A wasted day in Magny-Cours

Rubens Barrichello, French GP 2004

Rubens Barrichello, French GP 2004 

 © The Cahier Archive

The two test sessions for the French Grand Prix were both disrupted by inclement weather which gave the time sheets little real relevance although most of the drivers who one would expect to see at the top of the timesheets were there or thereabouts. The first session on Friday morning resulted in the two Ferraris looking rather better than reality with Rubens Barrichello two-tenths ahead of Michael Schumacher and they pair being an amazing 3.6 secs faster than the next closest car, the Williams driven by Marc Gene. The big news of the session was a big accident which saw Juan Pablo Montoya lose control of his car the high-speed Nurburgring chicane which resulted in the Williams bouncing wildly across the gravel trap before hitting the barriers. The team had to rebuild the chassis before the second session but this too was disrupted by rain. The result was that the day ended with Cristiano da Mattta setting the fastest time of the second session, ahead of Jarno Trulli, Jenson Button, Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, David Coulthard, Mark Webber, Kimi Raikkonen, Barrichello, Olivier Panis and Giancarlo Fisichella. As both sessions were declared to have been wet the teams have been given until midday on Saturday to make their choice of tyres for the qualifying.


Michael Schumacher (5th, 1:16.397): "A rather different Friday to normal and we were not able to run much because of the weather. We decided there was little point in running in the wet as the forecast is for dry weather over the next two days. We preferred to only go out in the dry and we did manage to sort out the car a little bit. But to be honest, I did not get much of a feeling as to how it is going."

Rubens Barrichello (10th, 1:17.094): "It was not a difficult day because the weather meant we did very few laps. The car was okay this morning and in the second session I only went out on used tyres so it is hard to have an impression of how the car is performing. We will have to wait until tomorrow to define the right car set-up and tyre choice."

Jean Todt, Team Principal: "The French Grand Prix signals the start of the second half of the season. This is a special race for me as I certainly cannot forget that it was here on 1st July eleven years ago that I began my career with Ferrari. Today was affected by the changeable weather. The alternating rain and sun has led the FIA to put back the deadline by when all drivers have to make a tyre choice to midday tomorrow. In any case, with the few laps we managed to do, we were able to get a rough idea of the situation which will be able to evaluate it in greater depth in tomorrow's free practice. We know we can count on a competitive car-engine-Bridgestone tyre package, but it will be interesting to see how we perform relative to our rivals, given that some teams have brought out heavily revised cars here."

Ross Brawn, Technical Director: "The weather meant that it was very difficult to get any conclusive data. In fact the FIA has given the teams the option of deferring tyre choice until 12 o'clock tomorrow. This means we will still be allowed to run both types of tyre tomorrow morning during free practice. The weather forecast for tomorrow is dry so it should be possible to assess the dry weather tyres. Our car was okay from what we could see. We chose not to run in the wet as the forecast for the rest of the weekend is dry and we did not see the point in using up too much engine mileage."


Juan Pablo Montoya (13th, 1:17.556): "Not exactly the best way to start a race weekend, really. I went out in the morning when it was raining quite heavily and my car was aqua-planing so much that I just could not keep it on the track. I had quite a big crash and the car was seriously damaged, but luckily enough I walked away with no physical consequences at all. Anyway, after my car came back to the garage and was thoroughly checked and fixed, I could go out again for the last half of the second session. A big thanks to the mechanics who were very quick in putting my car back on track. But still weather conditions were changing so quickly, that I could not get too much running either."

Marc Gene (14th, 1:17.688): "We had no easy running, today, but in spite of the continuously changing track conditions, I managed to have a long run and we still gathered some useful information and data about tyres and set-up. However it is difficult to say where everyone is, since the track was different in different moments. I am quite pleased with my performance, but I was one of the first to go out on dry tyres. Now we are looking at the setup for tomorrow."

Sam Michael, Technical Director: "It was a difficult first day, especially due to Juan's accident in the first session. The mechanics did a good job to get the car repaired in time for the second session. Marc did a good job as well. With the limited mileage we have covered today, the new aero parts we have brought to Magny-Cours are working fine. It's too early to say how competitive we are here; we'll see tomorrow."

Dr. Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Because of weather conditions continuously changing from dry to wet in both sessions, it was impossible to follow our programme as scheduled. At least Marc did a good number of laps and the recorded data will help to evaluate the tyres. Fortunately the BMW P84 engine was not damaged when Juan had the accident. Big thank you to everybody in the team who helped to get the car repaired in only two and a half hours."


David Coulthard (7th, 1:16.464): "Our running today was affected by the wet weather, so there is very little data to work with, but it's the same for everybody. Fortunately we don't have to make a decision about tyres until lunchtime tomorrow, so hopefully the weather will stay dry. However, so far so good, but we will only really know how good the 19B is once we have completed qualifying and the race."

Kimi Raikkonen (9th, 1:16.794): "We only did one run today because of the weather, which is a shame. However the car felt good, but that is all I can say at the moment. There is definitely more to come as I didn't even push particularly hard. It's difficult to say how big a step forward we have taken, but it should become clear as the weekend progresses."

Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "Our weather forecast today proved to be quite accurate. As a result we limited our running to the very short dry period in the second session. Consistent with the regulations tyre choice has been deferred until after tomorrow's two practice sessions which our forecasters believe will be dry. Both drivers found their cars devoid of any serious negative handling characteristics, so our normal set- up work will be incorporated into tomorrow's tyre programme."

Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Not a bad beginning considering the limited amount of laps we completed in the second session with Kimi doing ten and David eight laps. It's too early to judge the car's performance in comparison to the opposition."


Jarno Trulli (2nd, 1:16.206):

Fernando Alonso (6th, 1:16.454):

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "Today's rain meant we learned very little at all after completing a limited number of laps. The final positions are not significant because the circuit conditions were changing throughout the runs we managed to complete, and neither driver was able to make any meaningful conclusions on the car balance. Of course, we now do not have to make our tyre choice until after practice tomorrow morning, and that will give us a higher workload than usual."

Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "Our restricted running today has only allowed us to collect impressions, rather than any firm conclusions, and we have significantly less data available for analysis than is usual. This is not a critical problem at a circuit we know well, but we will be working on hypotheses when it comes to looking at cooling, gearing and other parameters. It leaves us with plenty of work tomorrow morning, and a much shorter time in which to make our decisions than we are used to."


Anthony Davidson (3rd, 1:16.231): "The rain has been a little frustrating today but not entirely unexpected. We haven't been able to get anywhere near as much running as we'd hoped but sufficient dry running for what is likely to be a dry but cool weekend ahead. The car felt good in all conditions and I was comfortable pushing hard all day. Once again it feels good to be the fastest of the third drivers today and P3 in the second session."

Jenson Button (4th, 1:16.397): "We normally run a longer programme, but there have been such changeable weather conditions, with a lot of stopping and starting, so we haven't achieved all we had hoped for. Luckily we got all three cars out in the dry and we can choose our tyres after tomorrow's free practice. I think that we have a good tyre, and the car really feels good. We just need to make a few adjustments to the set-up and I think that we will be up there tomorrow pushing hard with Ferrari."

Takuma Sato (17th, 1:17.967): "We were not able to do much running due to the changeable weather but we were at least able to run our dry tyre session which will be useful considering that the rest of the weekend is expected to be dry. We had a productive test at Jerez, so we are confident for tomorrow and we now have to see what the weather brings in order to make our tyre choice somewhat later than usual after free practice tomorrow. I am really looking forward to another strong weekend like we had at Indianapolis."

David Richards, Team Principal: "The weather we have experienced today is what we would usually expect next weekend for the British Grand Prix and has resulted in rather frustrating and fruitless testing, as it is expected to be dry for the race on Sunday. Nonetheless, the short dry running we got suggests that we should be very competitive."

Geoffrey Willis, Technical Director: "It has been very difficult to draw strong conclusions from either of today's sessions since the conditions changed from fully wet to fully dry several times. Despite this we have had no problems with the cars and all three drivers were happy with the balance in all conditions. We now have the opportunity to delay our tyre choice until after tomorrow's free practice running and we are optimistic about the weekend ahead."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Honda Engineering Director: "I was pleased to see that our drivers were quick in such changeable weather conditions. It doesn't worry me that we haven't done too much dry running today as everyone is in the same position."


Giancarlo Fisichella (12th, 1:17.324): "I did only one lap today on new tyres in the dry, so there's not much to say after the unusual conditions that we experienced. I didn't go out this morning and this afternoon I only did a few laps before switching the tyres. The day was nothing special!"

Felipe Massa (18th, 1:18.614): "It's a shame things were inconclusive today because of the rain. There was no point running this morning, and the rain came this afternoon while I was in the pits for my new tyres. All I got was a chance to check out the changes made to the track since I last raced here in 2002. We had a good test in Barcelona last week, though, so I'm optimistic if we have a dry day tomorrow and on Sunday."

Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "With the very unusual wet conditions that we had this morning and this afternoon it wasn't possible to draw any special conclusions about the day. Neither car had any technical problems, and we'll start afresh tomorrow."


Mark Webber (8th, 1:16.745): "I managed 14 laps today which is not exactly satisfactory given what we were planning to do. Unfortunately the weather conditions really hampered our running time and we had to make do with that limited number of laps. All of the teams are in the same boat though so there is not a lot we can do about it. During the time I was on track though, the R5 felt good and the balance was fine. I am now preparing for tomorrow and I will be looking for more track time so it should be a busy day."

Christian Klien (16th, 1:17.936): "Today was quite a difficult day with us only completing ten laps in dry conditions. The rain was quite unpredictable and just as the track was drying out it started raining again. This does make it difficult for us to complete our testing programme but we did our best and I am pleased with the results. I like this track and feel comfortable here and I am now focusing on the task ahead tomorrow."

Bjorn Wirdheim (20th, 1:19.179): "Today was not ideal for us as the bad weather affected our running time quite extensively. I tried my best to work on tyres during the morning session but it was so difficult with the conditions changing so rapidly. I am pleased to see that we now have until tomorrow at midday to make our tyre choice, otherwise it would have been a very frustrating decision to have to make."

