Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks ahead to the Monaco Grand Prix Q: Driving a Formula One car around Monaco has famously been compared to riding a bike around your living room. How much do you enjoy racing there? "I enjoy racing at Monaco, but...
Toyota's Cristiano da Matta looks ahead to the Monaco Grand Prix
Q: Driving a Formula One car around Monaco has famously been compared to riding a bike around your living room. How much do you enjoy racing there?
"I enjoy racing at Monaco, but it's obviously very different to all the other circuits we go to. I've raced a lot on street circuits in the USA so that part is not so strange, and in fact it's no different to any of the other tracks when it comes to preparing for a flying lap. But Monaco is difficult, and it's very unforgiving. You have to be on the top of it, with 101 percent attention all the time. You cannot get distracted even for a single second."
Q: Is that what most separates Monaco from the rest of the tracks on the calendar?
"More or less every track requires that level of focus, but some of them may still forgive you if you lose concentration. That means there are some circuits where you can get away with a mistake. At Monaco you usually don't have that luxury."
Q: You made a strong debut there last year, qualifying 10th and finishing 9th behind the two Williams, the two Ferraris, the two McLarens and the two Renaults -- what memories do you have of the weekend?
"I remember the first time out on the track on the Thursday in 2003, I couldn't get completely get on top of the track, and I found it very difficult to learn. Then on the Saturday I felt much better on the track, and in the race we did as good a job as we could have done. We just needed a quicker car to get a better result than we did."
Q: It's notoriously difficult to overtake during races around Monaco. How far is it worth keeping pushing to wait and see if another driver makes a mistake?
"Of course, you always keep pushing and trying what you can, waiting to see if the driver in front makes a mistake. But the guy ahead of you is usually in a comfortable position, because he knows that if he doesn't make any big mistakes you are not going to get past. So instead of driving at 100% maybe he can go back and drive at 99 percent and then he will never go wrong. So it's a track where it is quite easy to defend your position. Of course that works both ways, and it helps you if you're trying to keep someone behind you."
Q: So what do you do when you're stuck behind another car?
"You have to play with the strategy -- maybe you can try to save fuel, and either delay the pit stop or bring it forward. It's not very likely that you're going to pass on the track, so we have to figure out a way of doing it in the pits with the strategy."
Q: Monaco is the home race for many of Formula One drivers, and you are no exception. What's it like to live there?
"I moved to Monaco in January 2003, and I quite like it there -- considering that my real home is in Brazil, and that's where I would most like to live. If I'm not living in Brazil, then Monaco is not a bad place to be in Europe."
Q: What kind of things do you do when you're at home in Monaco away from the grand prix?
"What I like most about it is the weather. It's always much better than the rest of Europe and you can go to the beach. It's also a very good place for training. I have a swimming pool near my home, and there are many places to ride my bike and to go running. I don't spend the year going around finding new things out about the grand prix circuit just because I live there, though..."
Q: How does the principality change when the grand prix circus comes to town?
"The biggest difference during the race weekend is obviously the amount of people about. In general it's a quiet place. Normally I don't tend to go out much in the evenings when I'm living there, but during the grand prix week it gets extremely busy."
Q: Monaco is renowned as the most difficult circuit for the teams to prepare for a grand prix. How much could that change with the new pit complex?
"Last year it was logistically very demanding, but this year we've got new pits so I think everything's going to be improved in terms of how we work. But while it was always the worst place for teams to work, it was the best one for the fans because they could actually see something -- whereas at most other places they can't see anything. So we'll have to see what it's like with the new pits -- for the mechanics and for the fans."