The F1 teams have now all arrived back from their two-week trip to North America, ready for the next leg of the European season. This weekend they will dig out their maps of deepest France to try and relocate the circuit of Magny-Cours. The circuit, based close to the town of Nevers, is not exactly on France's top ten of accessible spots but the surrounding area offers an oasis of calm after the downtown bustle of the last two races. The venue has played host to the French Grand Prix since 1991 so hopefully most of the F1 fraternity will use that experience to find the place in time for first practice on Friday. Panasonic Toyota Racing's drivers Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher will then look to make the most of the improved pace shown by the TF106B in recent races as they chase a strong finish on Sunday.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 7): "After our visits to Montreal and Indianapolis, two circuits at the lower end of the downforce range, the French Grand Prix marks a return to higher downforce levels. There is nothing particularly challenging about the Magny-Cours track from a driving perspective but it does feature extremely smooth asphalt. That leads to a less bumpy ride for the drivers but it also means that the performance of the track can vary a lot depending on the weather and track temperature. I wouldn't say that it is my favourite race of the year but the facilities are good and the layout of the circuit can lead to good racing. It is also a place where I have had success down the years. I took my first pole position there five years ago and I also won the event in 2003. It is hard to know how we will perform this weekend but our car has shown it is quick in recent races so we will hope for more on Sunday."
Jarno Trulli (Car 8): "I have very good memories of Magny-Cours and I always enjoy visiting France. French is one of the languages that I speak because of all the time that I have spent working for French teams in Formula 1. That means I have a good relationship with the French fans and I expect to have lots of support in the grandstands. Magny-Cours is a fun place to drive an F1 car too because it is a technical circuit with pretty much every kind of corner there is. There are fast, sweeping corners along with slow hairpins and also some quick changes of direction at the chicanes. Good handling is crucial because the car has to react well to such a variety of different corners. The track surface is among the smoothest that we run on in the course of the season so we can run lower ride heights than usual. Now we must hope to build on our improved pace and come away with another good result."
Pascal Vasselon – Senior General Manager Chassis: "Magny-Cours is a very balanced circuit with quite typical values for downforce and brakes. The only thing that makes set-up a bit difficult is the very high kerb at the last chicane which can sometimes launch cars off the ground. You can also see extremely high track temperatures because the tarmac tends to be quite black so it heats up as soon as you have the slightest sunshine. Overtaking is quite difficult despite the long straight leading to the Adelaide hairpin because the preceding Estoril corner is a long corner where the cars and tyres are on the limit and it is difficult for drivers to follow each other closely. Magny-Cours is sometimes mocked by the F1 fraternity but it is one of the places I most enjoy travelling to during the season because the surrounding area is so relaxing. On your way to the circuit you see nice countryside and cows in the fields and that contributes to a relaxed atmosphere. It also means that the event is a good one for race enthusiasts because there are no distractions!"