Formula 1 French
Download the NewsOnF1.com
Ferrari had another 1-2 finish at Indianapolis but a number of factors
helped them achieve that result. It was clear that BAR in particular had the
pace to take the fight to Ferrari but they stuffed up their pit stop strategy.
Despite that Sato managed to finish 3rd. Williams also looked strong but
Montoya had to start from the pitlane which meant that he had to claw his way
back. Eventually he was black flagged due to a timing mistake!
Both BAR and Renault can be expected to be strong in France and one cannot discount Williams who have been strong here in the past few years and finished 1-2 last year. But will any of them be able to match Ferrari ? Any of them could do it if they have a perfect race weekend and Ferrari struggles but that doesn't seem likely.
Here is a team by team review:
Ferrari: They are still dominant but they can see that
both BAR and Renault are closing in on them. Still if they get their
strategy right and there is no reason to believe otherwise they'll be the
team to beat.
Drivers: Michael Schumacher won the US GP after overtaking his team-mate early in the race and resisted a bit of pressure from Rubens later in the race. Had there been some serious racing between the two, the result may have been different. Here in France though Michael should have the upper hand.
Rubens Barrichello gave away a real chance of winning at Indianapolis and wasn't really allowed to fight back. He'll settle for second.
Renault: Didn't appear as strong at Indy as they were in Montreal
but here they should be strong. Their reliability problems didn't
re-appear at Indy so one would imagine that they should be fine at their
home race. Challenging Ferrari will still be difficult.
Drivers: Jarno Trulli finished 4th in the US after starting from the back of the grid. He seems to have improved greatly since his win at Monaco. He also knows that his seat at Renault isn't guaranteed for next year. Podium possible.
Fernando Alonso was on his way to score another podium finish when his tyre blew. We'll never know if he would have been quick enough to push the Ferrari's towards the end. He may get a better chance here.
BAR: Electing not to pit while the safety car was out
was huge gamble that didn't pay off. Sato would have been much closer to
Ferrari if they did what the rest of the teams did. They'll be strong
Drivers: Jenson Button retired from the US Grand Prix. He had an impressive finishing record prior to that especially given that his team-mate has retired from so many races so far this season. Assuming the car is reliable he'll have a shot at the podium.
Takuma Sato continues to impress with his courageous drives. This time his car didn't fail him and he scored his first podium finish. He will be a tough opponent for Jenson and if his car doesn't fail, it will be an interesting fight between the two. Points likely.
Williams: Had another disastrous race at Indy after
Ralf Schumacher suffered a puncture and Juan Pablo Montoya black flagged
due failing to clear the grid 15 seconds prior to the start. That was
another silly mistake from such an experienced team. One wonders if under
Patrick Head this would have happened.
Drivers: Juan Pablo Montoya was on his way to a strong points finish despite starting from the pit lane but was black flagged. It must have been frustrating for him but he'll bounce back and do well here. He could challenge for a podium place.
Ralf Schumacher crashed out of the race at Indy due to a puncture. He is recovering from the impact and should be fine for the race. He should be quick at Magny-Cours but it is unlikely that he'll repeat his win from last year.
McLaren: Have retaken 5th place from Sauber but only after
a few mishaps to the other teams. It isn't yet clear if they will be
racing the new car at Magny-Cours. If they do they'll have reliability
problems and if they don't they'll be slow!
Drivers: David Coulthard will drive a conservative race. If his car lasts he'll make it into the points.
Kimi Raikkonen did very well to finish 6th at Indy despite having 4 pit stops and still finishing ahead of his team-mate. There is no doubt that Kimi is championship material but he needs a car to deliver.
Sauber: Lost 5th place to McLaren at Indy but they seem to be
improving. They should be strong here and be able to score a point or two
if one of the leading teams struggles.
Drivers: Giancarlo Fisichella had to retire from a points scoring position at the US Grand Prix due to a hydraulic problem. He'll continue to impress especially that he is out looking for a better drive.
Felipe Massa hasn't lived up to expectations so far this season. Some of his retirements weren't his mistakes but it is doubtful that he'll remain in Formula 1 beyond this season.
Toyota: Have moved into 7th in the championship following
a decent showing at Indy. They still need to work very hard to get close
to Sauber and McLaren but they seem to be on the right track.
Drivers: Olivier Panis finished 5th at Indy and that should give him a boost for his home race. It will be hard for him to score points.
Cristiano da Matta suffered another retirement at Indy. He needs to impress if he is to keep his seat next season.
Jordan: Are back in 8th place but should be happy to be ahead of
Jaguar in the championship. They need more misfortunes for the other teams
for them to score more points!
Drivers: Nick Heidfeld will again be trying hard but his car isn't quick enough!
Giorgio Pantano is back in the racing seat after sorting out his personal problems. He only survived a few hundred metres at Indy and will be hoping to cover some more here.
Jaguar: Ranked 9th in the championship halfway between
Minardi and Jordan must be embarrassing given that they are the 'works'
team while Jordan and Minardi get customer Ford engines. There will be
serious questions on their long term viability in Formula 1.
Drivers: Mark Webber seems set to leave Jaguar given that they are nowhere near being 6th in the championship. He will continue to work hard only if he need to remind other team bosses that he is there.
Christian Klien was out of the race at Indy at the first corner which is a shame as that was a new track for him. He'll do better here as he is familiar with this track and will be closer to his team-mate.
Minardi: Have finally managed to score a point after
getting very close a couple of times this season. This will give them a
boost but unless we have another dramatic race like Indy, they won't score
Drivers: Zsolt Baumgartner was 3 laps down but finished 8th and scored the first point for Minardi since the 2002 season. Well done and lets hope this gives him a boost to get close to his team-mate.
Gianmaria Bruni was unlucky to retire at Indy at the first corner but that is racing. He'll need a lot of luck if he is to score a point this season.
Pole and see how your predictions stack up against the others.