Motor Racing / British Grand Prix Countdown: Two-part French success: The Williams driver, who is giving his views in The Independent throughout the current season looks back at last weekend's splash on the tracks victory in France

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FRANK WILLIAMS said after our disappointment in Canada that everyone in the team would be even more determined to bounce back in the French Grand Prix and I think we proved that in no uncertain terms at Magny-Cours on Sunday.

The mood and pattern was set on the first morning of practice, we kept up the pace and pressure throughout, and at the end of an extremely difficult race, held in two parts because of the weather conditions, I had the pleasure of standing at the top of the podium with my team-mate Riccardo Patrese alongside me.

It was my sixth win, and our fifth one-two of the season, a magnificent team effort in every sense. Riccardo waved me through after we had a terrific battle in the first part of the race, admitting he knew I was quicker, and then, when the rain started again, the lads gave me a brilliant tyre change. I gather it took them around six seconds.

I think we have demonstrated this year an outstandingly consistent level of commitment and performance, which rather makes us smile at some misplaced comments which appear to have been directed our way from the McLaren-Honda camp at the weekend. They have been at the top for four years and all credit to them for that. It is unfortunate that sometimes a touch of jealousy can colour people's judgement.

Martin Brundle's well-deserved third place for Camel Benetton-Ford and Johnny Herbert's sixth for Lotus-Ford in France showed, I think, the strength in depth Britain has.

Magny-Cours, which replaced the Paul Ricard circuit on the Formula One calendar last year, has extremely good facilities and a track with a nice, smooth surface but it is another of those circuits where overtaking is not easy. It has a succession of short straights and slow corners.

After my experience in Canada I was particularly keen to have pole position but I was somewhat surprised to find us so far ahead of the McLarens on the first day. They came back at us but we moved forward again to occupy the front row. The one technical problem we had forced me to stop out on the circuit and, although we suspected a fuel pump fault and stripped down the entire system, we could not locate the cause.

We had a similar dilemma, if not the same problem, in South Africa, and decided to race the spare car. We chose the same course this time because, though the car ran well again, we felt there was no justification in taking the risk of racing it.

On Saturday morning I had a problem of a different kind. Coming into a corner at probably more than 150mph I tried to brake yet missed the brake pedal and got my foot stuck between it and the accelerator. All I could do was go straight on, into the gravel trap. The gravel did its job and I came to a halt without any damage to the car or me - apart from a little heart flutter.

It could, obviously, have been much more serious and it isn't the first time this has happened, so we are having some new, broader pedals made and fitted in time for the British Grand Prix.

Christian Fittipaldi, the young Brazilian driver, was not so fortunate when he went backwards into a wall during practice. He broke the fifth vertebra and will, apparently, be out of action for a month or more. I can sympathise with him because I had three crushed vertebrae after an accident in qualifying for the 1987 Japanese Grand Prix. Christian's injury also serves as a reminder that even on the most modern circuits, where safety standards are generally acknowledged as being of the highest order, we are all vulnerable.

The subject of safety has been uppermost in the minds of the drivers and Goodyear, following the announcement of plans to introduce narrower wheels and tyres next year. I think most of us believe this would be more dangerous because we shall be approaching corners at greater speeds. It will, I hope, be the subject of more discussions.

Tyres were certainly our concern in the build-up for Sunday's race because, much as in Spain earlier in the season, we did not know whether the conditions would be wet or dry. We had prepared for any eventuality with a compromise on settings. But you cannot do that with tyres. It had all the makings of a casino, as the Italians say, and that is precisely how it turned out.

I went out of the pits on wet tyres, but came back in to change to slicks as the track was drying so rapidly. The race was sensibly stopped when it started to rain again and people were sliding off. We started part two of the race on slicks, only for the rain to return, with interest, and force us to change to wets again.

By then, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher had gone out after accidents and Gerhard Berger had to retire. It was not a good weekend then, for McLaren, but they say they expect big improvements for Germany, the race after Silverstone, so there is no way we are going to write them off. That is why we will not get complacent as far as the championship is concerned. The way I see it we need another three or four wins yet, and we will carry on working the way we have been doing to try to achieve them.

(Photograph omitted)

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