the race; what are your feelings about this circuit?
FA: I like the circuit a lot. I always enjoy driving here at Magny Cours, also because I have been driving for Renault here, which is a very important race for the Renault team and we are in France and I had a lot of fans, a lot of support here. This year will maybe be a little bit different because the grandstand will not be with McLaren so much as they were with Renault but as I said, I love the circuit and it should be a good weekend.

Q: Nick, you left Silverstone with a pain in your back. Is it OK now, what was the problem?
Nick HEIDFELD: Yes, it s gone now. I felt that the circuit was quite bumpy and I think some other drivers actually had back problems as well. I just played it safe because I knew that in two weeks time we would have a race, so one and a half weeks time and now it s all fine again.

Q: Were you a bit worried by reliability during that test and particularly your last race at Indianapolis?
NH: No, at the test it was fine. Actually we tried some new things to rectify the problems that we had at Indy, that I had at Indy. It all worked OK, and actually the parts that failed we had on for a very long time before, also during races. Sometimes you can do so much testing and you still don t know if something will fail just after however many kilometres. We tried to change it and I m quite sure it s going to be OK now.

Q: Again, an interesting record here at the French Grand Prix, because you ve finished all your races and yet your best qualifying is ninth and the best race finish is sixth in 2001.
NH: Yeah, not a good record, is it?

Q: But the reliability is good?
NH: It s OK. I like the circuit as well. People say it s not the most interesting one to visit because it s in the middle of nowhere but for me, as a driver, it s good fun. The second corner is very nice, the long right hander and I especially enjoy the two quick chicanes which are probably outstanding in Formula One. I ve been going well here in Formula Three and Formula 3000. It s a long time ago but I ve won here and I will try to do the same in Formula One over the next couple of years.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Kimi, Luca di Montezemolo said in Gazzetta dello Sport last week that we hadn t seen the real you yet this season, a driver that puts fear into other drivers. Do you feel we ve not seen the real you and if so why not?
KR: Like I ve said before, I think I expect better results but there are certain things that haven t been right and we try to improve those and then hopefully at some point we will get it right and we can get the results that we want and I can drive how I want. This seems to take a bit of a longer time.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, we know that testing is one thing and racing is another, but do you thing that the hard times for Ferrari are over and that here you will be able to fight closer for victory?
KR: As I said, we don t know because you can always see the results from testing but you don t know what the other teams are doing. I think we have improved the car, for sure. The car felt very good at Silverstone but this a different circuit, a different place. We need to wait until the race, until the qualifying to see how it goes, but we have a positive feeling about it.

Q: (Ottavio Daviddi Tuttosport) Fernando, during the last races there were a lot of rumours about your future: if you are going to leave McLaren before the end of your contract or not. How is the situation now in your team?
FA: The situation is good. As you said, only rumours have been in the press and I think this is impossible to stop. I m second, behind my team-mate, so all rumours are about myself now and it would be the opposite if I was first and my team-mate was second. Maybe people would start talking about him. But the situation is good and I have no problems and no intention to leave the team before I finish.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) There were also some rumours about you, Kimi, about Michael Schumacher coming back, in your place or you swapping places with Fernando. What do you say about those things? Do they disturb you or you just don t care?
KR: I haven t read any magazines for a long time, so I don t know anything about it, but I don t care really what they talk about. I think I m in a pretty safe place.

Q: (Sal Zanca Associated Press) Fernando, you just talked about surprises. What s been the biggest surprise this year, that you re second now, you re trailing your team-mate, the car? What s the biggest surprise?
FA: For me, it has been the tyres, how different they are to drive on. I think the engines are obviously the same – the new V8s we introduced last year the cars are more or less the same, with the same aerodynamic rules, but the cars are so different to drive this year for everybody, and that s because the tyres change the way the car performs and the way you need to drive the car as well so that has been the biggest surprise for me. I think for Formula One it s probably my team-mate, Hamilton. He has performed really well in the first half of the season and this is maybe not a surprise because we ve been testing all winter and in the team, especially when he was quick. You know, he s doing very well.

