2006 European Grand Prix - Race 5/18

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2006 European Grand Prix - Race 5/18

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2005 European Grand Prix
Grid and Results



2005 European Grand Prix Grid

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2005 European Grand Prix Results

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2005 European Grand Prix Lap Chart

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Current Standings

2006 Drivers Championship.
Code:
[b]Pos	Driver			Nationality	Team			Points[/b]
1	Fernando Alonso		Spanish		Renault			36
2	Michael Schumacher	German		Ferrari			21
3	Kimi Räikkönen		Finnish		McLaren-Mercedes	18
=5	Giancarlo Fisichella	Italian		Renault			15
=5	Juan Pablo Montoya	Colombian	McLaren-Mercedes	15
6	Jenson Button		British		Honda			13
7	Felipe Massa		Brazilian	Ferrari			9
8	Ralf Schumacher		German		Toyota			7
9	Mark Webber		Australian	Williams-Cosworth	6
=11	Nick Heidfeld		German		Sauber-BMW		5
=11	Jacques Villeneuve	Canadian	Sauber-BMW		5
=13	Rubens Barrichello	Brazilian	Honda			2
=13	Nico Rosberg		German		Williams-Cosworth	2
=15	David Coulthard		British		RBR-Ferrari		1
=15	Christian Klien		Austrian	RBR-Ferrari		1

Click here for a more in depth view of the Drivers Championship

2006 Constructors Championship.
Code:
[b]Pos	Constructor 		Points[/b]
1	Renault			51
2	McLaren-Mercedes	33
3	Ferrari			30
4	Honda			15
5	Sauber-BMW		10
6	Williams-Cosworth	8
7	Toyota			7
8	RBR-Ferrari		2

Click here for a more in depth view of the Constructors Championship
 
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Europe GP Preview: WilliamsF1

Formula One moves to Germany this weekend for the fifth round of the Championship, the European Grand Prix. Sunday's race marks the 36th occasion that the Nürburgring has hosted a Formula One event since the legendary Nordschleife was first used as a race and test track in 1927.

Following a major overhaul of safety standards in Formula One, the original circuit has experienced several facelifts over the years, the last of which was completed in 1984. Today's configuration is considerably shorter than its 22kms predecessor, stretching through just five kilometres of the picturesque Eifel region. Located 80kms south-west of Cologne, the Nürburgring will provide the stage for Nico Rosberg's first home Grand Prix and, together with his team mate, Mark Webber, both drivers are looking forward to racing at one of the more traditional venues on the calendar.

A change in date for this year's British Grand Prix forced the teams into an early test session at the Northamptonshire circuit after the Grand Prix at Imola. Both the team's race drivers, together with Alex Wurz, were on hand over the three days during which a series of tyre compounds and casings were evaluated in preparation for the June race, while a number of revised mechanical and aero components, including a new rear wing geometry and brake materials, were track tested. Just over 2,800 kilometres of data was recorded over the three day period. Nico and Alex returned to Silverstone on Friday for a filming day for Allianz's "Inside Grand Prix" series.

As part of the team's on-going development programme, both Mark and Nico's FW28s will be rolled out with various aerodynamic upgrades in Germany in a determined effort to further improve overall competitiveness.

As a rhythmic, undulating track, each 5.148 kilometre lap of the 60 lap European Grand Prix will see the drivers negotiate eight left and eight right hand corners, a complete mix of slow, medium and high speed turns, joined by several straights. Following the extensive re-modeling, the Nürburgring invariably promotes some great overtaking, particularly in the stadium section and at the exit of the final chicane upon entering the first corner. Unpredictable weather conditions common to the mountainous Eifel region can also impact the outcome of the European Grand Prix.

Mark Webber: "Although our qualifying and race pace at Imola was not particularly strong, the most positive outcome from the weekend was that we managed to get some reliability back into the car. Bridgestone has made good progress since the winter, but one of the biggest challenges we still face is getting the tyre selection correct for every event. We will have to wait and see how we fare against our main opposition at the Nürburgring, but we will, of course, look to optimise our strategy and tyre usage over the course of the weekend to get the best possible result. The weather at the Nürburgring can be very unpredictable at this time of the year, so the race can sometimes be very mixed."

Nico Rosberg: "It's going to be great driving at one of my "home races." I've enjoyed some success at the Nürburgring in the past so I'll be drawing on that in my first Formula One outing. The circuit is good fun; it's nicely flowing and has various types of corners. As a team, we'll be looking to improve upon the recent progress that we've made, particularly at the Silverstone test this week."

Sam Michael, Technical Director, WilliamsF1: "The Nürburgring is a high downforce circuit with a couple of good overtaking opportunities over the lap, particularly at the chicane before the pit entry. With a lot of continuous lateral loading on the car, the toughness of the tyres is important. The Nürburgring is a track at which Williams has traditionally performed well at and we are looking forward to a competitive weekend.