Mark Gillan, Head of Vehicle Performance: "The team and the drivers did a good job today considering we spent a lot of it in the garage. Once the rain started it never really stopped and this limited the running programme. We did keep sending Mark, Christian and Bjorn out as often as we could but there is no point running in the wet when you are not learning anything new. Instead we will now be looking to make the most of tomorrow and we will certainly be looking to complete many more laps ahead of the afternoon qualifying session. The R5 was reliable today and the drivers seem to be very comfortable with it. We are continuing to develop our powertrain so both drivers should be benefiting from this over the course of the weekend."


Cristiano da Matta (1st, 1:15.518): "Obviously it is nice to finish top of the timesheets in the second session today, but that does not necessarily mean anything. We timed our last run to perfection and went out on a new set of tyres when the track was at its best. Our main objective for today was to carry out the tyre evaluation, which was pretty impossible in the ever-changing wet-dry track conditions. At least we have the two practice sessions tomorrow morning in order to do our back-to-back comparison before we have to make our final decision by noon. A very inconclusive day, really."

Olivier Panis (11th, 1:17.303): "Due to the constantly changing weather conditions it was a quite difficult day for us. However, we tried to concentrate on our programme and hopefully we can find some valuable information from the data in preparation for tomorrow. At the end of the session we decided not to go out any more with a new set of tyres and to set some faster times. Nevertheless I am really happy with the car as it looks quite competitive. It is nice to be back racing in France in front of my home fans and I hope we can give them a good result to celebrate on Sunday. We will get a clearer indication in tomorrow's practice sessions."

Ricardo Zonta (15th, 1:17.735): "We didn't obtain any meaningful results from either of today's practice sessions because the weather conditions were so changeable. My last time of running at Magny-Cours was back in 2000, so I took a few laps in the first session to learn the modifications to the final sector, which are new to me. In the second session, I made a mistake on a dry tyre run. I was carrying too much speed into the third corner and I drove through a large patch of standing water, which appeared to be dry as I was approaching it. This sent me into the gravel trap, but it was easy to get back on track and fortunately we did not lose too much time. Like everyone, the inconsistent track conditions affected our programme a lot today."


Giorgio Pantano (19th, 1:18.711): "Well it was quite interesting today! The weather changed all the time and every quarter of an hour the track was different: wet, dry, combinations of the two, and practice was quite entertaining as a result. However, it was quite difficult to understand the tyres, the set-up and everything with the conditions. In the end I think we got to understand a bit and we know the problems with the car so we'll see what happens with the weather tomorrow."

Nick Heidfeld (21st, 1:19.270): "It was a disappointing day for everybody really as the bad weather conditions restricted everybody's work. It is probably more of a hindrance for our team though; because we haven't done as much testing as other teams over the last few months. We have not gathered enough data for tomorrow so it's going to be difficult to make the tyre choiceso it is good this decision is delayed until midday tomorrow."

Timo Glock (23rd, 1:19.490): "The beginning was a bit difficult, with the track dry then wet then dry again at the end. The car felt good in the conditions, it was fun to drive and quick. Unfortunately at the end when the track had dried we had brake problems and so missed the last few minutes of the session."

James Robinson, Director of Race and Test Engineering: "Obviously everybody experienced the same very changeable weather as we did today. We felt it was important to keep Timo running to try and do the tyre work when the track was at its driest and it was about being out on the right tyre at the right time. We accomplished nowhere near as much as we wanted to but we have got some work done. We needed to do some wet running with one of the tyres that we hadn't had a chance to run in the wet before but otherwise with two wet sessions today we decided to conserve engine miles on the race cars to assist with reliability for Sunday."

Eddie Jordan, Team Principal:


Gianmaria Bruni (22nd, 1:19.349): "It was a very changeable day from a weather standpoint. We started with dry tyres, then went to shallow wets, then full wets, and then back to shallow wets and dries again! At the end of the day, it was okay, although we weren't able to show our real pace. I'm sure tomorrow will be a better day, and I'm looking forward to making further progress."

Zsolt Baumgartner (24th, 1:19.636): "I was happy with the wet conditions and didn't find the track too bad at all. The mechanics had to work really hard changing tyres and resetting the car as the track surface either became wet or dried out. They did a great job. I was a little bit upset that I wasn't able to achieve the lap time that we felt should have been possible today, but I was happy with my performance in the wet conditions. We'll be hoping for some rain in the race."

Bas Leinders (25th, 1:19.914): "Obviously, the rain interrupted our normal Friday programme, and we also lost some time with electrical problems in the first session and then an engine misfire in the second. Even so, we managed to find a set-up that produced good chassis stability in the corners, and as a result, the lap times were quite good, all things considered."

Paul Stoddart, Team Principal: "Two of the Minardi drivers found themselves in seventh and eighth positions at the end of the first official practice session this morning, and indeed, all three drivers were holding their own in the rain-affected second session before the track dried out. It's clear both our drivers and our cars react well in these conditions, helped enormously by our Bridgestone tyres. Let's hope these conditions prevail, as they will allow Minardi to fight for a higher-than-normal grid position."

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