Race Preview: France
June 28, 2007 | 9:00 A.M. EST
History: Construction of the Magny-Cours circuit began in 1959 and it was first opened as a karting track in 1961. In 1988, the circuit was modified to host F1 competitions, with the Grand Prix of France making its debut at the track in 1991. Formula One's move from Le Castellet to Magny-Cours was promoted by the French government as a way of bolstering the region's underdeveloped economy.
Track Length: 2.741 miles/4.411 kilometers
Race Distance: 70 Laps
Number of Turns: 11 (7 right, 4 left)
Seating Capacity: Approx. 120,000 spectators
Number of Grand Prix’s Hosted: 16
Fastest Lap: 1:15.377 set by Michael Schumacher in 2004
2006 Polesitter: Michael Schumacher
2006 Podium: Michael Schumacher (winner), Fernando Alsono (2nd), Felipe Massa (3rd)
Championship Standings: Click here
What happened in 2006?
Using a combination of pit strategy and multiple consecutive fast laps, Michael Schumacher easily captured his eighth victory in the Grand Prix of France – the most for any driver at any Grand Prix in Formula One history – by a margin of victory of 10.1 over Fernando Alonso.
Although Magny-Cours is a venue with many historical moments, it appears to be preparing to host its final Grand Prix this season. A few weeks back, Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone told reporters "We should not have gone there in the first place." Speculation has it that Formula One is hoping to have a Grand Prix of France in Paris in the near future.
The 2006 race marked the 100th anniversary of the first race that was designated a Grand Prix. Staged near Le Mans on June 26,1906, 32 cars left the start line for a race that lasted two days and covered approximately 769.257 miles.
2007 sees the 57th French Grand Prix staged since the official launch of Formula One. It will be hosted in Magny-Cours for the 17th time. The first French GP took place in Reims in 1950. Formula One has been held at the Paul Ricard track in Le Castellet 14 times, in Reims 11 times, five times each in Dijon and Rouen, four times in Clermont-Ferrand and once in Le Mans.
Set amid rural surroundings in France’s Burgundy region, the 2.741-mile Circuit de Nevers is characterized by a collection of slow hairpins, medium speed corners and high speed chicanes. The French track requires a high downforce set-up, one which provides stability through the twisty sections, but one which equally does not compromise straight line speed. Magny-Cours is renowned for its smooth surface which, when combined with the area’s variable temperatures, provides one of the greatest challenges for the teams over the weekend. The unpredictable weather, which can generate track temperatures in excess of 50°C, places high thermal loadings on the tires, while the slower hairpins also generate longitudinal loadings, all of which can destabilize the balance of the car. With several acute braking events (the drivers will experience 4g when braking from 300km/h down to 60km/h into the Adelaide hairpin), durable brakes are also a pre-requisite. Aerodynamic efficiency and car drivability are therefore key for a successful race this weekend.
--Analysis courtesy of AT&T Williams
What they are Saying
"I have always liked racing at this track, when you hear people talk about circuits that are technical, Magny Cours is definitely one of them. It is important to have good speed in the slow corners as they tend to lead onto long straights. You have to have good mechanical set-up for the corners and the same with traction for the exits. My favourite sections of the track are the two high speed chicanes at the back of the circuit. We go through them at speeds of up to 200km/h, which is very fast for a chicane; very special to drive through and unique in Formula 1.
Although they have very different characteristics in general, there are some similarities between Magny Cours and Monaco, as they have a lot of tight, twisty corners and both have a medium –- high downforce set-up. The car performed well at Monaco and I am looking forward to getting it out on track in France on Friday."
