Mercedes will be hoping that grand prix partner McLaren can stave off the growing threat from Ferrari in order to celebrate its 100th GP with a victory.

Although reigning world champion Mika Hakkinen took the spoils at Montreal in the last round, both team and engine supplier know that the Ferrari threat is as potent as ever. Eddie Irvine topped the testing times for the Scuderia during the week, and both the red cars led the way in Friday's opening practice.

Both Hakkinen and team-mate David Coulthard are keen to give Mercedes a winning centenary, with the Scot anxious to resurrect a faltering championship challenge, but France has not been a happy hunting ground for McLaren in recent years. Alain Prost took the team's last win there - back in 1989 - while Schumacher has won twice for Ferrari in recent years.

Mercedes began its motorsport involvement before the advent of the world championship, but since then has provided world titles for the great Juan Manuel Fangio and Hakkinen. It has also been strongly involved with Sauber in both F1 and sportscars, and a win this weekend would go some way to salving the PR disaster it suffered at Le Mans.



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