Monaco GP - Blazing sunshine in Monaco Monte Carlo, 24th May - In under one and a half hours the 59th edition of the Monaco Grand Prix will be underway. At eleven o'clock, the traffic light at the end of the pit lane will turn green and the...
Monaco GP - Blazing sunshine in Monaco
Monte Carlo, 24th May - In under one and a half hours the 59th edition of the Monaco Grand Prix will be underway. At eleven o'clock, the traffic light at the end of the pit lane will turn green and the first cars will go on track to check out the conditions. A splendid sunshine is bathing the Monte Carlo bay in bright light and the early arrivals in the grandstands are picking up their first sun tan of the year. More privileged are those who can watch the action from all the boats in the harbour and for them if it gets to hot, they can simply weigh anchor and head out to sea.
However, the mechanics and engineers from the eleven teams have little time to think about the sun and the sea as they prepare to tackle the grand prix. At nine sharp as usual, the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro mechanics began the warm-up procedure on the two cars to be used in the two hours of free practice today, by Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello: chassis 210 for the world champion and 206 for the Brazilian. At nine thirty the first technical briefing gets underway to define the day's programme. At 10.15 as usual will come the pit stop practice. On this circuit the mechanics' job is even harder as space is so limited. Given that the usual strategy allows for just a single pit stop and that overtaking is well nigh impossible, the perfect coordination of work in the pits is even more important than usual.
Monaco GP - Thursday's FIA Press Conference
No team orders, says Dennis Ron Dennis has confirmed that for the moment, there will be no team orders within the McLaren team - but there could be at a later date. Asked about the potential imposition of team orders prior to this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, the McLaren team principal, said "there are none. We have the contractual ability to instruct our drivers at any stage during the season to follow an instruction and that applies at the first Grand Prix through to the last Grand Prix.
We will effect judgement in any given situation and if we instruct a driver to do something we will tell you. There's no plan." Stability the key, says Todt Ferrari team principal Jean Todt has said that stability was the priority in the team's decision to re-sign Michael Schumacher until 2004 and Rubens Barrichello until 2002. Todt explained that "Rubens had a three year contract including an option for 2002 and we had to decide whether we wanted to exercise the option or not. We thought Rubens was good for the team and we wanted to exercise the option for him until the end of 2002.
"For Michael, his contract ended at the end of 2002 and as you know, we renewed the contract of the key people at Ferrari until 2004 and we thought that Michael was part of the key people and that's why we extended his contract until the end of 2004. That means Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, Paolo Martinelli, Michael, myself, we have a contract until the end of 2004. "It means we have stability," continued Todt. "I think in the past, Ferrari paid a lot for stability, and Ferrari is getting a lot because of the stability. We know that, we understand that, the shareholders, the president of Ferrari share this point of view and we thought it was very important."
Todt went on to say that nothing has changed in Barrichello's contract. "As I've said before, we have exercised an option, so that means the contract was already written. The only thing we had to write was confirmation that we were exercising this option, so that's it." However, he went on to repudiate suggestions that the Brazilian was the second driver to Schumacher. "Rubens is not number two. The thing is that since Michael and Rubens comprised the team, most of the time Michael has been in front and being in front, he has put himself into a priority situation. If, in the future, it happened that Rubens or Michael's teammate is consistently in front of Michael, Michael will have to help the team and his teammate. That's the way it has been, and that's the way it will be in the future."
"A racing incident," says Michael
Michael Schumacher has admitted that his tangle with Juan Pablo Montoya in the Austrian Grand Prix was a racing incident. "Looking at it on video, it looks different to what you see from inside the car. I rated it afterwards as a normal racing situation."
