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20-July: Renault's test driver and former Minardi driver Fernando Alonso will replace Jenson Button at Renault from the 2003 season. Renault F1 President Patrick Faure made the announcement and said "The choice between Jenson and Fernando has been a very difficult one. Jenson has done a great job this year, scoring points regularly whilst showing commitment and team spirit. We have all greatly appreciated his efforts and achievements.
However, Renault's long-term strategy is based on investing in drivers who can guarantee stability and continuity to the team as it grows in competitiveness. While Jenson is contracted to another team, Fernando is part of the RDD (Renault Driver Development) programme. We feel that his performance this year as our test driver has been so promising that his great potential needs to be exploited straight away.
I believe that we will have a very strong driver line-up next season, combining Jarno's experience and technical expertise with Fernando's impressive natural talent. They will be crucial as our 2003 car will be more competitive and capable of achieving real results."

Renault F1 Managing Director Flavio Briatore said "This season we have been very lucky to have three of the best current F1 drivers in the team. Unfortunately we cannot keep all of them and a decision had to be taken. Fernando has done an excellent job behind the scenes, impressing the team. He is ready to drive next year. I am sorry to see Jenson go, as he has done a superb job for us this season. I have no doubt he has a brilliant future ahead of him in Formula One. On behalf of the whole team I would like to thank him for the commitment he has shown so far and, I am sure, will continue to show until the end of the season."

Fernando Alonso was delighted with the announcement and and said "This is a great opportunity for me. I have worked hard as a test driver all through this year, 2002, to prove myself within the team. I feel next year will really be the start of my career. It will be my first experience of racing for such a big team and it will be really good. I am very excited at the prospects.
Renault is obviously very different from Minardi, where I raced last year. It is really important for me to have had a year to get to know the team, the car, the engineers and the mechanics and the way that a big team, with a corporation behind it, works. I have learned how the race weekend is tackled, in detail, and that been a big help. Renault has a very strong individual concept of how to work and I have learned this now. So, next year will be easier for me thanks to this experience."
As for his target for next year, he said "It is difficult to predict where the team will start next year, but I think Renault has really strong potential for the future. For myself, I will try to score as many points as possible and hope also to realise my dream of gaining a podium finish, too. But I know we all have to work together as a team to achieve anything like that."
As for Jenson Button, Fernando hopes to have great fights with him next year and said "We are friends and we know each other well. We went together to a lot training camps this year and our relationship is good. I feel sorry that it came down to a choice between the two of us but, you know, these things happen in this business. Everyone knows Jenson has the potential to become a great driver. I look forward to racing hard against him next year

Jenson Button admitted that he was surprised at the news and said "Slightly, because this season has been good and the team has done a terrific job. I think Jarno and I have worked well as team-mates. So, yes, I did have a feeling of slight shock at the news."
As for his plans for next year, he said "I think I am in good shape for next year. I am looking forward to the opportunity. Obviously, at this time, I am not able to say any more, certainly not for a few days. But I know what I am doing and where I am going."
And about his feelings for the rest of the year, he said "I am going to try and get as many points as I can for the team and, of course, for myself. The team has been very supportive of me in the last year and a half, and I will always remember the great time I have had with Renault."

Click here for the latest on the 2003 Season line-up  

20-July: Following Arrows deliberate failure to qualify and Fisichella missing the race as a result of his accident in practice, Heinz Harald Frentzen has emerged as a potential driver for the Jordan team at Magny-Cours.  Eddie Jordan obtained clearance from the FIA for Frentzen to race with the team however a few hurdles need to be cleared before he actually does race. The FIA statement read "The Stewards of the Meeting received a request from DHL Jordan Honda to substitute Heinz-Harald Frentzen as the Driver of car number 9 (formerly Giancarlo Fisichella), pursuant to Article 60 of the FIA 2002 Formula One Sporting Regulations.

The Stewards consider the circumstances to be force majeure and are satisfied as to the competency of Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

Provided that there are no contractual difficulties and provided all Teams competing in the 2002 French Grand Prix agree in writing by 09.15 a.m. on Sunday 21 July 2002, the Stewards permit the change of Driver, who will start from the back of the grid."