Following our continual development programme, we will have some aerodynamic upgrades on the FW28 at this race to improve the cars' competitiveness again. Strategy will involve either a one or two stop race due to the current qualifying format, which means another reason to look after the tyres during the race. Bridgestone have bought two known casings and compounds here and they should work well regardless of the weather. We will be increasing our Friday afternoon programme with both the race drivers to give them more track running and set-up time at this GP."

Simon Corbyn, Head of F1 Race Engineering, Cosworth: "Mark and Nico's Cosworth CA2006 engines will be on their second race events at the Nürburgring. This race is typically unpredictable due to the nature of the track, and the notoriously changeable weather conditions, it will therefore be an advantage for both drivers, Nico in particular, to be able to run more laps on the Friday and we'll be working with Williams to support this."
 
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Europe GP Preview: McLaren

Round five of the 2006 Formula One World Championship, the European Grand Prix, takes place this weekend at Germany's Nürburgring. The race is the first home event of the season for Mercedes-Benz, followed by the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in July.

In the two weeks since the San Marino Grand Prix, Team McLaren Mercedes has completed a productive test session at Silverstone, covering over 1,680km in preparation for Sunday's race, with Kimi Raikkonen, Juan Pablo Montoya, Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett in attendance.

The European Grand Prix was first held at the Brands Hatch circuit in the UK, in 1983. In the 14 races since then, the event has travelled to Donington in the UK and Jerez before settling at the Nürburgring. The first race at the German track took place in 1984 and was won by Alain Prost in his McLaren TAG Turbo.

Set in countryside some 80 kms south-west of Cologne, the Nürburgring stands in the shadow of the epic Nordschleife, which was built in 1927. The legendary 22 km drive through the Eifel mountains was used as a test track for the German automotive industry in addition to being a race circuit, regularly staging the German Grand Prix. The inaugural race on the track was won by Rudolf Caracciola in the Mercedes S.

The Nürburgring was also the birth place of the Silver Arrows, when in June 1934 Manfred von Brauchitsch won the Eifel race in a Mercedes W25. In order to meet the weight limit of 750kg, the car's white paint work had to be stripped the night before the race exposing its silver aluminium body. However safety concerns saw the German Grand Prix transferred to Hockenheim in 1977.

In 1984 the revised track returned to the calendar, in the form of a modern Grand Prix venue, and has held the European Grand Prix on nine occasions. Further revisions to the track since then have included the addition of a 583 metre section called the Mercedes Arena prior to the 2002 race.

In every year since 1995 Mercedes-Benz has presented a special programme to entertain the visitors of the Mercedes-Benz grandstand between the practice and qualifying sessions. This creates additional value at no extra cost to the spectators. In the safe driving centre next to the grandstand the visitors can experience driving lessons onboard with a professional driving instructor. The display areas behind the grandstand and the vending area next to the paddock entrance are meeting points for the fans of all teams. Live music will be performed, several contests with exclusive prizes will be held. Interview and autograph sessions, which will be announced well in advance, will be held with the Team McLaren Mercedes Formula One drivers, Mercedes-Benz DTM drivers and members of the Team McLaren Mercedes team management.

Kimi Raikkonen: "Although it is not like some of the wider tracks such as Bahrain and Turkey, there are a couple of genuine chances to overtake at the Nürburgring, such as the chicane, the first corner with its wide entrance and also as you go into to the Mercedes Arena. At Imola it was impossible to pass even if you had the pace, so hopefully we will be able to make the most of our strategy for the qualifying and race and get a good result here. Although the nature of the track means you can build up a good rhythm, there are some odd cambers and bumps that you have to watch out for. Also, as with San Marino, Nürburgring is another track where you really use the kerbs pretty aggressively, to make sure you get a fast lap time. Following my exit on the final lap at the Nürburgring last year as a result of a flat spotted tyre, I am hoping to have a less dramatic race this year; however this track seems to always see exciting and close racing."

Juan Pablo Montoya: "It was good to get on the podium at Imola and get some points. The strategy worked well and hopefully we can build on that and continue to move forward in Europe.The Nürburgring is a fairly mixed track, with some straights, hairpins, different types of corners, however I would say it is dominated by slow corners. As a result, we will run with a medium-high downforce here and traction and grip are more important than at a super fast track such as Canada. It does tend to be quite grippy here as it is pretty smooth, but there is a lot of understeer and this is always a focus of the free practice sessions to minimise this. We have been testing at Silverstone for three days following San Marino, it was an interesting test and we had some good running with new components for this race. As this is a home race for Mercedes-Benz, I hope we can put on a good show for the home fans."

