Grapevine: Final News from the Paddock - French GP

Flav's Forced Absence

Grapevine: Final News from the Paddock - French GP

Flav's Forced Absence

Benetton boss Flavio Briatore was a notable absentee from Friday's official FIA press conference, but he has escaped punishment despite his no show. Briatore was due to join Alain Prost, Jean Alesi, Olivier Panis and Fernando Alonso in the press conference, but did not turn up. The FIA explained: "Having heard the explanation from the team principal, the stewards accepted that this absence was due to force majeure and no further action was deemed necessary."

Dennis' Spy Mission

Ron Dennis is determined to get his McLaren team back to the top of Formula One - so much so he has taken to spying. Dennis was a surprise guest among the hoards of journalists at Frank Williams and Mario Theissen's post-qualifying press conference in a bid to find out the secret behind Ralf Schumacher's dominant performance in qualifying.

"How much horsepower have you got?" Dennis asked Theissen's after raising his hand in the air. But his hopes of discovering the truth behind Williams' BMW engine failed as Theissen's replied: "Not enough."

Heidfeld Cops it

Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld has become the second driver of the weekend to face the wrath of the FIA stewards. German Heidfeld was nabbed speeding in the MagnyCours pitlane during Saturday's first practice session and was promptly fined $1250 for his indiscretion. McLaren's David Coulthard was given a $1750 fine after a similar incident on Friday, which was his third of the season.

DC Begrudges Frank's Generosity

David Coulthard insisted he slowed to give Ralf Schumacher the perfect birthday present in qualifying on Saturday, but the Scot warned that Frank Williams would never be so generous. Coulthard claimed that he hit a kerb in order to slow himself down to give Ralf his first pole on his birthday.

"On my third run I thought there was a risk I might get pole so I went over the kerbs just to slow myself down so that Ralf could have a nice present." But he warned that Ralf need not expect anything better than pole from Williams. He added: "You won't get anything else from Frank!"

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