French Grand Prix preview

Jordan's Heinz Harald Frentzen returns to the scene of his first win for the Jordan team at Magny-Cours this weekend

French Grand Prix preview

Last year's race, won through expert strategy and driving, humbled the big-hitters. The German made Jordan's breakthrough in 1999 at the French track, but is there a chance he could do the same this year? Jordan has recently received a boost to their engines with developments by supplier Mugen, and will be on a high following the announcement of a works deal with Honda from next year.

Granted, the team has not performed to expectations, but Magny-Cours could provide the turning point as it did last year. The car has shown its promise, at Monte Carlo for example, where Jarno Trulli was on the front row. If all the elements can come together, and mix with a dash of luck as they did last year, there is no reason why a repeat of Frentzen's win should be entirely ruled out.

Last year, Jordan scored their second win after the title hopefuls fell foul of the unusual circumstances. The track's extremely smooth tarmac has a tendency to become gripless as soon as a sprinkling of rain falls, and a number of recent races have been shaken up to a considerable degree by a shower at certain points during the event.

"Over the past few seasons I have only good memories of my time racing at Magny-Cours," said Frentzen. "Last year in a race that was really up and down I was able to gain my first win for the Benson and Hedges Jordan team. I would like to be on the podium again and I feel we are in a good position to make that happen."

Frentzen used the wet/dry conditions to superb effect, avoiding the need to stop for fuel in the closing stages of the race. This problem beset both Mika Hakkinen and Rubens Barrichello, while the German combined speed, fuel economy and dazzling wet weather confidence to take the chequered flag.

"We go to Magny-Cours with a good set up and know the general strategy that needs to be put in place for the weekend," says Jordan technical director Mike Gascoyne, before admitting that testing can only prepare you so much as conditions can differ significantly".

Driver Jarno Trulli agreed, saying "I think we have a car that will be up at the front of the grid although I don't think we will be as strong as in Monaco or Canada".


In Canada, Schumacher was left to run away and hide after David Coulthard was issued with a penalty. If the Scot was to challenge Schumacher he would have had to attempt a pass, and that is something which some find difficult at Magny Cours.

There is one overtaking possibility at the hairpin. This came into its own as a passing place in last year's event, when cars that lacked traction in the slippery conditions were barely capable of holding off those with more confidence to brake deeper into the turn.

Champion Mika Hakkinen knows this well, from his battle with Barrichello and others at the circuit last year. "Magny-Cours has a mix of low-speed hairpins, medium speed corners and fast chicanes and there are good overtaking opportunities particularly into the Adelaide hairpin," he says.

McLaren are not writing off their chances just yet, and second-placed man David Coulthard points to his recent testing performance at the track.

"We tested at Magny-Cours after the Canadian Grand Prix and went through a lot of work. I ended up fastest on both my days in the car so things are looking promising for the race," he said.


Championship leader Michael Schumacher concurs with Hakkinen on the nature of the track, and believes that Ferrari will once again be in good shape to take the victory: "It is a track with a bit of everything, so the car has to be good in all areas to be quick."

"Our car has worked well on all kinds of circuits this year, so I expect it to be very competitive in the race. We tested at Magny-Cours last week and I am very confident that we will go well for the race next weekend."

Rubens Barrichello starred at last year's event, despite driving a Stewart with a tendency to aquaplane.

"Rain always makes the race more difficult, but it can also make it more exciting and change completely the outcome of the race depending on the pit stop strategy," he explains.

"It's a very smooth surface and it became very slippery when the water built up."


Though most predictions of an unpredictable French GP centre around the possibility of rain, a dry race could throw up as many headaches for the teams as a thunderstorm, with the usual issues over tyre choice and fuel stop strategy. Bridgestone Motorsport's technical manager Yoshihiko Ichikawa sheds some light on these potential pitfalls:

"Some drivers have experienced understeer when running with Extra Soft tyres at other Grands Prix but we'd recommend the softer compound this time - it has more traction and rear grip, and the understeer is less pronounced at Magny-Cours," he claims.

"The Extra Soft would be a very good choice. However, the softer rubber will still degrade at a higher rate, especially at the rear, and cars will start to lose traction after a certain number of laps. This could make the race really interesting!"

shares
comments
Prost considered move to UK

Previous article

Prost considered move to UK

Next article

Jordan lands works Honda deal for 2001

Jordan lands works Honda deal for 2001
Load comments
The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career Plus

The F1 champion who became an Indy king in his second career

Emerson Fittipaldi’s decision to go racing with his brother led to him falling out of F1, but he bloomed again on the IndyCar scene. NIGEL ROEBUCK considers a career of two halves

Formula 1
Jul 31, 2021
Why Mercedes is pleased to be in the Hungary hunt at a 'Red Bull track' Plus

Why Mercedes is pleased to be in the Hungary hunt at a 'Red Bull track'

Mercedes ended Friday practice at the Hungaroring with a clear gap to Red Bull thanks to Valtteri Bottas’s pace in topping FP2. But there are other reasons why the Black Arrows squad feels satisfied with its progress so far at a track many Formula 1 observers reckon favours Red Bull overall

Formula 1
Jul 30, 2021
How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks Plus

How Red Bull endured its second car crash in two weeks

OPINION: Red Bull was justified to be upset that Lewis Hamilton survived his British GP clash with Max Verstappen and went on to win. But its attempts to lobby the FIA to reconsider the severity of Hamilton's in-race penalty were always likely to backfire, and have only succeeded in creating a PR disaster that will distract from its on-track efforts

Formula 1
Jul 30, 2021
The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach Plus

The ‘screaming’ F1 engine future that may not be out of reach

OPINION: It wasn't just the Verstappen/Hamilton clash that had the Red Bull and Mercedes bosses at loggerheads at Silverstone, with the nature of Formula 1's 2025 engines also subject for disagreement. But hopes to have loud, emotive engines that are also environmentally friendly don't have to be opposed

Formula 1
Jul 29, 2021
The drivers that need to strike gold before F1's summer break Plus

The drivers that need to strike gold before F1's summer break

OPINION: Formula 1 is about to break up for summer 2021, with the title battles finely poised. But it’s not just the latest round of Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton that will be worth watching this weekend in Hungary, as plenty of drivers are eying big results to change the stories of their seasons so far

Formula 1
Jul 28, 2021
How Lotus F1 uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’ Plus

How Lotus F1 uncovered, then squandered its last ‘unfair advantage’

Cast in the mould of its founder Colin Chapman, Lotus was powerful and daring but 
flawed – as it proved through further soaring peaks and painful troughs into the 1980s. DAMIEN SMITH examines a game-changing era

Formula 1
Jul 27, 2021
The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address Plus

The core problems Yas Marina’s long-awaited tweaks won't address

OPINION: Changes to the layout of Abu Dhabi’s circuit aim to reverse the trend of insipid Formula 1 races there - the promoter has even described one of the new corners as “iconic”. And that, argues STUART CODLING, is one of this venue’s abiding failings

Formula 1
Jul 26, 2021
How Ferrari offered Britain's next F1 prospect what Red Bull couldn't Plus

How Ferrari offered Britain's next F1 prospect what Red Bull couldn't

Last year's Formula 2 runner-up Callum Ilott could be on his way to becoming the first Briton to contest a grand prix in an Alfa Romeo since Reg Parnell in 1950. But, says OLEG KARPOV, the Ferrari Driver Academy protege is having to temper his ambition at the moment – outwardly at least…

Formula 1
Jul 25, 2021