Toyota - Ralf Schumacher (#11), Jarno Trulli (#12):

After Jarno Trulli scored his best result of the season with sixth place at Indianapolis, the Toyota team heads to Magny-Cours in confident mood, and testing at Silverstone last week only served to boost morale further as both drivers set fast laps during a trouble-free three days.

Magny-Cours also sees a return to more standard aerodynamic set-ups and, while the team will benefit from several aero updates to the TF107, general manager Pascal Vasselon is confident that there can be some repeat of last year's French GP when Ralf Schumacher took fourth place and Jarno Trulli only missed out on a podium because of a brake problem.

"Ever since Monaco, we have been using special aero packages - Monaco because it is high downforce, but also Canada and Indianapolis, which are closer to a low downforce package," Vasselon explains, "In France, we will return to a package closer to that which we used in Barcelona, although we have since developed it with new parts for this weekend. We are looking forward with optimism to returning to the package which we have focused most of our effort on."

While Trulli goes to France on a high, team-mate Schumacher will be looking to bounce back from a first corner shunt at a circuit where he has tasted success in the past.

"To retire from the race at the first corner in Indianapolis was obviously very disappointing, especially after a pretty good qualifying performance, but I am determined to have a better race in France," the German insists, "I have a good record at Magny-Cours, and have happy memories of my first pole position there in 2001 and victory there in 2003, and Jarno's result [in the USGP] demonstrated what the team can achieve. I expect us to be fighting for points again."

Red Bull Racing - David Coulthard (#14), Mark Webber (#15):

The Red Bull team returned from North America buoyed by the fact that Mark Webber finally secured some points after a series of disappointing races, but unhappy that its other car had been taken out at turn one.

Both drivers still wanted more from their afternoon, however - Coulthard for obvious reasons, and Webber simply to increase the performance of his RB3 with 'more downforce, more reliability, more speed' and both were in action during the three-day test at Silverstone last week. Although there were weather and mechanical problems to contend with, RBR packed up for Magny-Cours optimistic that it would add to its tally after assessing a new aero package and some suspension geometry changes.

"It was a busy few days, but we got through the majority of our programme," comments chief test engineer Ian Morgan, "We have found solutions for most of the problems we encountered and have been able to sign-off aero and suspension parts for the next two grands prix."

Williams - Nico Rosberg (#16), Alex Wurz (#17):

Williams has had cause for many a celebration at Nevers Magny-Cours, with five victories, half of all available poles and five fastest laps coming its way in 16 years - although that leaves it second to Ferrari as the most successful F1 team at the circuit. The steady improvement in performance demonstrated over the season may not be enough to add to that tally, but the team is hoping that a revised aero package will bring a points reward on Sunday.

After two competitive races in North America, we are looking forward to the French Grand Prix," technical director Sam Michael confirms, "We'll be bringing some aerodynamic and mechanical upgrades to the race, which are part of our ongoing development programme already yielding good performance results on the FW29. We have also been doing some more work on our reliability at last week's Silverstone test. Reliability is much stronger now than in previous years, but clearly we still have a couple of small weaknesses, highlighted by some separate oil leaks that we experienced in practice and during the race in Indy. We now have solid solutions in place for these faults."

Second year driver Nico Rosberg has plenty of reasons of his own for wanting to return to Magny-Cours, and will be looking to belatedly add to his points tally this weekend.

"I really like the track and I've always seemed to do well there," the German explains, "It's a nice place to go to and has a good vibe, so it's a shame this is going to be our last visit. I have good memories of Magny, as I've won a few races there - and it was where I won my first GP2 race. We've definitely made some progress with the car as our test at Silverstone last week went really well, so it's also going to be exciting to see how the new upgrades work in competition."

Team-mate Alex Wurz echoed the belief that testing could have given Williams a nudge forward in the intense battle for midfield supremacy.

"All the other teams have also been testing upgrades as we have, but I think we have the car to bring home some points from Magny-Cours," the Austrian insists, "Personally, I like the track, but I have not yet raced on the new layout of the last sector, although I am sure that I will tune into the modified section very quickly. There's one certainty this weekend and that's that it will again be a very competitive field and another fierce fight for points."