Martin Whitmarsh: "We had a positive week at the Silverstone test, completing the proving process on developments to the chassis and engine, and it will be interesting to see how they translate to the race track. The character of the Nürburgring lends itself to closely fought racing, with the opportunities to overtake, and with the competitiveness we have seen so far this season across a number of teams, it should be another hard fought race. As always, our primary target at Team McLaren Mercedes is to take the victory, and we are pushing forward with our development programme strongly as we need to make a performance step to arrive at the European Grand Prix with the pace to challenge for the win. The track does not see an over-dependence on a particular element of the car, be it the chassis, engine or tyres, and as a result will provide an opportunity to maximise performance of the package as a whole. The weather at the Nürburgring is notoriously unpredictable and could be a factor for the outcome of the race."

Norbert Haug: "The Nürburgring is the birth place of the Silver Arrow, which will celebrate its 72nd anniversary during this year’s Grand Prix. In our first home race in 2006 the strain on all team members who work outside of the pits will be bigger than previously at Imola for example, however we all look forward to these efforts. After Imola we tested intensively at Silverstone and covered a total of 1,689 kilometres. The Nürburgring’s layout is a good mixture of very fast, medium fast and slow corners. Right in front of the Mercedes grandstand the lap starts with a dramatic hairpin leading into the Mercedes Arena, which is particularly interesting because this twisty part of the track allows different racing lines. We have always been fast at the 'Ring and last year we held the lead until the last lap, when Kimi’s suspension broke due to vibrations he encountered since the halfway point of the race because of a flat-spotted tyre. To hold the same position through to the finish line would be the greatest reward for everybody in the team who had continuously worked hard since we began testing on 23rd January."
 
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Europe GP Preview: Super Aguri

Super Aguri heads to the Nürburgring circuit in Germany this week for the fifth round of the 2006 FIA Formula One World Championship. The historic track features a mixture of very slow through to high-speed corners; from the revised Turn 1 to the very high speed 'S' that follows the hairpin. The undulating circuit used for the F1 race is 5.148 kilometres or 3.199 miles long, equating to 308.863 kilometres or 191.938 miles over the 60-lap race distance.

Takuma Sato: "I enjoy racing at the Nürburgring mainly because of the layout – it is a challenging circuit with flowing high-speed corners and an undulating track. I have special memories of driving here, not only from F1, but also from my Junior Formula days. At the European Grand Prix we will be testing the latest spec of Bridgestone tyre and an aero update package that we hope will help us in the medium to high-speed corners that require a lot of downforce and good car balance. The race is earlier in the season this year so we are unsure of how the weather will affect us, but the Nürburgring is a great circuit and always produces an exciting race so we are waiting for the weekend to arrive and to be back on-track again."

Yuji Ide: "Firstly, I would like to apologise again to Christian for what happened in Imola and I very much hope that he is ok. I am new to Formula One and have had very little running in the car, so I have been trying to drive safely and to improve with every race. For the European Grand Prix I have been studying the Nürburgring circuit very closely by watching videos of the past races and learning the race lines. I am looking forward to the race and hopefully will be able to show some improvements."

Aguri Suzuki, Team Principal: "As most people know, we have been busy preparing our new car, the SA06. As a result it would have been very hard for us to test last week with our limited resources, so we have decided to run a third car with Franck Montagny in Germany in order to collect more the data from SA05. We are happy to have Franck back with the team as his experience and knowledge will be of great help in addition to the valuable information fed back to us from Takuma and Yuji. Super Aguri will have a new aero package and Bridgestone tyres to test at the European Grand Prix, so we are looking forward to another challenging weekend."
 
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Europe GP Preview: Midland

Following an extensive three-day programme at Silverstone Circuit to evaluate tyre compounds and technical upgrades, MF1 Racing heads to the picturesque Eifel region of western Germany for Round 5 of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship: the European GP.

Buoyed by the results of the latest test, the team hopes to capitalize on its ever-improving pace with an impressive showing at the 5.148 km-long Nürburgring, a circuit that elicits mostly fond memories from MF1's drivers. Apart from being the venue for victories by Christijan Albers and Adrian Sutil in lower formulae (2003 DTM and 2005 F3 EuroSeries, respectively), the 'Ring was also the setting for a rain-soaked Grand Prix victory by Johnny Herbert - now MF1's Sporting Relations Manager - back in 1999.

Tiago Monteiro: "After the race in Imola, the team and I had a good three days of testing at Silverstone, with many laps run and some good data gained from all the tyre testing we did. We are pretty happy with our tyre choice for the Nürburgring, a track where you need lots of traction to put in quick times, especially coming out of the hairpin corners. We're also confident of making a little improvement, speed-wise, after this test and I hope it will be reflected on track this weekend. With so many strong teams in F1 this year, it won't be an easy task to move up the grid. I am also aware that we need to find some more speed, especially in qualifying. But we are a resilient team, and we will continue to fight with everything we have."

Christijan Albers: "I am happy to be in the car again after my big shunt in Imola. Hopefully, we can make a good start this time around and be in a better position to move up the field. I know this circuit quite well, having enjoyed a fair bit of success here during my F3 and DTM days. Since the Belgian GP will not be staged this year, this race is more or less my home race, being the closest one to Holland. There will be plenty of Dutch fans in attendance, which always makes me proud. Seeing all the orange in the grandstands gives me a boost - some extra motivation to do my very best and give something back to the fans and the hard-working members of my team. Their support is very important to me, and they deserve nothing less than my maximum effort."

