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Ferrari are back with a bang

Ferrari won the battle with a total front row lockout, Michael on pole backed up by Massa, writes Narain Karthikeyan.

india Updated: Jul 19, 2006 18:18 IST

The biggest news last week was the defection of Juan Pablo Montoya, not just from McLaren, but F1. He will switch to the US based NASCAR series from 2007.

Juan Pablo was one of the senior drivers who was helpful to me as a rookie last year, and I'm sure everyone in the F1 paddock will miss him. We all wish him well in his new endeavour to take on the best in American stock car racing.

For me, last week was busy. I was in the UK testing for my team, Williams F1. I conducted a day's testing, working on electronic systems of the FW28.

F1 returns to Europe on Sunday with the French Grand Prix at the Magny Cours circuit, the 11th race of this year's 18 race calendar.

France could rightly claim to be the home of motorsports, as the first ever race to be classified as a Grand Prix was held there on June 26, 1906. The race was two days long and run over a distance of over 1200 km, longer than Saturday’s Grand Prix.

Magny Cours is a relatively slow track with mostly slow speed corners, hairpins, high speed chicanes and very short straights. The track surface is also exceptionally smooth, with very low kerbs, except for the one at the last chicane, which sometimes can launch cars into the air.

The track surface can also generate a lot of heat due to the nature of the asphalt used, resulting in very good grip levels. Owing to these characteristics, the cars can run with more front wing and considerable lower ride heights. The high number of corners combined with the high temperatures can make this track physically demanding on the drivers as well.

Qualifying procedures were slightly modified this weekend, with the third session reduced to 15 minutes. The final session was an absolute thriller with Alonso and Michael battling it out on the track. They almost seemed to have forgotten that the race is on Sunday, not Saturday! The final two minutes were filled with on-track action with the Ferraris and Renaults battling for top honours.

Ferrari won the battle with a total front row lockout, Michael on pole well backed up by his wingman Felipe Massa. With their last race performance also being so fantastic, Ferrari are back! Starting grid: Schumacher (Ferrari, 2. Massa (Ferrari), 3, Alonso (Renault), 4. Trulli (Toyota), 5. Ralf (Toyota), 6. Raikkonen (McLaren), 7. Fisichella (Renault), 8. Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren), 9. Coulthard (Red Bull), 10. Webber (Williams), 11. Heidfeld (BMW), 12. Klien (Red Bull), 13. Barrichello (Honda), 14. Speed (Toro Rosso), 15. Albers (MF1), 16. Liuzzi (Toro Rosso), 17. Villeneuve (BMW), 18. Button (Honda), 19. Rosberg (Williams), 20. Monteiro (MF1), 21. Montagny (Super Aguri), 22. Sato (Aguri).