Scuderia Toro Rosso - Vitantonio Liuzzi (#18), Scott Speed (#19):

After a promising Canadian GP, in which both drivers could have scored had they not crashed out, America proved to be less successful for Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed, the local favourite even having the misfortune of the equipment turning on him in the garage!

Both drivers lamented the continuing lack of the quick-shift gearbox that the STR2 has been waiting for since the start of the year, but should finally get their hands on it at Magny-Cours after a relatively successful test at Silverstone last week.

Although the weather and the usual gremlins - notably a power train failure - played a part in delaying progress during the three days, technical director Giorgio Ascanelli was delighted to confirm several developments for this weekend's return to Europe.

"We did our homework on various solutions; some paid off and some didn't," he reckons, "Until the final afternoon, general reliability seemed good, and we managed to put the equivalent of three race distances on the same quick-shift gearbox. In performance terms, it seems better too. To sum up, the three days allowed us to sign off new steering and suspension components - and the quick-shift box - for the French Grand Prix."

Spyker F1 - Christijan Albers (#20), Adrian Sutil (#21):

Although the results tend to suggest otherwise, Spyker had another race to be satisfied with at Indianapolis, with the pace of the F8-VII again closer to those ahead of it on the grid, and Adrian Sutil turning in a promising - and unsullied - performance right from the start.

The German again out-qualified more experienced team-mate Christijan Albers, to line up 21st, but it was his start that caught the attention, the #20 car vaulting eight places up the field on the opening lap, and continuing to run on the coattails of the midfield until the pit-stop window opened. Sutil, however, remained encouraged.

"The season has been so far very good," he claims, "We have, of course, had some problems in some of the races, but I finally had a great race in Indy. It was better than Canada but, even in first 20 laps, I was competitive and racing the Toyota and Aguri in front. It could have been a good race, it was a shame not to finish.

"I hope, at Magny-Cours, we are able to do a really great race. I have my experience now, I know the track so I am really confident I can do a good race. I did Friday practice session there with the team last year, and I did an F3 race in 2004 with the Kolles team and it was one of our best races. Then I had a test there with ASM with Lewis Hamilton - I think I beat him by two hundredths of a second!"

Team-mate Christijan Albers also made the most of the skirmish at the start, running in the high teens before a combination of heavy fuel load and blue flags dropped him further down the order. The Dutchman eventually took the chequered flag in 15th place, but he too is pleased with the way things are going.

"We are making good progress everyday," he points out, "You saw it last week at the test - we were immediately on the pace, with a 1min 23.3 lap on the first run with new tyres. It's very close to Adrian's time at the end of the second day, so you can really see that we are getting there with the development. It was a shame on the last day that we didn't have a chance to better this lap due to an electrical problem - I know we could have gone even quicker. We went well and, if we keep going at this rate, it will get even better.

"It is the same as always for France - to give it maximum attack and get the best result we can. We have to get the set-up right, get the confidence high and then go out and do our best. I like the track and I have done okay on it so far - in fact, the only drama is getting out of the circuit on a Sunday night!

Super Aguri F1 - Takuma Sato (#22), Anthony Davidson (#23):

Super Aguri's mercurial season continued at Indianapolis with its fortunes taking a minor downward turn after the high points of Montreal. Anthony Davidson finished a lap down in eleventh, but worse befell team-mate Takuma Sato, who spun off while under investigation for passing under yellow flags - and earned himself a ten-place grid penalty for Magny-Cours as a result.

Sporting director Graham Taylor insisted, however, that team remained on course to achieve its goals.

"I believe that the team has performed above its station on all levels," he says, "The driver pairing that we have has enabled us to make steps forward in our preparations for each race. The addition of Ant's technical ability, paired with Taku's F1 experience has settled into a good relationship immediately, with the engineering team benefiting from both cars in all sessions over a race weekend. This has put pressure on everyone in the team and, on many occasions, we have been able to show our true potential. Our target was to join the F1 fraternity and score a point. Now that we have amassed four points, it has left us hungry for more and increased our fighting spirit even further. Ant's time for scoring a point should not be far away.