Adrian Sutil: "I'm very happy to be doing my first official Friday practice in Germany. I really like the Nürburgring, and have fond memories of winning an F3 EuroSeries race here last year. I hope I can put in a strong performance and help the team as best as possible. I'm well prepared for this day and really looking forward to it!"

Dominic Harlow, Chief Race and Test Engineer: "The Nürburgring offers a range of corners within a fraction over 5 km of track. Normally, the cars suffer from understeer here and we will be working hard to improve the balance - particularly on new tyres - as we try to bring our qualifying performance closer to what we are capable of in terms of race pace. We have a couple of performance updates for the M16 following our testing at Silverstone last week, as well as an engine upgrade as we fit our third set of two-race engines. We expect race strategy to be similar to what we have seen at other events recently but, of course, the weather at the Nurburgring is notorious. The race is also taking place a little bit earlier this year, so anything could happen!

Johnny Herbert, Sporting Relations Manager: "People still comment on my win here in 1999, saying how surprising it was, coming as it did with a smaller team (Stewart Grand Prix). We were in a similar situation back then as Midland are today: struggling with some bad luck and not quite performing up to our potential. But it just goes to show how big a role determination and sharp thinking play into it. We never stopped believing in ourselves and kept working hard to improve, just as everyone in the Midland team does. Hopefully, we can witness a similar reversal of fortune this weekend and taste a bit of success."
 
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Europe GP Preview: Honda

The Honda Racing F1 Team heads to the historic Nürburgring in Germany this week for round five of the 2006 FIA Formula One World Championship. After a challenging race in Imola, the team has been working hard at the Operations Centre in Brackley and on the test track at Silverstone to further develop the RA106 race car and improve its competitiveness.

A successful three-day test with race drivers Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button, plus third driver Anthony Davidson, has left the team feeling positive as it heads towards the back to back European and Spanish Grands Prix.

Rubens Barrichello: "I always enjoy going to the Nürburgring, particularly as it is one of the tracks where I achieved a win, in 2002. It is a challenging circuit for the drivers and has some interesting characteristics like great high-speed corners and interesting undulations. It's normally very cold when we go there so we are expecting all the efforts that we have made on our tyre-warming issues over the last few tests to pay off. We also worked really hard at Silverstone this week on the set-up of the car, and seeing the results, we are hoping for a strong performance at the Nürburgring."

Jenson Button: "We had a positive test at Silverstone this week in which we made good progress and took another step closer to the competition. Apart from a podium at the Nürburgring two years ago, I haven't had that much success at this track. It's a very low grip circuit with a lot of corners off-camber so when you arrive into the corner, it's vital to get the correct line. I think we are starting to see our race pace improve relative to our strong qualifying pace and we should feel positive as we head to Germany."

Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: "We had a productive test at Silverstone which we hope will improve our performance for Nürburgring. As a result of this test and despite the disappointing end result in Imola, the team is going into the weekend feeling positive. Of course, the true measure of our competitiveness will only emerge on Sunday."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Management Board Member - Honda Racing F1 Team, Engineering Director - Honda Racing Development: "We made our F1 debut at the old Nürburgring in 1964 and we are determined to demonstrate the true strength of the RA106 chassis and engine package next weekend."
 
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Europe GP Preview: Toyota

The European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring is the closest that the Formula 1 event comes to the gates of Toyota Motorsport's factory. The German circuit is a short drive from the team's Cologne base and that always guarantees a full turn-out of Panasonic Toyota Racing fans and employees in the grandstands. The entire workforce from the factory receives an invitation to the event and it always means there is a special atmosphere for the whole team. Nonetheless the race team will be as focused as ever as it seeks to add to its points total from 2006.

The Nürburgring is close to the TMG factory and to Kerpen, where Ralf Schumacher grew up.

Ralf Schumacher: "We struggled on race day in Imola but our pace shows that we've made big steps forward since the start of the season. We initially struggled because our car concept made it difficult to get grip out of hard compounds in low temperatures. But we have worked hard on our set-up and we reaped the benefits for our podium in Melbourne. Now we hope to regain that good form with another good result at our home race. I've always really enjoyed racing at the Nürburgring, which is always greatly affected by the weather. I won my first Formula Junior race at the track and I won the grand prix there in 2003. It will be great to have some of the people from the factory there. That support will be really appreciated so let's hope we can give them a result to cheer."

Jarno Trulli will seek better luck at the Nürburgring, where he took his first podium in 1999.

