The Monaco Grand Prix might be known as the jewel in the crown of Formula One, but for the teams that have to provide one of the most spectacular races of the Grand Prix season it can be the toughest of the year. "The logistics of racing in...
The Monaco Grand Prix might be known as the jewel in the crown of Formula One, but for the teams that have to provide one of the most spectacular races of the Grand Prix season it can be the toughest of the year.
"The logistics of racing in Monaco are completely different to any other race," points out Scuderia Ferrari-Marlboro's Race Technical Manager, Nigel Stepney. Unlike other events, it is a full week of work for the team personnel because of the unique difficulties in racing in the cramped environs of the busy Principality.
"Normally at other races we would arrive at a circuit and start setting up the garage on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning, but in Monaco we have to start early on Monday morning," explains Nigel.
"It takes a couple of days to get set-up as we have to prepare a duplicate set-up in two distinct work areas. The first is in the paddock area on the port, where we work under awnings on the side of the race truck preparing the cars after practice. The other area is in the pits themselves, where the cars are worked upon during the practice sessions while the circuit is closed and it is not possible to move them between the pits and paddock area."
The logistics of working between the two separate areas requires a special organization and a lot more staff. "We have to have extra communications between the paddock and the pits to make sure there is no time wasted changing things on the car during the sessions. Because it's Monaco, we have a fourth car which requires another eight mechanics who are constantly updating set-up changes throughout practice in case it might be needed."
"In a lot of cases the race equipment must be duplicated in both work areas and because of the other problems of making any possible repairs in the pits, key components like suspension corners have to be pre-assembled ready to bolt straight onto the car."
The cramped working conditions of the Monaco pit lane, which is less than a third of conventional tracks, can present more worrying safety issues. "When the mechanics are working on the "hot" side of the car and other cars are coming down the pit lane you have to keep a close watch on them. The experienced mechanics are used to watching there backs, but new guys who have not worked much at Monaco before can easily make a wrong move and get clipped by an incoming car. Fortunately, the drivers are also well aware of that and they take special care," says Nigel, while in the race itself the pit lane is pretty free of people and cars.
This aspect should improve after this year's race with a new pit lane with bigger closed garages directly behind the pits similar to the other circuits. "Now we have to work under sun awnings around the pit wall amongst piles of tyres as there is no other place to store them," explains Nigel. "I don't even want to think about the problems we can have when it rains," he says with a smile.
"The main thing at Monaco is to have everything under control, have all the components you might need pre-assembled to save time. To have the spare car in the pit lane ready to go should it be needed and have people on hand to run back to the paddock over the bridges should there be anything urgent required," sums up Nigel. "It is certainly the toughest race of the year from an organizational standpoint," he adds.
One thing that might come easier at this year's Monaco Grand Prix will be the actual hours the team needs to work. "It will be a bit easier on Saturday evening because of the new regulations, but the two and a half hours before the warm-up can be pretty hectic or even worse still if anything goes wrong."
Despite the complications of going racing in Monte Carlo, it's the race that Nigel, like the race fans themselves, counts as one of the most exciting of the year. "A street race, especially at a place like Monaco is exciting in itself, but the closeness of the public to the action, even while we are preparing the cars in the paddock, makes the atmosphere and the place all pretty special."
"It's the one race of the season that everybody wants to win and to have the chance to be working with a team that has a good chance of doing that makes it all worthwhile."