Panasonic Toyota Racing goes to the French Grand Prix for round 11 of the 2002 Formula 1 World Championship fresh from a four-day test at Monza. The team completed 267 laps of the Italian track, while conducting set-up and cooling work.
France is steeped in motor racing history, having staged the first ever Grand Prix, at Le Mans in 1906. This year's French Grand Prix will be the 12th running of the event at Magny-Cours, the 4.250-kilometre circuit near Nevers in Burgundy. The track is not a regular testing venue for F1 teams and, while Panasonic Toyota Racing tested here last year with its TF101 test car, it has yet to run its TF102 at the track.
The team takes three of its TF102 chassis to Magny-Cours, having transported one of the cars direct from Goodwood House in Sussex, England, where Allan McNish demonstrated it at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last weekend. Allan set a new, unofficial, hillclimb record at the event. After a recent run of reliability problems, the Panasonic Toyota Racing team's primary objective in France will be to get both of its cars to the finish of what is traditionally a high-attrition race.
"The British Grand Prix was proof that you can leave no stone unturned in Formula 1. We had two mechanical failures in the race, which was very disappointing, especially at this stage of the season. We have to overcome these if we are to continue to progress as a team. The French Grand Prix is the home race of our tyre supplier Michelin, so it would be satisfying to get a good result for them this weekend. The weather will hopefully be warm, which should be to our advantage."
"Magny-Cours is not a bad circuit. In fact the circuit hasn't been changed much since it was built, which is good, and it is possible to find a rhythm quite quickly. The asphalt is very smooth, which makes it nice to drive on. This is certainly a factor that should benefit the TF102 but, beyond that, I don't want to predict how the car will go. We have had some difficulties in the last few races and we must now put these behind us."
"I don't know Magny-Cours as well as some tracks, but what I do know of it is positive. We tested there last year in the TF101 and it's an interesting circuit to drive in an F1 car. We did a lot of work in Monza last week, making progress with the balance and set-up of the car. We also found the cause of the clutch problem that left me stranded on the starting grid in Silverstone, so all in all I'm confident of a good race in France."
Mika Salo on Magny-Cours
"Such is the isolation of Magny-Cours that there is a slightly weird atmosphere at the track. The paddock isn't directly behind the pits, for starters, so it feels like a small village. The track is quite technical, with a mixture of fast and slow corners, and there are a couple of potential overtaking opportunities, the main one being into the Adelaide Hairpin. For some reason there are always a lot of retirements in the race, so if you're there at the end you stand a good chance of scoring points."