Monaco GP - Trulli one of the threee Directors of GPDA
Monte Carlo, 24th May - Jarno Trulli is now one of the directors of the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers Association) the organisation which represents all the Formula 1 drivers. The Italian driver was elected at a meeting held in the Hotel Colombus here in Monte Carlo. Trulli replaces Alex Wurz, alongside Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard. The GPDA was founded here in Monte Carlo on 11th May 1961, by a group of drivers comprising Cliff Allison, Joakim Bonnier, Jack Brabham, Tony Brooks, Jim Clark, Gregory Masten, Olivier Gendebien, Dan Gurney, Graham Hill, Innes Ireland, Bruce McLaren, Phill Hill, Stirling Moss, Henry Taylor, Maurice Trintignant, Wolfgang von Trips, Roy Salvadori and John Surtees.
Having been instrumental in the Sixties and the first part of the next decade in improving safety in motor sport, the GPDA became more active again after the terrible events of the weekend in Imola in 1994, when on two successive days, Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna both lost their lives. The drivers once again felt a need to have their voice heard and under the leadership of Gerhard Berger, Martin Brundle and Michael Schumacher, in December that year, they created a new GPDA, still active today. Much of the work this year is aimed at improving circuit safety.
Monaco GP - Hakkinen sets the pace in
Monte Carlo, 24th May - By the end of the first day's free practice for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix it was the 'local' boy Mika Hakkinen that retained the fastest time of the day only four-tenths of a second outside Michael Schumacher's 2000 pole winning time and almost half a second ahead of the German's best time today. Having set impressive times in testing at the Valencia circuit last week, it looks as though the McLaren-Mercedes team will once again be Ferrari's strongest rivals around the challenging Monaco track which saw Mika kiss the barriers twice during the day, without serious damage to the car. David Coulthard had a harder knock with his car at Tabac corner when he slid wide, the Scotsman losing time in the pits as the team changed the rear right corner ending the day in sixth position.
Both drivers used two sets of tyres for the day. Schumacher well placed for Scuderia-Ferrari Marlboro. Michael Schumacher set the second fastest time of the day for Ferrari after being fastest overall at the end of the morning session. The team has been working on tyre choice and chassis set-up on the 'green' track today, both drivers having an incident free day. "I was struggling with understeer and oversteer on the 'green' track, which is always a problem in Monaco" said Michael, who only ran one set of tyres and is hoping to improve things Saturday before qualifying. "The car is working quite well here, but the track is very slippery which could make the tyre choice for the race quite tricky," he added. Rubens Barrichello was fourth quickest for the day, six-tenths behind his teammate. He Used three sets of tyres and was happy with his day's work. "I am very satisfied as the car is a lot more competitive than it was last year." said Rubens despite some early brake balance problems. Both cars, like the majority of the field, had a revised high downforce aerodynamic package for this race after tests at Maranello last week.
Bad day for the BMW-Williams team.
Despite Ralf Schumacher's overall third fastest time and Juan-Pablo Montoya back in tenth spot, it was a bad day for the BMW-Williams team. Ralf Schumacher crashed at the first part of the swimming pool chicane badly damaging the front and rear end of his car. Juan Pablo Montoya damaged the rear right corner of his car when he spun under braking for the Rascasse chicane causing a red flag for a few minutes while the marshals cleared his car. "It was my fault, I was going to fast," said Ralf. Montoya also blamed himself for his accident, but also sited too much understeer as his real problem of the day.
Trulli fifth for Jordan-Honda.
Jarno Trulli had troubles getting comfortable with his car at the start of the day, but ended up a competitive fifth fastest overall, his car also running a new central body-wing just ahead of the driver. "It seems to be OK and does not bother me when driving," said Jarno. We will analyze things tomorrow and see it we continue with it on Saturday," said Jarno. Frentzen was seventh fastest; the German not running the wing which he had not had the chance to test in Valencia. He preferred the harder tyres. "It was generally a good first day with no major trouble. We got through the program, but my practice start did not work because the engine stalled before I could try it because of another problem," said Heinz.
Alesi shines for Prost.
