Guest Author - Christine Blachford
The French Grand Prix has been known in the past to be a relatively dull affair. Overtaking can be difficult at Magny-Cours, and the drivers are never very happy to be travelling to rural France after the decadence of Montreal.
However, we have yet to see a boring race this year, and France was no different. During qualifying, it looked as though it was going to be a Ferrari whitewash. They secured both of the top grid spots, with no one rivalling their times, and nearest competitor Hamilton suffering from a ten place grid drop – from the pit lane incident in Canada.
There was talk of rain, approaching the weekend, but throughout the three days of track action, we only experienced a couple of showers, nothing to upset any of the strategies.
The race got off to a clean start, with only a small incident between Button and Bourdais, that led to the Honda’s retirement a few laps later. Hamilton made a bold move on Vettel, but had to cut the chicane after missing the braking point. The stewards investigated the incident, and decided that he had taken the place from Vettel unfairly, and therefore handed out a drive through penalty. It was not McLaren’s weekend at all, after team mate Kovalainen had also started five places down on the grid after impeding another driver in qualifying.
Ferrari were pulling away at the front, but Raikkonen had a problem with his exhaust, that saw the lead switch to Massa. The errant exhaust was hanging off Raikkonen’s car and flapping around, but even through a pit stop, the team did nothing. The car survived the race, hanging on to second place, although there had been a hole melted in the side of the bodywork.
In the mid-field it was very competitive, with drivers out of position fighting with others. Nelson Piquet amazingly held up Hamilton for a great stretch of time, and later on overtook his team mate Alonso after the latter ran wide at the corner. This will hopefully have impressed his team enough to give him another chance. Trulli was the other notable performer, finishing in third and on the podium. It was just what the team wanted as a tribute to their ex-team Principal Ove Andersson who was recently killed in a rally accident.
Bernie Ecclestone has never been shy of admitting he wants the Grand Prix to move to Paris, and every year for the last few has appeared to be Magny-Cours last. However, they have a contract for next year, redevelopment plans are in place, and things are looking hopeful for a return there in 2009.