The Team On face value, the Austrian Grand Prix gave Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda little reason to be cheerful. However, the team's disappointment at missing out on another potential points-scoring opportunity was tinged with optimism following an...
On face value, the Austrian Grand Prix gave Lucky Strike B.A.R Honda little reason to be cheerful. However, the team's disappointment at missing out on another potential points-scoring opportunity was tinged with optimism following an otherwise reliable weekend's running. Olivier Panis' 9th place qualifying position, a barnstorming drive from Jacques Villeneuve and two different but very feasible race strategies bore all the hallmarks of a team very clear on its mission.
The Austrian crowd had a grandstand view of Olivier's engine blowing in dramatic style on the start/finish straight two weeks ago. Despite the fact that this signalled his 6th DNF of the season, his patience is still remarkably intact for someone who has committed every ounce of energy to notching up the team's first points this season but has yet to be rewarded with a visit to the parc ferme.
Olivier had managed to extract the best from the car in every session at the A1-Ring but the team struggled to make the same progress on Jacques' side of the garage. Armed with a less than perfect set-up and gambling everything on a two-stop strategy, he set about making the best of a bad weekend and delivered an assault very much reminiscent of Jacques Villeneuve - 1997 World Champion.
Determination is only a very small part of the overall Monaco 'mix' however so Jacques and Olivier embarked on a comprehensive test programme in Valencia last week, exploring all the elements that will be called into play at the challenging street circuit. It wasn't all plain sailing for either driver but as Olivier concluded, "that's what testing is for" and the team have been better off over the last few race weekends because a more prescriptive approach has confined most problems to the test track.
Looking ahead to the weekend, the team will be running with the same level of package as Austria but with the necessary aero refinements required to optimise downforce and low-speed handling. The emphasis is very much on steady progress, an approach which should open the team's points account sooner rather than later.
David Richards, Team Principal
"We took a lot of comfort from our overall performance in Austria. Prior to our engine problems, Olivier had a very positive weekend and even Jacques, who had struggled to improve the set-up in every session, was able to turn things around for himself come Sunday."
"Despite all of that, we have yet to score points and we are only too aware of that. We have to harness the potential we have demonstrated in recent races and find a way to make everything stick when it counts."
Jacques Villeneuve on the Monaco Grand Prix
"The Austrian Grand Prix was fun to drive; the car ended up being quick in the race. I enjoyed myself so it was a shame we didn't get any points again. In terms of qualifying, Monaco has to be better for us than Austria and we're very focused on doing a better job there. We did some good set-up work at the test in Valencia, despite a few minor mechanical problems limiting my running time."
"Qualifying is very important here as it is extremely difficult to overtake during the race. If you are further down the grid at the start, the pitstops play an important part in making up positions. It's a very exciting track but there is no room for error. This is also an extremely glamorous race and the fans have a great time. I think it's important for F1 to have a race in Monaco."
Olivier Panis on the Monaco Grand Prix
"Austria was a very positive weekend for me and I had a real chance of scoring some points in the race, so I was disappointed that the car didn't make it to the finish again. I am much more at home in the car now so reliability is the main concern for me. We are putting a lot of hard work into developing the car and we have to expect some problems along the way. This was the case in testing last week and it was reflected in the amount of running we did and my lap times."
"It is frustrating but we have to work through those problems in order to move forward and we are making much more progress at the races because of the hard work we are doing in testing. Monaco is extremely challenging because it is so unique. I have very good memories of winning here and I'm really looking forward to Sunday. I just hope we can stay reliable so that I can finish one of my favourite races."
Race Distance - 78 Laps. 163.332 miles (262.860km)
Circuit Length - 2.094 miles (3.370 km)
Race Start - 14.00 local time (13.00BST)
Conceived by Antony Noghés, and always held on the weekend following Ascension Day, the Monaco GP is the most famous race on the Grand Prix calendar. The legendary street circuit is tight, twisty, bumpy, slow and totally unforgiving - seemingly incongruous with the awesome power of a modern F1 car but then the Monaco Grand Prix is more about driver skill and car set-up than raw speed. The cachet attached to lifting the spoils in Monte Carlo is immense and this remains the race that every driver dreams of winning.
In terms of chassis set-up, there is one overriding concern at Monaco - downforce. Overall speeds are low - cars may reach a maximum of 290km/h through the famous tunnel, but the average speed for a lap is less than half that. The result is that engineers throw everything they can at their cars to generate downforce and optimise low-speed handling. Securing a good grid position is vital since overtaking is truly problematic, and with fuel consumption and tyre wear not significant issues, most teams will favour just one pit stop. It's a weekend which requires maximum concentration and consistency from drivers and team members alike.