Vodafone McLaren Mercedes arrives in the Principality of Monaco next week for the most glamorous and among one of the most challenging dates on the Formula 1 calendar. The streets of Monte Carlo will host their 65th Grand Prix, with the proximity of the spectators to the circuit leading to a thrilling assault on the senses as 22 V8 engines reverberate around the shortest track of the year.
The team arrives in Monaco having extended its lead in the Constructors' Championship to nine points following the double podium finish in the Spanish Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso also head the Drivers' table, Lewis with 30 points and Fernando on 28.
What are the set-up challenges that come from the nature of the Monaco track?
The Monaco Grand Prix is the only race run solely on a track formed of public roads. This in itself provides a number of challenges, such as the unusual camber with the track peaking in the middle and dropping down to the gutters on either side of the road, manhole covers and the white lines. This does not see the team use a higher ride height than normal, instead a more compliant suspension set-up will be fitted to the MP4-22s of Fernando and Lewis.
The tight, twisty nature of the track means that the highest downforce of the season can be used, to allow for greater performance through all the corners without compromising speed on the straights, as there is no section of the track that needs this capability. The lack of straights however, does require use of the maximum cooling package available. The constant cornering also demands good front end grip for exact positioning.
How will the use of the two Bridgestone Potenza compounds impact on the streets of Monte Carlo?
The difference in the performance of the prime and the option Bridgestone Potenza tyres is expected to be moderately wide in Monaco. Because the grip levels offered by the circuit are very low, the ideal is to run with the softest tyres possible. This has the potential to lead to some interesting strategies across the field as all the teams aim to maximise the use of the option tyre.
Why is Monaco as a venue synonymous with the McLaren marque?
The history of McLaren at the Monaco Grand Prix stretches back to 1966, when founder Bruce McLaren took to the track in the M2B for the team's debut race. In the 41 years since, the team has won the renowned Grand Prix 13 times, which is more than any of its competitors. Alain Prost took the debut win in 1984, beginning a winning streak that was to last until 1993, with the exception of 1987. During this time, Ayrton Senna took the chequered flag in first position on five occasions, taking his tally of victories at the race up to a record of six. Since Mercedes-Benz have been involved with the marque, the team has taken four victories on the streets of Monte Carlo.
"Monaco is another of those races that, at the start of the year, you mark as one that you really want to win. I took the victory at the Grand Prix last year, and although it was an emotional weekend, it was an amazing feeling, one that I will race hard to try and repeat again this season with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. I have not had the results I have wanted at the previous two races, however I have kept scoring good points and we have continued to develop the performance of the car."
"At Monaco you have to really keep your concentration at all times and push to the limit. It is very easy for things to go wrong at this track because it is very narrow and the barriers are very close, and this is why you have to stay focused. Because of the barriers and the need to be very accurate, you do have to use a slightly different driving style here to perform well over the weekend. You tend to be less aggressive in the braking zones."
"You also need to set the car up with a responsive front, so that you can be on the throttle as early as possible in the middle section of the corner without waiting for the car to turn, it is ways like this that you can find the milliseconds that you need at Monaco."
"I am really looking forward to Monaco. It is one of the tracks I have always dreamed of racing at in Formula 1, particularly having competed there for the past two seasons in the F3 Euroseries and GP2. For me it is the best circuit of the year, there is nowhere like it for getting the adrenaline going, because the track is so tight and there are no run-off areas, you have to be incredibly precise, there is no room for error and as a driver that makes it all the more exciting."
"I have always run well at Monaco, having won there on my previous two visits to the race. I am going to the race again this year with the intention of fighting for the win, but that is the case at everything I compete in. However we do have to keep being realistic, this will be my fifth race in Formula 1 and I am still developing. We have to focus on keeping scoring points for both the Constructors' and Drivers' Championships and take it step by step."
Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula 1, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes:
"For the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team to be arriving in Monaco, race five of the 2007 World Championship, leading the Constructors' title and occupying the top two positions of the Drivers' table is incredibly positive and pleasing for everyone involved. However within the organisation we expect our performance to be at this level, anything below is a disappointment, and we are fully focused on continuing to raise our game."
"The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes test team completed an intensive four days at the Paul Ricard circuit, which has focused on set-ups and Bridgestone Potenza tyre selection for both Monaco and the Canadian Grand Prix, alongside general aero and mechanical development of the MP4-22. We have some good feedback and are now looking forward to getting this to the race track."
"The nature of the Monaco track demands excellent mechanical grip, more so than at most circuits and areas such as aero efficiency have less value. The maximum downforce is used and a well performing traction control is beneficial for achieving quick lap times."
Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
"Appearances are deceptive: The shortest circuit (3.34 kms) with the lowest average speed (150 km/h), the shortest race distance (260 kms) and the slowest corner (about .45 km/h) is always the greatest challenge of the Formula 1 season; therefore, the Monaco race is rightly considered the most important Grand Prix of the year."
"First of all, this is because of the unparalleled and challenging track layout along the city streets including a tunnel passage, where you reach more than 280 km/h at the exit. However, also the race's tradition, the glamour and the world wide attention make this Grand Prix a unique one. In 2007, the Monaco race will be staged for the 65th time. Since our first victory in 1998, we are the most successful team here with four race wins."
"In their first season with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, Fernando and Lewis also have good memories of Monte Carlo. Fernando won last year's Grand Prix, Lewis won the GP2 race here in 2006 and both Formula 3 Euro Series races the year before. However, we all are aware that this is the past, and that the 2007 race will be a bigger and more competitive challenge than all races before."