Q: (Heiko Wasser RTL TV) Fernando, some of us were a bit surprised at your early second pit stop in Indianapolis. Was that scheduled or was there a change and if so, why?
FA: No it was according to plan. I had one more lap of fuel, but Lewis was stopping on that lap, so I had to stop one lap earlier because I was second.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) Giancarlo, what is the target now for Renault at this Grand Prix? And can you make a comeback before the end of the season to win some races?
GF: Obviously for this weekend it is again to get to the end of the race and to score points. We would like to fight for the podium because it is a very important Grand Prix for us, but I think McLaren and Ferrari are maybe a step forward, maybe two steps forward…
NH: And BMW…
GF: Yes, and BMW, especially Heidfeld! But I think we are quicker than BMW. Or I hope. And for the rest of the season it is just to make progress as we have so far. I think for Budapest we will have a new front wing which is a good step forward. So, we just make progress in each race and get closer to McLaren, Ferrari and BMW.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) Fernando, how is the situation with the strategy? Who decides the strategy the team or can a driver just decide which to use during a Grand Prix?
FA: As always, and I think that s all the teams, the team decides everything.

Q: (Thierry Wilmotte Le Soir) For all of you: it seems this will be the last time here in Magny-Cours. Do you think it will be a loss for Formula One?
FM: From a drivers point of view, we say yes because the circuit I think is very good. Uphill, downhill, very quick chicane…From a queues point of view, I think it is better to be lost because everybody is complaining about this track, but with a little effort for the outside of the track, I think it can be a very good place to come.
GF: It is a nice circuit, one of the smoother circuits so for our backs it is good and it is in the middle of nowhere, but with the other Grands Prix, when we go to the other Grands Prix, we go to the hotel, in the morning we come to the circuit and then we go back to the hotel. So it is nothing very different. It is even not good for Renault and it is a Renault home Grand Prix.
NH: For me, it depends on where we go. In fact, if we go to Paul Ricard, I would rather stay here.
FA: I don t think Formula One will miss any circuit, but I think we have to think about it and say that Magny-Cours is ok for everybody, but we all know it is in the middle of France and in the middle of nowhere, as we have all said, but I think we will go to Singapore and we will take a flight of 14 hours so I don t know which one is more convenient.
KR: Like they said, the circuit is nice to drive, but I think that more for the people it is a bit difficult here. There is nothing really around the circuit, so I think it depends where we go if it is nice or not, the new place. But I don t think it is going to be missed too much.

Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) To Alonso, this week we had the opportunity on the Internet to watch some images about the USA Grand Prix. In the lap following (the one) when you tried to overtake Lewis Hamilton, you brought the car near the pit-wall and it seemed you were complaining about something. Is that correct or not?
FA: No, it s not like that. As I said in Indianapolis, I moved from the slipstream 15 times in the race, but unfortunately I was only on TV on that lap when I was behind Lewis after the overtaking that I tried the lap before. Also, someone in the team said that there was frustration from me and that was very difficult to understand why they said that. But as I said it was just to come off the slipstream and to cool the car because everything was hot the brakes were hot, the engine was hot. Everything in my car was hot after driving 73 laps behind Hamilton s car.

Q: (Paolo Ianieri La Gazzetta dello Sport) Kimi, one thing that you still seem to be struggling with are the starts. Do you feel that you still have problems or is it one of those things that happens by chance?
KR: No, I think it just happens by accident. The last two races I know the start has been bad, but it is not something that I can really change. There is no grip off the line and it is the system that really makes the start after you let go off the clutch, but that was just a bad thing. We had different tyres to the rest last race, but I think we will improve the starts as we have a new part for the clutch so we should be better.

Q: (Ralf Bach R & B) Fernando, it is usual that the guy who stopped second to his team-mate at his first stop makes his second stop first. Why?
FA: Well, I think in the first one we stopped with one lap difference, so it was just a very small difference and with the second one, as I said, we were going more or less to the same lap and we cannot stop both cars together for the second stop, so one needs to stop one lap earlier than expected and it was me because I was second. I think it was just a coincidence also, but we had fuel for the same laps.

Q: (Marco Degl Innocenti La Gazzetta dello Sport) Maybe you have not seen the on-board camera shot showing you raising your hand. What did you mean?
FA: I raise my hand every time I catch a car that I lap and every time that I am fighting with someone and if you want to enjoy a race you must watch my on-board camera because I am always quite emotional.

Q: (Livio Oricchio O Estado de Sao Paulo) Kimi, at the last three circuits we did not have any medium or high-speed curves, which is not the case at this race or at Silverstone. Can this mean it will help Ferrari?
KR: I think so, we have different speed corners in every race, but maybe the circuit itself was not ideal for us. I hope it is different here, but like I said, in testing we did a good time, but testing is different to racing. We expect to be stronger, but I don t know how much so we ll have to wait to the race to see.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi La Gazzetta dello Sport) For Kimi and Felipe, the weather is not good, it is quite cold. What do you think this means for the tyres?
KR: Who is first me or Felipe? (laughter). I don t know how the weather is going to be. Today, it looks like it is not so nice, but I just arrived here and I don t know what they expect for the weekend, but in the end it is the same for everybody. Everybody has the same tyres. Hope it is good weather because that is nicer, but if it is mixed it makes the race more interesting.
FA: Same thing, I don t think anybody knows. Its only Thursday and maybe tomorrow night we will have some better information about the tyres depending how they perform tomorrow the hard and soft compounds. In this temperature, we can see some graining or something like that. We will see tomorrow and as Kimi said it will be the same for everybody, more or less.

Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Fernando, we read, from Ron Dennis, that you and Lewis are no longer allowed to talk about one another unless you are in the same room. How do you feel about that?
FA: It is not true. It is not true.

Q: (Ian Parkes The Press Association) Why did Ron say it?
FA: I don t know…

Q: (Julien Fabreau Radio Monte Carlo) Question for Franck the French media are of course waiting for a French driver in Formula One and we expect Sebastien Bourdais next year. Are there any discussions with the team actually now for the 2007 line-up or in your opinion is there a possibility?
FM: I always feel there is a possibility. We are only in July or August and it is the same for all the drivers. We are all speaking with all the teams and they are speaking with us, so we are working on that and we will see what happens next. So you will have to be patient for the answers.

FIA’s 2011 proposals

On 27th June 2007, the World Motor Sport Council met in Paris to discuss the future of Formula 1. Having received a report on the status of the current discussions on the FIA Formula 1 World Championship from 2011, they have announced their new proposals:

Engine efficiency
To limit engine power by imposing a maximum energy flow rate. However, there will be few restrictions on the engine cycle, which can include turbo-charging and energy recovery. It is believed that this will lead to a gain of at least 20% in thermal efficiency.

Drag
To allow moving aerodynamic devices, which will reduce drag by over 50% and allow a 40% reduction in the power required to maintain current speeds.

Energy recovery
Energy will be recovered during braking and returned to both front and rear axles when accelerating. The amount of energy returned on each straight will be limited in order to prevent top speeds exceeding the safety criteria for the circuits.

Fuel
The total amount of fuel energy to be consumed during a race will be regulated, encouraging further overall efficiency. The CO2 emitted will be further reduced by the introduction of gasoline which is partly derived from sustainable, non-food bio sources but complies fully with pump fuel legislation.

Overtaking
Formula One cars currently find it very difficult to overtake because of the influence of the car in front. New aerodynamic rules will halve the downforce, and de-sensitise the car to the influence of the wake of the car ahead. It is also proposed to eliminate automatically the downforce deficit of the following car.

Kubica close to returning

BMW Sauber F1 Car 2007It is expected that Robert Kubica will be given the green-light to race at this weekend’s French Grand Prix. Kubica missed the US GP thanks to a massive 75G shunt the week before in Canada. His race seat was given to Sebastien Vettel who acquitted himself well and became the youngest ever driver to win a championship point.

Kubica missed last week’s testing at Silverstone but is expecting to be allowed back in the driver’s seat when he undergoes another medical examination by F1’s doctors on Thursday at Magny-Cours.

“The reason why I wasn’t allowed to drive at Indianapolis has nothing to do with how I felt,” Kubica explained. “The problem was the risk involved in suffering a second accident within such a short space of time. That is also why I wasn’t allowed to test, so I have used the time to focus intensively on preparing for the next race.

“Now I can’t wait to back in the car. I may not have been given the green light to compete in the USA but I hope the medical examination at Magny-Cours will be a formality.”

Team boss Mario Theissen is also hoping the young Pole will be allowed to race again, despite Vettel’s impressive performance. “The team has come to expect good grid positions in the top 10 nowadays and Sebastien met that standard in his first ever F1 qualifying at Indianapolis,” Theissen commented. “But, like Robert himself, the team is also hoping he will be back in the car in France. The race doctors at Magny-Cours will have the final say on that one though.”

Alonso’s Warning

Fernando Alonso has warned his rookie team mate to be ready for some bad times. Alonso is hoping to reverse the trend between the two drivers and start winning races again so he can claw back the lead Hamilton currently has over him and win this season’s championship.

“Lewis is doing incredibly well and what he is achieveing is impressive,” Alonso remarked. “And when you are doing well, people call you ‘king’ and you are treated like a king. They always have nice things to say. But things change for whatever reason, and it may not be your fault but it is impossible to maintain such a high level all the time.

“And when things change, people are quick to criticise. And you have to bre ready for that because it happens to everyone. When you are winning, fantastic, great, a God. When you are not doing so well, they say you are finished. It is normal in Formula 1.”

Hamilton will be going to the French Grand Prix on a high, having won his last two races.