Following on from its second consecutive double finish in Spain, the Etihad Aldar Spyker Formula One Team goes to the fifth race of the year, the Monaco Grand Prix, looking to build on this momentum. Run on the hallowed streets of Monte Carlo in...
Following on from its second consecutive double finish in Spain, the Etihad Aldar Spyker Formula One Team goes to the fifth race of the year, the Monaco Grand Prix, looking to build on this momentum.
Run on the hallowed streets of Monte Carlo in the south of France, the Monaco Grand Prix is the most photogenic and glamorous of the year as the 3.34km track cuts through the famed Casino Square, skirts round the harbour jam-packed with yachts and rounds the world-renowned Rascasse.
It's a tight, narrow circuit that doesn't allow for any mistakes, famously referred to by triple world champion Nelson Piquet as 'like flying a helicopter in your bedroom.' With a jungle of corners, kerbstones and guardrails just inches from the sidepods, every lap is on the limit and every mistake could be the immediate end of the race.
Both race drivers Adrian Sutil and Christijan Albers know the tricky track well. Adrian is the current F3 lap record holder round the Principality, a feat he achieved in 2005 when he was team-mate to McLaren's Lewis Hamilton. Christijan has raced twice in Monaco, in 2005 and 2006, finishing both races.
Experience coupled with the F8-VII's strong reliability means there's every chance that the team could get an unexpected result should conditions and strategy allow.
Colin Kolles, team principal and managing director
Q: Has the team's progress this season met with your expectations so far?
Colin Kolles: We always knew this season was going to be tough, with new management, new drivers and a new engine, so the most we could hope for in the first races was good reliability and solid finishes. I wouldn't be honest if I said I was happy with the first two events. Malaysia was a particular low-point; having two cars out before lap 10 is just not acceptable. It's far better however that we make these mistakes early on while we are still developing as a team rather than later in the season when there's much more at stake.
I was much more satisfied in Bahrain - Adrian had a solid race despite having initial problems and Christijan was consistent and reliable and we got two cars to the end. We carried on the momentum in Spain with another double finish and now we've got to build on this going into Monaco and beyond.
Q: Do you think there is a positive atmosphere in the team?
CK: Yes, with the 13th and 14th positions in Spain we moved from 11th to 10th in the constructors' championship, which showed we were making progress. Until Spain we were behind Toro Rosso as they had a better finishing record than us, but the double finish moved us back ahead. It might not seem a lot, but it's very important for us to be in the top 10. We cannot be happy with this in the long-term, but we have to make the most of what we can achieve at present. The atmosphere is good as we can see we are moving forward.
Q: The F8-VII cars are now showing good reliability and with Monaco known as a car-breaker there might be a chance for the team to really be up there with the group in front.
CK: Monaco is known as a hard race and you can never predict what will happen. You could start on pole and then be knocked out at the first corner, or start at the back, it rains, you get the strategy right and suddenly you're in the top eight. If we keep out of trouble and are reliable, we could be in the top 10.
Q: Your drivers are pushing each other hard this year. Is this what you hoped for when you signed Adrian Sutil?
CK:I have known Adrian for a long time and knew what he was capable of. I knew he would push Christijan hard, but this is what we need as Christijan has to be on top form to do well. Christijan himself will say that it's good for him - if you look at the times in Spain there was nothing in it at all - just one or two tenths in every session. Now Christijan knows what's expected, it can only be good for the team as we get the most out of each driver.
Q: Do you have any plans to run Friday drivers in any Grands Prix this year?
CK: We are taking this decision on a race by race basis. As Monaco is a very difficult circuit, we want our race drivers to have the maximum amount of track time possible to be ready for Qualifying. Our test drivers continue to run in the car to build up their experience and I hope that each will have an opportunity to run on a Friday at some point over the course of the year, should circumstances allow.
Q: There has been a change in the management of Spyker cars recently, with Victor Muller moving over to be responsible for design and brand management and Michiel Mol becoming acting CEO. Do you think this change will affect Spyker Formula One?
CK: Effectively the move won't affect the day to day running of the team at all, the F1 team is very separate to the road car division. On a management level though it will only strengthen the link between Spyker Cars and the Formula One Team.
Mike Gascoyne, chief technical officer
Q: Monaco is known as one of the most unpredictable races of the year. Is this the best opportunity for the team to achieve a result?
Mike Gascoyne: I think Monaco is certainly our best chance in the first two-thirds of the season to achieve a good result. Obviously aero efficiency isn't the key here as cars are running with max drag, so we believe we should be more competitive here than we have been at other circuits. It's also a race where if safety cars come into play, it can rain and so on, so we have to make the most of it. An advantage is that our drivers know it well too; it's a circuit Adrian has driven at before and has done very well at, and Christijan has a good record here.
Q: Four races in, almost 25% of the season covered. What have been the main progress points and landmarks since the season started?
MG: I think as a team we are starting to operate at a level we are happy with. I think the car is fundamentally very reliable and has been since the first run and we are starting to see the benefits in the races. Although we have some aero updates on the car and we're better than we would have been without them, the main focus is back at the factory and in the wind tunnel where everyone is working very hard, although unfortunately you won't see them at the track until later this year, and some not until the beginning of next year. But the team is progressing on all fronts.
Q: Has the season so far met with your expectations?
MG: Although we are at the back, F1 is more competitive than it has ever been, much more so than in previous years. We are where we are at the moment, 2.5 secs behind, a couple of years ago we wouldn't have been at the back but ahead of several teams, but F1 is very competitive this year so we just have to improve.
Q: Are there any new developments for Monaco?
MG: There are no major updates, but there will be some minor aero parts that we will put on the car to help provide the high levels of downforce required for this circuit. Some of the parts are specifically for Monaco but some will be carried forward as part of our ongoing process of development.
Q: Moving forward, what are the plans for the next three races?
MG: We are pushing on with the test programme, aero development and of course the B-spec car. This should be a move forward but we shouldn't pin our hopes too much on suddenly moving up the grid and being competitive, but we will continue evolving until the end of the year. I'm sure that by then we'll be in a more competitive position than we are now.
Q: The B-spec car is now scheduled for Turkey, as originally planned, but how much of a step forward will it be?
MG: It will be a step forward, but not as much as we need to be truly competitive; it is more part of the aero development that is ongoing into 2008. I think we have to be realistic about it - although Spyker and new management have come on board, where we are at the moment is a result of the previous lack of investment. Spyker is putting all those things right, but we won't see the improvements on the race track for nine months to a year. In the meantime, we have to do a professional job with the package we have at the moment and look to next year.
Etihad Aldar Spyker Formula One Team chief engineer, Dominic Harlow, discusses the challenges of the Monaco Grand Prix:
"From an engineering perspective the circuit in Monte Carlo makes for a unique challenge and one that is typically relished by the whole team. You are very much immersed in the action and as close to the cars as it is possible to get."
"Monte Carlo is the only remaining street race on the calendar at present and it produces its own challenges. Setting up a car for this event is so enjoyable because it is almost completely without compromise; you go for maximum downforce, maximum mechanical grip, the softest tyre compounds, and the longest race strategies. With the tight hairpins and corners, Monte Carlo is also the slowest F1-track on the FIA-calendar; Fernando Alonso won the race in 2006, with an average speed of 150 km/h."
"We expect this event to suit our package and have brought an aero upgrade tailored to this event combined with some suspension modifications that are part of our general development programme for the F8-VII."
"Since Qualifying is so important at this event and traffic on the circuit could be a real issue we expect to see some interesting strategies called into play for the various periods of the Qualifying session and again for the race."