Jarno Trulli: "I've had nothing but bad luck in the races so far this year so it's time for a change. Now that we have resolved our set-up problems we can concentrate on pushing the team forwards. At the Nürburgring the weather will be a crucial factor and I am glad to know the circuit well from my time in German F3. That experience helps to predict what the weather could do and to plan strategy, as it did when I finished second in a rain-affected race there in 1999. It would have course be great to challenge that high again. Our pace has been improving in recent races so we will push hard to try and maintain that momentum. I know that the package is good and it would be especially satisfying to perform well in front of the massed ranks of Toyota employees and fans."

The European Grand Prix will hinge on what the skies bring to the region for race weekend.

Pascal Vasselon – General Manager Car Design and Development: "Unlike its predecessor the Nordschleife, the current Nürburgring is an average track for Formula 1. It ranks in the mid-range for most of the important items like downforce levels, braking energy and tyres. But what will be especially challenging this year is the weather. It's still early in the year and in May anything could happen in that part of the world – sun, rain or possibly even snow! You can wake up and the temperature could be anything between 0 and 35 degrees. So we have to anticipate that and we have to make sure we cover any eventuality, especially when it comes to tyres. We spent last week testing at Paul Ricard working on some new parts and especially tyre choice and that leaves us confident that we will be able to react to any conditions that we can face."
 
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Europe GP Preview: BMW

The BMW Sauber F1 Team looks forward with heightened anticipation to its home race, the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. Before the fifth race of the 2006 FIA Formula One World Championship gets underway, there are a number of items on the agenda to be ticked off: the BMW Sauber F1 Team Pit Lane Park is to be opened, fans will be offered taxi rides around the grand prix circuit courtesy of F1 drivers, and Formula BMW Germany will once again turn the spotlight on its young racing talent under the gaze of their F1 heroes.

Meanwhile, test drives at Silverstone in the week following the San Marino Grand Prix saw the team focus on the technical preparation of the BMW Sauber F1.06. All three drivers – Nick Heidfeld, Jacques Villeneuve and Robert Kubica – were out clocking laps of the English circuit.

Nick Heidfeld: "Driving on the Nurburgring is always something very special for me. The race is my personal home grand prix. The Ring is the circuit nearest to Mönchengladbach, where I was born and grew up. As a three-year-old I learnt to ride a bike on the Nurburgring. My father used to take me and my two brothers to the Ring quite often, and in winter we even went tobogganing on the Nordschleife. At the age of eight I had my first go-kart experience on the Nurburgring – great childhood memories. I've also done a lot of races on the Nurburgring – in Formula Ford, Formula 3, Formula 3000 and, ultimately, Formula One. I've really enjoyed every single race in the Eifel and also won a few. Last year I gained my first ever Formula One pole position there and came second in the race. Of course that kind of success before a home crowd was fantastic. I don't feel my home race puts unwanted pressure on me in the least. On the contrary, I'm really looking forward to the support I'll get there. Nowhere else will I see so many fans."

Jacques Villeneuve: "The Nurburgring is not one of my favourite tracks, although in the past I have done well there: I won my first and my last grand prix there in 1996 and 1997. Last year the European Grand Prix was one of the most difficult races of the season. Since they put the new layout in the first part of the circuit, I really don't like the Nurburgring any more, so it is probably my least favourite Formula One track. Still, I hope we can get some good results there especially as the race is in Germany, and for BMW that makes it important. I have always wished we could race on the Nordschleife. I have not had a chance to go round it yet, but that really would be mega."

Robert Kubica: "I'm looking forward to the second European track and I know the Nurburgring, especially the GP version, although I have driven the Nordschleife once or twice. It should be a good weekend, especially as it is the first grand prix of the year in Germany. It's good for the team to be racing in BMW's home country. The Pit Lane Park will be opened at the Nurburgring, which means that, in addition to my free practice sessions on Friday, I will be busy with this on Saturday and Sunday. I will enjoy the whole weekend, but hope our results turn out better than at Imola.

I don't really like the track that much, but there are some nice parts, particularly the quick corners. It's important to have a car that is very good overall – in the quick corners, the slow corners and the chicanes. The Nurburgring demands that kind of versatility."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "Needless to say, the two Formula One events in Germany are of special significance to BMW. Over the decades, BMW has celebrated spectacular racing triumphs on the Nurburgring. It is a textbook example of how to preserve a historic race track while at the same time implementing modern circuit architecture, and it offers a very special racing atmosphere. The Nurburgring ranks somewhere in the middle of GP circuits in terms of full-throttle percentage and maximum speed. Its altitude of a good 600 metres affects all the engines. Due to the thinning air, engine output is reduced by around one percent for every hundred metres above sea level. Because both engines made it to the finish in Imola after two race weekends, Jacques and Nick will be lining up with fresh, modified BMW P86 engines. The basic pace of the cars is there. If we succeed in converting that, we will have a chance of earning points in the Eifel.

We've also got something special lined up for the Nurburgring: the BMW Sauber F1 Team Pit Lane Park will be celebrating its debut there. You could say this high-tech adventure park brings a piece of the pit lane right to the spectators: it's an adventure complex where fans can experience Formula One close at hand, and it's going to be something very special – something fans have never seen before in F1."

