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Sun, 2004-Jul-04

The French grand prix at Magny-Cours

It's shaping up to be an interesting race tonight at Magny-Cours, to be aired on channel ten at 10:30 Brisbane time. There is only a 1.1 second gap between the qualifying positions at the front of the grid and position 12 where Australian Mark Webber starts the race, yet a full .3 of a second of that is made up between first and second positions.

Spain and Renaut's Fernando Alonso heads up the grid ahead of series leader Michael Schumacher of Germany and Ferrari. Michael's teammate in a nearly identical ferrari is stuck down in tenth position. That's our old favourite Rubens Barrichello of Brazil. In his defence, he was unable to participate in pre-qualifying due to hydrolic problems.

The big news of this race and the previous race in America is the fate of Michael's brother Ralf Schumacher.

After a 300km/h impact with a concrete barrier Ralf was originally cleared by race doctors of Indianapolis and transported to his Germany for observation. It was only there that doctors discovered multiple fractures in the 29-year-old's back that may have prevented him being transported at all if they had been discrovered earlier. In addition to the scare it has put into Ralf, his teammates at Williams, and his many fans, his broken back guarantees he stays out of formaula 1 for between two and three months.

Replacing Ralf at the wheel this week will be Spain's Marc Gene who is in a respectable eigth place on the grid.

The race in Indianapolis was a bit of a mechnical bloodbath. Webber with his new engine suffered a terminal oil leak and was unable to finish the race, but was in good company. Only nine runners made it to the finish line. According to the race results, we had two engine failures, two gearbox failures, one disqualification to Juan Pablo Montoya for failing to clear the grid quickly enough when his car failed to start and he made a mad dash to his backup car, and an amazing six contestents out due to accidents. Many of the accidents were related to debris on the road from earlier incidents.

One of the things that makes the french grand prix interesting is the new cars or vehicle modification that tend to come out about this time of year. By this time most teams have gathered sufficient data to begin some major changes in their push towards end of season glory.

Magny-Cours is a 70 lap race with plenty of ways to run it. It's a favourite of drivers and we'll hopefully see some really interesting pit strategy. The narrrow separation of the top 12 drivers may indicate that the front runners are carrying more fuel than usual, or may indicate that advances have been made by some of the mid-level teams. Watching this unravel will be one of the thrills of this race.