LONDON: McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen can banish painful memories and keep the Formula One championship on a knife-edge this weekend at the circuit where Michael Schumacher won the title last year.
The Finn must turn last Sunday's cruel disappointment at the Nuerburgring, where he led from his first grand prix pole position until his engine failed, into new drive and determination in France.
Without that blow, the 23-year-old might have been leading the way to Magny-Cours instead of being seven points behind Ferrari's five-times world champion.
As it was, Raikkonen had Williams' Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya to thank for a collision that pushed the German into the gravel and from a podium place to fifth.
“The gap to Michael can easily be closed with a good result, and that is what we want to achieve,” said Raikkonen, who is eight points clear of Williams' Ralf Schumacher.
Magny-Cours would be a fitting place for Raikkonen to regain the title lead, even if it is likely to require Schumacher suffering similar misfortune.
Last year the Finn was leading in France, with Schumacher seemingly settling for second, until he skidded on oil a few laps from the end with his first grand prix win beckoning.
“It was the most disappointing race of my life,” said Raikkonen, who won in Malaysia this year, of a slip that handed Schumacher his fifth title with six races to spare.
Sunday promises a three-way fight between Ferrari, Williams and McLaren, with Renault also looking to shine at their home race.
The European Grand Prix was the first time this year that Ferrari had not looked capable of winning and France, despite the team's past success there, will be tough.
It is home territory for Michelin, who supply Williams, McLaren and Renault with tyres.
Another Schumacher victory on Sunday would be his 50th for Ferrari, as well as making him the first driver to win the same Grand Prix seven times.
Aside from hungry McLaren, smarting from two non-finishes at the Nuerburgring, it is resurgent Williams that Ferrari must fear most.
Asked on Sunday whether the BMW-powered team were the main rivals now, Ferrari team boss Jean Todt replied: “After this Grand Prix, yes.
“But you mustn't forget that Raikkonen was winning the race before he had the engine failure.
“Magny-Cours will not be an easy circuit for us. With the package we have, some are more difficult and some easier.
“Magny-Cours is part of the difficult ones.
“Silverstone should be better,” added the Frenchman.
Williams have won two of the last three races, ousting McLaren as Ferrari's closest rivals and pitching Ralf into the title equation.
The younger of the brothers is brimming with confidence after he led Montoya to a one-two finish on Sunday.
“In the last few races, we have proved that we can compete with the Ferraris and the McLarens and, if you can do well on a circuit like the Nuerburgring, you should be able to do well elsewhere,” he said. – Reuters