Willy Rampf, Technical Director Chassis: "The last two races have shown how crucial it is to make optimum use of the tyres so as to exploit the full potential of the car. The Nurburgring track offers plenty of grip, and rubber wear isn't too extreme, which means we will be using a relatively soft compound. Cars tend to suffer understeer on this track, and that will be the main consideration when it comes to the car's set-up. It can be offset by the right aero balance or through mechanical modifications. That's what we have been working on this week during testing at Silverstone. In view of the close competition in the middle of the field at the moment, everything has to be just right, especially if we want to achieve a good position on the grid."
 
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Europe GP Preview: Renault

Fernando Alonso

Q. Fernando, two wins and two second places, including last race in Imola. Were you pleased after that result?

FA: Absolutely. I went there saying that second would be a good result for me, because Ferrari have always been strong in Imola. They were competitive, like we expected, but I think that in the race, the Renault was very close in performance - and maybe even a bit quicker in race conditions. So far, I have had perfect reliability this season, and we are working hard to make sure that continues - while adding performance as well. This has been a dream start for me, because there is such a high level of competition in the field. I hope it will continue!

Q. Looking at the Nurburgring, what are the important characteristics at that track?

FA: I think the most important thing is that you need good traction. There are a lot of slow corners, which means lots of hard acceleration out of the turns. With the V8 engine, this will be less of a problem. That's because we have less power this year, so the car is not so much on the limit in terms of the traction. But that is the area we always concentrate on for this circuit, as well as finding a good balance. And we have already seen that the R26 is very strong in both those areas.

Q. Conditions can often be cold at the Nurburgring. Will that be a worry for tyre performance, like we saw in Melbourne where people struggled?

FA: Honestly, I don't think it will be a problem for us. In Australia, the car was really good in cold conditions and using its tyres well. The same was true in the winter: when it was cold, we were very competitive. So if the conditions are similar at the Nurburgring, it will be good for us.

Q. Are you optimistic ahead of this race?

FA: I am expecting a big fight again. I think the level of competition is much closer than the championship standings suggest, and there will be some big challengers. The Michelin tyres have performed very consistently at every circuit this year, and they have done a great job. It will be the same in Germany, I am sure, so we will see a big push from McLaren-Mercedes at their home race, running on the same Michelin tyres as us...

Q. And how about Ferrari and Michael Schumacher?

FA: What we don't know at the moment is how consistent Ferrari will be. So far, they have been strong at the same tracks as in 2005, and not so good at others. It is too early to say if it will be the same this year, so we can't write them off - and Michael is racing in front of his people too. We must concentrate on our job though, at Renault. I have the new B spec RS26 engine, which is a good step forward, and there are new developments on the car at every race. So I am sure we can be fighting for the win again on Sunday afternoon.

Giancarlo Fisichella

Q. Giancarlo, Imola was a disappointment for you... what happened?

GF: I pushed as hard as possible in the race but from eleventh [his qualifying position], there was not so much I could do. The car was very heavy in the first stint and difficult to drive. The handling came back in the next stints - but there is only so much you can do with the strategy at Imola, and it is hard to make up places. I got stuck behind Barrichello at one point but even so, nearly got sixth place. It is frustrating, but we know we lost the chance of a good finish in qualifying. We made some mistakes, and it won't happen again.

Q. How hard is it to bounce back from a race like that, where you don't reach your potential? It must be massively frustrating...

GF: Of course. But you have to keep your concentration, and your motivation. If you lose that, you cannot go on. Behind me, there is a team working at the maximum to support both of the drivers, and giving us the same possibility to win. So I want to win for them as well, to pay back their hard work and their commitment.

Q. Going to the Nurburgring often means rain... is that a worry for you?

GF: Yeah, that's true - it can be cold and raining too, at some point in the weekend and sometimes in the race. But I don't think it's a problem because I feel very comfortable in the conditions and my smooth style works well in the wet. Michelin made a big step on their intermediate and wet tyres last year, so rain won't be a worry for me or the team.

Q. The Nurburgring looks like a ‘complete' circuit with a bit of everything - is that accurate?

GF: It is a good circuit, for sure, and one that I enjoy driving. There are a few slow-speed corners, like turns 1 and 6. You have a slow-speed chicane where you jump on the kerbs and the car feels nervous. There are quick curves, some of them you have to attack aggressively, and they link together so you need to get a perfect line to be quick. It is an interesting circuit, and it should suit the R26.

Q. So what are your predictions for the race...?

GF: I think we will be right up at the front. I still have another race on the B spec engine, but we have had excellent reliability on it, so we know the performance will be there. The car was very quick last year at this track - I went from the pit-lane to P6 in the race, so we had strong pace and the Michelin tyres worked well. The R26 will be quick, like it has been at all the circuits. I am sure the competition will be strong too, from the usual teams. But we will be fighting for the podium, and to score the maximum points possible.
 