"The preparations for Magny-Cours have been a challenge, with effectively all the teams having to race four times in five weekends. Getting the freight back from the flyaways and preparing the cars in a very short time scale, combined with testing in between these races, stretches a small team such as Super Aguri F1. Both cars will receive an aero upgrade for the French Grand Prix, and both drivers have fresh engines for this race but, with the penalty that Taku has to carry for this event, it forces us to have a different strategy on his car. It will be a tough weekend for him, but the team and drivers have high levels of confidence and spirit - that's the Super Aguri way."

TYRES:

Bridgestone brings its soft and medium compound Potenzas to face the challenges of Magny-Cours this weekend, knowing that the French circuit presents a very different test to that of the USGP at Indianapolis, where the same tyres were on offer two weeks ago.

"The first challenge of Magny-Cours is to get there, but fortunately we have a good logistics operation to ensure this happens," head of track engineering operations Kees van de Grint smiles, "Once there, we find a very interesting circuit with long fast corners, which require good stability and also slow, tight corners which is where good traction is very important, as is a rapid response to a change in direction.

"Magny-Cours is also a challenge for the compound of tyre as there are two distinct types of tarmac on the circuit and these have different characteristics. Two sectors have been resurfaced and are likely to be more slippery before they get rubbered in. Obviously, the tyre compound has to be able to work over the entire circuit, and our predictions are that this should be the case. History also shows us that this can be one of the hottest races on the calendar so we will expect to see high tyre temperatures."

THE TRACK:

Race Distance: 70 laps - Circuit Length: 2.741 miles (4.411 kms)

The Circuit de Nevers is located in Burgundy, the geographic heartland of France, and has been home to the French Grand Prix since 1991. The twelve-turn circuit is blessed with a smooth surface and boasts generous run-off areas, although its twisty layout means that overtaking possibilities in dry conditions are usually limited to the slow Adelaide hairpin. The race organisers tried to answer that criticism in 2004 by replacing the final chicane and increasing the run offarea at the final Lycee turn, but the alterations have met with limited success.

Lap times vary noticeably at Magny-Cours depending on the ambient temperature. In common with other tight circuits, Formula One cars are set up to race with high levels of downforce, without completely compromising straight-line speed.

THE WINNER?

Once again, it is hard to look beyond the usual suspects when discussing potential winners at Magny-Cours but, if anything, the list has dwindled from four to two in recent races, with McLaren taking a step forward and leaving the squabble between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. The Briton has had the upper hand in the last two rounds and now returns to more familiar venues with momentum behind him. Alonso, however, will be keen to regain the upper hand while Ferrari is trailing and prevent his team-mate from pulling too far ahead. Ferrari reckons it found something in testing, so it will be interesting to note the gap between the Scuderia and the leaders.

LAST SEASON:

Michael Schumacher won the French GP for the eighth time, carrying the momentum from his USGP success to Magny-Cours and further raising the temperature in the championship battle. The race was hardly a classic, as the German led from lights to flag, taking advantage of chief rival Fernando Alonso being bottled up behind the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa. Although the pair swapped places during the pit-stops, Schumacher was already too far ahead. Ralf Schumacher claimed fourth for Toyota, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Giancarlo Fisichella. Pedro de la Rosa scooped two points after a late call-up to replace the NASCAR-bound Juan Montoya, while Nick Heidfeld salvaged a point after a disappointing qualifying session for BMW Sauber...

1. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari 70 laps 1hr
32mins 7.8secs

2. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault +10.1
3. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari +22.5
4. Ralf Schumacher Germany Toyota-Toyota +27.2
5. Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes +33.0
6. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Renault-Renault +45.4
7. Pedro de la Rosa Spain McLaren-Mercedes +49.4
8. Nick Heidfeld Germany BMW Sauber-BMW +1 lap

 

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