Its that time of year again. On 28th May the Formula One teams will line up on the grid for the Monaco Grand Prix. The race on the Côte dAzur is the most glamorous and prestigious date on the F1 calendar and attracts the most attention worldwide. Nowhere else do the fans get as close to the action or see more of it: with the track the shortest and tightest of any grand prix venue, the cars cover more laps than anywhere else.
Overtaking on the streets of the principality is the exception rather than the rule, yet the race usually provides its fair share of entertainment. One reason for the frequent thrills and spills is the narrow and twisty nature of the circuit, which means mistakes tend to be punished.
In the week following the Spanish Grand Prix, the BMW Sauber F1 Team with drivers Nick Heidfeld, Jacques Villeneuve and Robert Kubica completed three days of testing at the Paul Ricard circuit in France.
The race in Monaco is without doubt one of the highlights of the season. Driving through the streets with the apartment blocks and buildings on either side is an extraordinary feeling. I finished second last year, but even if I hadnt got such a great result the race would still have been a lot of fun. Qualifying will be much trickier than in recent years, with a lot more cars out on the track at the same time."
"I have a strong connection with the principality, having lived there for several years before moving to Switzerland. When Formula One comes to Monte Carlo the whole place goes crazy. The bay is full of yachts and the streets are buzzing. I would recommend anybody to experience the Monaco Grand Prix weekend at least once. The atmosphere is totally unique."
"As a fan, you can get closer to the cars than at any other race normally youre sitting hundreds of metres away. In Monaco you have a real sense of the speed and sound of the F1 cars. Away from Formula One, on the other hand, I prefer life to be rather quieter and feel very much at home in Switzerland.
Monaco is a very exciting track to drive on and that is probably the track where we were the most competitive last year with Sauber. It is hard on the tyres because we go with very soft compounds. However, the car is normally quite easy on tyres. This GP is a race where anything can happen; you can start last and still get on the podium. There was a year when only four cars finished. Theres always a lot of excitement around Monaco and I think we can probably do quite well there.
Monaco will be something special for me because this is my first time on a street circuit with a Formula One car. I like street circuits, though, and in the past I have performed really well in places like Monaco and Macau. I think Ive raced on six or seven street tracks. But my race performance isnt an issue this year: I just need to do a proper job on Thursday."
"This will not be easy as the track will have very little grip, but I hope Ill be able to help my two team-mates a bit. I raced at Monaco in the World Series last year, but unfortunately only finished fifth. It is a really difficult track and there is no space for any mistakes. But it is the same for everybody.
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director:
The eyes of the world are on Monaco for the Grand Prix. The race in the principality constitutes the crown jewels of Formula One, although the track has absolutely nothing in common with a modern race circuit. Whether you like the glamour of it all is a matter of taste, but it is all part of the image of Formula One. The closeness of the fans to the track and the paddock creates an atmosphere unlike any other grand prix."
"Raw power doesnt get you very far on this tight and twisty course. Instead, its good engine driveability that makes the difference. The hairpin at the Grand Hotel is the only corner all year when engine speeds dip below 5,000 rpm. The nigh-on 200 bhp performance gap between the 3.0-litre V10 engines in 2005 and this years 2.4-litre V8 will be less visible at Monaco than anywhere else. Qualifying in Barcelona was the first time a car had set a faster lap time than last year. Similarly, I wouldnt be surprised to see a new lap record this year in Monaco."
"Nick will line up with a new engine in Monaco after his previous unit completed its two-race stint, while this will be the second GP for Jacques engine. Monte Carlo will also see the cars set the lowest top speeds of any circuit on the calendar and operate flat out for the shortest amount of time. On the other side of the coin, the engines get less cooling air, and that can push oil and water temperatures to the limit.
Willy Rampf, Technical Director Chassis:
Monaco sees the lowest average speeds of the whole season, which means that heavy downforce is more important here than aerodynamic efficiency. Good traction is also critical when youre accelerating out of the many slow corners. As the circuit is opened again to public traffic between the practice sessions, the drivers have to contend with big fluctuations in grip and that makes it extremely tricky getting the set-up right."
"The car has to work with absolute precision here, as the smallest error can mean crashing out of the race. Since overtaking is more or less out of the question in Monaco, striking the right compromise between a good grid position and the optimum race strategy will be critical."
"Ill be interested to see what happens in qualifying, especially the first session when there will be 22 cars out on the track. The drivers will need a bit of luck on their side to avoid getting caught up in traffic. Whatever happens, excitement is pretty much guaranteed. After our solid showing in Barcelona, I can see our drivers putting in a good performance once again in Monaco.