Jean Alesi's courage and skill on this sort of circuit saw him take the eighth fastest time for the Prost team, his team-mate Burti back in 19th spot, although it was the Brazilian's first open wheel appearance in Monaco. "I did not want to crash the car, so I took things easy to learn the track and also evaluate new aerodynamic things we have on the car," said Burti.
Villeneuve takes top 10 spot.
Jacques Villeneuve managed to get his BAR into the top 10 for this race despite a coup-le of straight-on incidents at a couple of corners. Former Monaco winner Olivier Panis also slid straight on at St. Devote and lost 55 minutes of running time when he stalled the engine leaving him back in 16th spot.
Jaguar still in 'old' spec.
There was no surprise from the Jaguar team to see Eddie Irvine back in 12th place to-day, the Irishman not running a fresh set of tyres, had a spin at the chicane just before the end of the session, but above all still using the old aerodynamic package here. "We have the new aerodynamics here, but only one set per car, so we intend to fit it on Saturday," said Eddie Irvine. Pedro de la Rosa only managed nine laps for the day after he went off on the corner before Portier and damaged the front left corner, which kept him in the pits for the rest of the day.
Raikkonen and Heidfeld were unable to better 13th and 14th times, both drivers complaining of yellow flags and traffic, while Raikkonen had the added problem of learning the circuit. "I am confident I can make the top 10 on Saturday," said the Finn. The Arrows of Jos Verstappen was running a new nose mounted front wing today. "It feels better," confirmed Verstappen who was over half a second ahead of Bernoldi in 18th place. Electrical trouble kept Fisichella in the pits for a long time, but he came back to set 11th fastest time for Benetton, his teammate Button17th fastest. Tarso Marques damaged the back end of his Minardi in the morning when he spun into Rascasse. He managed to get out again in the afternoon to lap quicker than Alonso who also spun at the same spot, but with less damage to his car.
Monaco GP - Schumacher 2nd a Barrichello 4th in free practice
Monte Carlo, 24th May
Michael Schumacher: 2nd, 1.20.316, 47 laps, chassis n° 210
Rubens Barrichello 4th, 1.20.959, 45 laps, chassis n° 206
Temperatures: air 26-28°C, track 32-41°C
"As usual on the first day of practice, we worked mainly on race preparation. The cars seem to be going reasonably well, even if here at Monaco, which is a special sort of track, one needs a very accurate and specific set-up. On Saturday, it will be very important to get the most out of the cars. I am confident our drivers can fight for the front row places. Tyre choice doesn't look that straightforward. I agree with the interesting idea of allowing practice starts at the end of each half of the session."
"We concentrated on working for the race, as usual on the first day of practice. We worked on tyres and set-up. At this track, more than any other, the times on the first day mean very little, not just because you do not know what fuel loads the others are using, but also because traffic is always a big problem here. Because of that, today's session has been very busy for everyone. The car is working quite well. Monaco is always a compromise and you can end up with understeer in some parts and oversteer in others. You have to accept that here, but looking at the lap times we can be quite satisfied with today's work. Because we do not run tomorrow, we will have to bear in mind that the track might be slippery again on Saturday morning and that will mean that making the right tyre choice could be even more difficult."
"This morning I did not do as much running as I would have liked because of a problem with the brake balance. However, everything was back to normal in the afternoon. We tried various different set-up solutions and worked on tyre choice. Overall, I feel much better about today, than I did this time last year. The set-up we have found is much better suited to my driving style."
"I think it was a great idea to allow the drivers to practice starts off the grid. It means everyone can check that their systems are working properly. In Austria, the conditions on the actual grid were very different to the part of the pit lane where everyone practised their starts. Hopefully, this means there will not be too many problems on Sunday. The first day in Monaco is always difficult, but at least we did not damage the cars and we learned something. The tyres are the main element we are trying to understand. The situation is not completely clear yet, as we did not get a traffic-free run on one of the types of tyre. But by the time we have gone through all the data later today, we should have an idea what we want to do for the rest of the weekend."