KL Minardi Asiatech Preview THE CIRCUIT It's tight, twisty, slow - and totally unforgiving when it comes to driver error. It is also the single event, above all others on the Formula One calendar, that every team and driver wants to win.
KL Minardi Asiatech Preview
It's tight, twisty, slow - and totally unforgiving when it comes to driver error. It is also the single event, above all others on the Formula One calendar, that every team and driver wants to win. The Monaco Grand Prix, considered a jewel in FIA's Formula 1 crown and staged around the streets of the world's wealthiest principality, is also a mass of contradictions. On the one hand, the place has glitz and glamour in abundance; on the other, the circuit's cramped, temporary pits and a "paddock" based in a nearby multi-storey car park make working conditions for the engineers and mechanics extremely difficult.
Overall speeds are not high at Monaco - cars currently hit a maximum of 280-290 km/h through the famous tunnel before drivers hit the brakes at the end - with the result that the primary concern in terms of chassis set-up is generating downforce and optimising low-speed handling. Securing a good grid position is also very important, since overtaking is difficult at Monaco, and with fuel consumption and tyre wear not significant issues, most teams are likely to make just one scheduled pit stop. It's a weekend that requires maximum concentration and consistency, both from drivers and from team members.
Drivers Fernando Alonso and Tarso Marques both had brushes with the Monaco barriers on the opening day of practice, but then enjoyed a solid qualifying session. Alonso claimed an excellent 18th place on the grid, while Marques struggled to find a satisfactory chassis balance and ended the day in 22nd position. Both drivers ran strongly in the race, Alonso climbing as high as ninth and Marques 11th, but were eventually forced to retire their cars, the former with a gearbox problem and the latter when a driveshaft broke.
"Street circuits are always tight and twisty, but Monte Carlo provides a challenge like no other street circuit, as I found while racing in the Monaco Historic Grand Prix this last weekend. You simply cannot afford to make any mistakes; if you do, you invariably end up in the barriers. I actually found the circuit itself smoother and wider than I had imagined, which means you can attack it quite forcefully in places. In addition, engine driveability and responsiveness out of the slow corners are more important than outright horsepower at Monaco, which levels the 'playing field' a bit.
"Physically, the race shouldn't be too bad, but mentally, I'm sure it will be the toughest of the season. The concentration needed for just one lap is tremendous, but to keep that up for over 90 minutes is, I'm sure, going to be quite draining. The Monaco Grand Prix is an event where you sometimes have an unexpected result, so I'm just going to push as hard as I can and aim to get to the finish. Certainly, the experience I had racing on the circuit this past weekend is going to help."
"I've been in the UK since returning from Austria and have just been concentrating on my usual fitness regime. The weather's been pretty good, so I've been out on the bike quite a bit and also went to watch Bernie Shrosbree and Andy Blow from Renault's HPC (Human Performance Centre) compete in a time trial on their bikes. This past weekend, I went to Donington for the German DTM Championship round, which allowed me to catch up with Bernd Schneider and some of my other former team-mates from my sports car days with Mercedes.
"I'm looking forward to Monaco because, as with Spa, it's one of the most challenging circuits we visit. While Spa is obviously very open and has some phenomenally quick corners, Monaco is very tight and twisty, and with those barriers all round the circuit, you need immense concentration. Having driven there in Formula 3000 for the past two years, I obviously know what to expect, but as it will be my first time there in a Formula One car, there'll be a few things I need to adapt to, such as the speed difference and the harshness of a Formula One car around a street circuit. Monaco is a circuit where you need the chassis and the engine working very well together, both for mid-corner performance and for getting out of the slower corners, while grip levels need to be at the absolute optimum, so tyres are also going to be very important.
"I would love to finish my first Monaco GP, and with a tough race like this, we could come out the other side of the top 10."
Mark Webber and Alex Yoong are among five Formula One drivers who will be competing in their first Monaco Grand Prix this coming Sunday. The others are Felipe Massa, Alan McNish and Takuma Sato
Alex Yoong yesterday finished second in the Pre-1979 Formula One race, which formed part of this past weekend's glittering Historic Grand Prix of Monaco programme. The excellent result came despite Yoong's ex-Ronnie Peterson Lotus-Ford 72E being stuck in fourth gear for the last four laps of the event. The young Malaysian driver led for nine laps of the 10-lap race, but the mechanical problem meant he couldn't fend off Martin Stretton's Tyrrell-Ford P34 on the run to the chequered flag.
Cycling is very much part of Mark Webber's fitness regime. In fact, he enjoys it so much, he undertook a charity bicycle ride last year from John O'Groats in Scotland to Lands End, Cornwall, with British journalist, Tom Clarkson. The pair covered the 1627-km distance in 11days, raising a tremendous £10,000 for Cancer Research in the process.