Ironically, Eddie Jordan fired Heinz Harald Frentzen from the Jordan team almost a year ago! (...story).

20-July: At the post Qualifying press conference for the French Grand Prix, Juan Pablo Montoya talked about his surprise and pleasure in grabbing his 5th pole in a row and said "We had a great battle together. It was very close. I had a very good last lap but I made a mistake in the last corner. The finishing line was in front of me and it took ten seconds to get there and I was saying 'come on' but it was good enough.
For me, the biggest pleasure is to get the fifth pole in such a close fight. When Michael was doing his time and they were disallowing his times, I was talking to my engineers and I was saying 'there's no real chance we're going to get the pole here, they're too quick.' But we did enough, we just kept doing it and the time just kept coming down.
Juan Pablo is more confident with the Michelin tyres here and is looking forward to the race and said "I have got to say that Michelin brought a lot more consistent tyre with them, we were a lot more consistent this morning on the runs that we did so I think the chances are much better than normal. I'm surprised to be on pole, to be honest. We weren't really expecting it here. We were even concerned about McLaren before the start of qualifying and good enough, at the end, we're up here. It's a good starting point for tomorrow."

Michael Schumacher talked about his eventful session and said "I missed the apex on the last chicane. I touched the kerb too hard and ran wide. It's a shame that they took away that time, but it was too slow anyway. Then we had another one in one of the fast chicanes where the car just stepped out and I had to go straight on. I thought I would try to finish and see what happened and quite rightly they took away the time. Then I had one final run left where it just happened to be second but obviously we lost all our time in the last sector but even in the first sector actually on the final run, Juan made a very good sector time. But we are very close so let's see what happens tomorrow."
Michael believes it will be a much tighter race tomorrow and said "I think it is a much tighter race here, but honestly we haven't got the full picture yet because yesterday things looked, let's say, a little bit more reasonable. Today they seem to have improved the situation, so let's see what it is going to be tomorrow."

Rubens Barrichello was disappointed with his last run and said "I have to put it into a balance because I didn't look good this morning. The car was not working well for me, so we made a lot of changes and the car worked much better this afternoon, so I felt a little disappointed that I couldn't get completely right on the fourth run because I thought I could have done a 12.0s which at that point would have been pole. But eventually Juan Pablo went faster, so I don't think I could have set an 11.8s today, but I'm happy with things because, like I said, this morning I didn't feel good with the car and we made a lot of improvements, so it's quite a good position for the start of the race tomorrow."

20-July: What the teams and drivers said following Qualifying at Magny-Cours ... Report

20-July: The Quali-flyer looks at the 'Real Race' in France and hands the 'Also Ran' award to ?? ... Report

20-July: French GP Qualifying: Juan Pablo Montoya grabs his 5th Pole in a row ahead of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. Kimi Raikkonen was 4th ahead of Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard ... Timed Results ... Report ... Notes

20-July: French GP 2nd Saturday Practice Session: Michael Schumacher sets the fastest time of the session ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard. Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button and Juan Pablo Montoya make the top 6 ... Timed Results ... Report ... Notes

20-July: French GP 1st Saturday Practice Session: Michael Schumacher sets the fastest time of the session ahead of team-mate Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen. David Coulthard, Felipe Massa and Juan Pablo Montoya make the top 6 ... Timed Results ... Report ... Notes

French Formula 1 Grand Prix Schedule:

Session Time (Local / GMT) - Current local time
Friday Practice Session 1
Friday Practice Session 2
Saturday Practice Session 1
Saturday Practice Session 2
Qualifying Session
Warm-up Session
11 AM Nevers Time / 9 AM GMT
1 PM Nevers Time / 11 AM GMT
9:00 AM Nevers Time / 7:00 AM GMT 
10:15 AM Nevers Time / 8:15 AM GMT
1:00 PM Nevers Time / 11:00 AM GMT
9:30 AM Nevers Time / 8:30 AM GMT
2:00 PM Nevers Time / 12 PM GMT
Go to the French GP Page

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