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Europe GP Preview: Michelin

Nick Shorrock, Formula One director: "In technical terms, the previous race at Imola was very encouraging and demonstrated that Michelin and its partners had made significant progress since 2005's corresponding fixture.

"Our tyres gave good first-lap performance but we made major progress in terms of consistency on a demanding track. These promising results have enhanced our database as the European part of the Formula One season gets into its stride at the Nurburgring, in Germany.

"Traditionally, it is difficult selecting tyre compounds for this track because the weather tends to be variable - and that might be more of a factor than ever this time, because the race is taking place three weeks earlier than it did last season.

"As a result, the tyres require a fairly broad operating spectrum - that's to say they have to be fast and consistent even if the weather forecasts are 100 per cent inaccurate, as they were at Imola. On the evidence of previous seasons, conditions could border on freezing yet could just as easily nudge 30°C.

"As for the possibility of rain, that holds no worries - the lap times our partners recorded during free practice for the Australian Grand Prix indicated just how much progress Michelin has made in that domain.

"Aside from its meteorological difficulties, the Nurburgring is not a particularly demanding track on a technical level and the asphalt is not too abrasive.

"We need to take care getting our tyre preparation right, however, because the circuit has a tendency to promote graining. It provides more overtaking possibilities than Imola and we analysed its blend of corners and straights very carefully when developing suitable tyres.

"It takes a real team effort to ensure we supply our partners with competitive products - this involves research, development, diligence, shrewd logistics and dedicated technical personnel. The products we have selected for the Nurburgring have evolved from endless hard work.

"So far this year our six partners have covered about 120,000 kilometres (74,500 miles) of testing and part of that has been dedicated to tyre development."
 
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Europe GP Preview: Bridgestone

Hiroshi Yasukawa, Director of Motorsport: "The European Grand Prix is a key race for Bridgestone and our teams.

"So far this season they have accumulated between them two pole positions, a second place, a third place and a win, and we are determined to give our teams, who have considerable support in Germany, the best tyres for the job.

"This is a home race for Toyota, Michael and Ralf Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, and we are looking forward to seeing them race hard in front of their fans."

Hisao Suganuma, Technical Manager: "After the win at Imola it is important that we keep pushing forward with developments for our teams. Recent tests at Paul Ricard and Fiorano have been particularly helpful for the forthcoming race, especially as we had wet conditions on some days.

"The European Grand Prix is earlier in the season than normal and its mountainous climate could mean cool, as well as wet, weather. We have therefore taken this into account when deciding the specification of wet tyre for this race.

"The Paul Ricard test also allowed us to further our dry tyre comparisons of compounds and constructions. The success of the Bridgestone tyres at the San Marino GP recently played a large influence when making the decisions for the dry tyre specifications for the Nurburgring round.

"The compounds come from the softer side of our range due to the track's relatively smooth surface and expected cooler weather conditions. Grip in the first set of corners will be especially important.

"With the uncertainty over the weather we shall also need our tyres to perform in a relatively wide working range."
 
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TV Schedule

Live qualifying:
Saturday 6 May
1230-1425 on ITV1

Live race:
Sunday 7 May
1200-1500 on ITV1

Highlights:
Monday 8 May
0045-0140 on ITV1
or
Tuesday 9 May
0435-0535 on ITV4
 
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Toro Rosso still to decide on engine plans

The Toro Rosso team are still undecided about their engine plans for the 2007 season, according to co-owner Gerhard Berger.

Toro Rosso are the only team using V10 engines this season, and they still have a year left of their contract with Cosworth to run the 10-cylinder units.

Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz said earlier this year they intend to respect the contract, despite complaints from Toro Rosso's rivals about the advantage of using a V10 engine.

There were rumours in the San Marino Grand Prix that Toro Rosso could be switched onto Ferrari engines next year while the Red Bull team, currently using the Italian units, would use Cosworth's V8.

Although Berger believes Ferrari have solved their engine problems, the Austrian hinted that he would like to stay with Cosworth units next season.

The Former driver, however, said no decision has yet been made.

"I think that Ferrari has by now mastered their engine gremlins, but I consider the Cosworth to be the best V8 engine currently," said Berger. "What we shall do for 2007 regarding engines has not been decided yet."

Berger also said the criticism Toro Rosso have received for using V10 engines is understandable now the team have moved away from the back of the grid.

"You see, this was Minardi, a race team which had enormous sympathies because they were the eternal last. Now, the comments against has have become much sharper. Which is understandable, since we are not here to be last."
 
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Theissen hopes for no V10 engines in 2007

BMW motorsport boss Mario Theissen is hoping Scuderia Toro Rosso are not serious in their intention to keep V10 engines next season.

Toro Rosso have been on the receiving end of criticism from their rivals about the performance of their Cosworth V10 engines, which some believe have an advantage over the V8 units used by the rest of the field.