--Defending World Champion Fernando Alonso, driver of the No. 1 MP4-22 for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
"It's true, I never came in first here, but I really enjoy driving on this track. The tarmac is extremely even and the track offers slow and fast corners; that makes it very challenging. Good aerodynamics and good traction for the exits of the slow corners are very important here. Five years ago I came close to victory: I was leading the race, but then I spun off the track due to oil lost by a Toyota and Michael passed me to win his fifth of his seven titles. I hope that this year things will be different! I don't know yet if we will race at Magny-Cours next year: maybe there will be new tracks, such as Valencia and Singapore; it's always nice for a driver to discover new circuits. After the first seven races of the season, we need to close the gap on our competitors: we will give our best to achieve that goal, right from the start."
--Kimi Raikkonen, driver of the No. 6 F2007 for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
"The Circuit de Nevers is quite a tricky circuit to get your lap absolutely right however it is a lot of fun to drive and very fast. The start is particularly important, regardless of what side of the grid you are on, and you have to position yourself well for the first two corners to get a good run down the straight to the Adelaide hairpin. This is really the only place on the circuit where you can have a real chance of overtaking. The key to a really quick lap around here is getting the front end of the car working well, particularly for turns one and two. You can lose a lot of time at turn two if you have too much understeer in the car. You also need to have good car stability to make the most of the high speed chicanes."
--Jenson Button, driver of the No. 7 RA107 for Honda Racing F1 Team
"The Magny-Cours circuit has a lot to offer - two tricky chicanes, a high-speed section and some slow corners. I'm looking forward to the race weekend. The track is demanding, I like the countryside around the circuit and you tend to eat very well in France. There's not a lot going on in Magny-Cours and it gets its fair share of criticism as a result. But I like a bit of peace and quiet now and again. And I think the relative tranquillity will do the team good after the eventful time we've had recently."
--Nick Heidfeld, driver of the No. 9 F1.07 for BMW Sauber
"I have a good record at Magny Cours – I have happy memories of my first pole position there in 2001 and victory there in 2003. But apart from that, I can’t say I am that keen on Magny Cours from a driving perspective.
I am reasonably optimistic we can fight for points again this weekend. Also, it is my 32nd birthday on Saturday so I’m hoping for a strong qualifying to celebrate and then some points would be a good present!"
--Ralf Schumacher, driver of the No. 11 TF107 for Panasonic Toyota Racing
"I can’t wait to get to Magny-Cours. I really like the track and I’ve always seemed to do well there. It’s a nice place to go as well and has a good vibe so it’s a shame this is going to be our last visit. I have good memories of Magny, I’ve won a few races there and it was where I won my first GP2 race. We’ll definitely have made some progress with the car as our test at Silverstone last week went really well. It’s also going to be exciting to see how the new upgrades work in competition."
--Nico Rosberg, driver of the No. 16 FW29 for AT&T Williams
"Some drivers don't like it, but I actually find it a very good circuit. The track layout is good, you have to have a good downforce balance for the high speed and low speed corners, so set-up is always a compromise. There are a few possibilities to overtake so you also have to have a good speed to be able to pass on the straight. I like the track though - the only problem I can see with it is it's in the middle of nowhere! "
--Christijan Albers, driver of the No. 20 F8-VII for Etihad Aldar Spyker Formula One Team
"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 flyaway’s 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 Team.
The Magny-Cours circuit offers a different challenge to the race in North America, with higher downforce levels required. Both drivers have fresh engines for this race, however with the penalty that Taku has to carry for this event, it forces us to have a different strategy on his car and 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."
--Graham Taylor, Sporting Director for Super Aguri F1 Team
"(Magny-Cours) is 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 tire 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 tire 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 tire temperatures."
--Kees van de Grint, Bridgestone Motorsport Head of Track Engineering Operations
Schedule of Events
Friday, June 29
- Practice 1: 4:00 - 5:30 a.m. (ET)
- Practice 2: 8:00 - 9:30 a.m. (ET)
Saturday, June 30
- Practice 3: 5:00 - 6:00 a.m. (ET)
- Qualifying: 8:00 a.m. (ET)
Sunday, July 1
- Race: 8:00 a.m. (ET)
Note: The race will be shown on tape-delay on FOX at 1 p.m. (ET).