Drivers: Fernando Alonso (McLaren-Mercedes), Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber), Franck Montagny (Toyota), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari).

Press conference.

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 Raikkonen:
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.

 

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