And with Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz having said they intend to respect their contract with Cosworth, which runs out at the end of 2007, there are fears that the controversy may continue next season.

Theissen, however, is hopeful the situation will be sorted before the start of the 2007 season and all teams use V8 engines.

"We talked about a backdoor solution which had to be found at the time to keep Minardi afloat. If that solution led into a competition advantage, it would mean that the intention has been missed," said Theissen.

"But the past has proven that handicap formulae are at least difficult if not impossible to work properly. So I do hope that this discussion will disappear and we shall not see again next year V10 and V8 side to side."

The struggling Minardi team were allowed to keep using the V10 engines in 2006 before Red Bull bought the squad and renamed it Toro Rosso.
 
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Button convinced first win will come

Briton Jenson Button believes it is "crazy" to think he will never score a Formula One victory despite his Honda team's slow start to the season.

Button has qualified consistently in the top three in the first four races of the year, but he has not reaped the rewards of his qualifying form.

He has finished on the podium only once this year, despite his team being tipped as one of the favourites before the start of the season.

The Honda driver is still without a first win after 104 starts.

Button, however, has no doubts the elusive win will eventually come.

"It's a crazy thing for people to say I can't ever win," Button told The Times. "Every team on the grid makes mistakes and Renault has made many in the past — I know because I was there once.

"It's a question of realising you are making mistakes and then doing something about it.

"You have to be perfect to win a Grand Prix and we haven't been there yet. It would be difficult to keep going if we had a slow car — but we haven't. I know it's not good enough to say we can win but never achieve it — but it is a fact that we can."

Button and his team had what he branded as a motivational meeting following the San Marino Grand Prix, in which the British driver hoped to boost the team's morale.

"At the factory, I ran through the positives and negatives and there were plenty of positives," he said.

"I think everyone in the factory turned up. I was amazed. I said my bit about how we can improve things and they are working so hard you have to thank them."
 
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Ferrari warn rivals against wing protest

Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn has warned that his team will not readily sit back and await the outcome of any investigation into their rear wings if there is a protest at this weekend's European Grand Prix.

The focus on Ferrari's rear wings has re-ignited again after Honda Racing technical director Geoff Willis wrote to the FIA after the San Marino Grand Prix asking for clarification on the situation.

Willis is believed to have video evidence that illustrates that the rear wing of Ferrari's 248 F1 is flexing - even though the team had been asked to make modifications to the design after an earlier controversy at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Although it is believed that Willis' letter has more to do with asking for a clearer understanding of the situation so Honda Racing can develop their own designs than an out-and-out protest against Ferrari, Brawn has indicated he is not impressed with the complaints from his rivals.

Speaking to German magazine Auto Motor Und Sport, Brawn said that if any protest was lodged against his team then Ferrari would immediately hit back with their own complaints.

"If somebody should protest against us, then we will immediately submit a counter-protest," he said.

"We have videos of every car in the field where it can be proven that aerodynamic components become bent when driving. If video material is the yardstick, then all the cars are illegal."

Honda Racing team boss Nick Fry told autosport.com last week that his team's motivation for the latest letter was that they were simply after a level playing field.

"I believe we are all playing to the same rules, and if there are things Ferrari are doing and we are prevented from using them then something ought to be done. It should be a level playing field," he said.

"In the last few months Charlie has done a superb job and when there were issues with the front wing Charlie reacted immediately. But it is now up to the FIA that we are all playing to the same rules.

"There is something that Geoff has been aware of and it is in the hands of Charlie now."
 
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McLaren hoping for step forward

McLaren's F1 CEO Martin Whitmarsh is hoping that new chassis developments and the latest-specification Mercedes-Benz engine will help his team make the step forward they need at the Nurburgring this weekend to challenge for victory.

The team evaluated the new parts during testing at Silverstone last week and after completing almost 1,700 kilometres over the three days, the team have given the green light to using the developments at the European Grand Prix.

But although both Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen will get the new chassis improvements, only Raikkonen will have use of the new power-unit because Montoya is not due an engine change until the Spanish Grand Prix.

Whitmarsh said: "We had a positive week at the Silverstone test, completing the proving process on developments to the chassis and engine, and it will be interesting to see how they translate to the race track.

"The character of the Nurburgring lends itself to closely fought racing, with the opportunities to overtake, and with the competitiveness we have seen so far this season across a number of teams, it should be another hard fought race.

"As always, our primary target is to take the victory, and we are pushing forward with our development programme strongly as we need to make a performance step to arrive at the European Grand Prix with the pace to challenge for the win.

"The track does not see an over-dependence on a particular element of the car, be it the chassis, engine or tyres, and as a result will provide an opportunity to maximise performance of the package as a whole."

Raikkonen appeared set for victory at last year's European Grand Prix before his suspension failed on the final lap as the result of vibrations picked up from a flat-spotted tyre.
 
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