Formula one, 2001 season French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours: Race preview the jpoc report

After the Nurburgring, it was clear that Formula One had seen a substantial shift in team standings. Since Renault withdrew from the sport in the wake of Jacques Villeneuve's championship, the world of F1 racing had been a McLaren-Ferrari duopoly. After the race at the Nurburgring, it was clear that this had changed. McLaren would like to have thought that it was a three way battle but in reality, even they had to accept that it now looked as though the two top teams were Ferrari and Williams. David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen both admitted as much after the European Grand Prix. McLaren's good start to the season left them still clear of Williams in the constructor's championship but it was clear that if things continued as they were, this would not last. A major factor in this was the Newey farrago which caused a substantial amount of "eye-off-the-ball-itis" over at McLaren.

Of course 2001 saw the the return of Renault but with dire results as their new engine proved to be a disaster. They had good news in the run up to the French race. Their long promised next generation engine would be available as well as new aerodymanic modifications. Would it be good fortune for Renault at their home GP? For Michelin too it was to be their first home GP since their return to F1 at the beginning of 2001. They would have a better prospect of success with Williams than with Prost despite this also being the French constructor's home race. At least, having finally brought both cars to the finish of a race Williams will have been hoping for more of the same in France.

Bridgestone hoped to counter Michelin's home advantage by bringing new tyres developed for the peculiar features of the French track. There are a large number of places at Magny Cours where the cars must accelerate from low speed and that means that the rear tyres sustain a much higher energy input from traction than at most tracks. While braking and cornering is shared by both ends of the car, only the rear wheels are driven and so, at a circuit where there is a lot more acceleration from low speeds, the rear tyres sustain a higher workload than the fronts and the normal balance of wear between the ends is upset. It's not such a simple thing as fitting harder rear tyres as that then leads to an imbalance in handling. Aerodynamic settings to combat that imbalance will only work at one specific speed and so a setup that will lead to neutral handling at one speed will lead to understeer on high speed corners and vice-versa in low speed ones. Bridgestone's special hot weather Magny Cours tyre was designed to combat that problem.

The whole 2001 season All the races and the behind the scenes games
GP of France at Magny-Cours July 1st Off track developments
GP of France at Magny-Cours July 1st Practice and qualifying
GP of France at Magny-Cours July 1st The starting grid
GP of France at Magny-Cours July 1st Race report
GP of France at Magny-Cours July 1st Results
GP of France at Magny-Cours July 1st Championship standings after the race
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