MONACO, Wednesday, May 31, 2000 - In some ways, the Monaco Grand Prix, the most glamorous stop on the Formula One schedule, is just another race for Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher and the rest of the 22 F1 drivers in the lineup. ...
MONACO, Wednesday, May 31, 2000 - In some ways, the Monaco Grand Prix, the most glamorous stop on the Formula One schedule, is just another race for Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher and the rest of the 22 F1 drivers in the lineup. “To win at Monaco is an absolutely fabulous feeling, for you yourself and for the team,” said Hakkinen, the 1998 winner of the event. “But does it help you to win the championship or something like this? Well, basically, yes, because you get 10 points for winning it. But this season is very long, and this is just one of the races. In my case at the moment, it is important to score more points than Michael (Schumacher) does.” After six of 17 races, Michael Schumacher leads Hakkinen in the title chase, 46-28. But in many ways, the Monaco Grand Prix is certainly not just another race. No other Grand Prix has Monaco’s backdrop with the famous harbor, filled with glittering yachts, and the exotic surroundings of the tiny principality on the French Riviera. The Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours are considered to be the three most famous races in the world. Only one driver, the late Graham Hill, won all three of these prestigious events. Winning at Monaco is only for the select few. Only five drivers have won the race since 1984: Ayrton Senna, a six-time winner, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher, each four-time winners, and Mika Hakkinen and Olivier Panis, who each won once. Graham Hill won the race five times. With walls and steel guardrails lining the narrow street circuit that twists through the streets of Monaco, one of the biggest challenges for the drivers is keeping their cars away from those barriers. “This Grand Prix offers a lot of challenges,” said West McLaren-Mercedes driver Hakkinen. “The most important are to stay focused, and to stay calm and consistent -- both on the track and off it. There is also the challenge of avoiding mistakes, which can cost a lot of time and slow down (the process of) developing the car. There is simply no room for error, and the drivers need to maintain intense concentration not only for a single qualifying lap but also for the entire 76-lap race. “It is not a normal procedure for us to be driving that close to barriers,” Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher said. “It is a very high challenge for all of us to get the best lap times out of the car. Mistakes not only cost you time, but they usually mean an accident when (under normal circumstances you would only) end up in the gravel.” Should Finland’s Hakkinen win, he will have won his “other” home Grand Prix. In all, 13 of the current 22 F1 drivers maintain residences in Monaco: Rubens Barrichello, David Coulthard, Pedro Diniz, Giancarlo Fisichella, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Hakkinen, Nick Heidfeld, Johnny Herbert, Ralf Schumacher, Jos Verstappen, Jacques Villeneuve, Alexander Wurz and Ricardo Zonta. The superstar drivers manage to move about Monaco relatively freely when the Grand Prix is not in town. “There are a lot of tourists,” Hakkinen said, “and a lot of them do stop me and ask for my autograph or take a photo with me. But at the moment, that is at a level where it is still fine, and it is not disturbing my life. I can still go out and have a nice evening. So, they do stop me, but it’s not bothering me.”
FORMULA ONE NOTEBOOK
Where to watch: Television viewers in the U.S. can watch the Monaco Grand Prix live on Speedvision at 7:30 a.m. (EDT) June 4. Fox Sports Net will air the race tape delayed at 10 a.m. in all time zones June 4. Check local listings. Speedvision will show qualifying live at 7 a.m. (EDT) on June 3.
Montoya impresses Williams: Juan Pablo Montoya’s dominating victory in last weekend’s Indianapolis 500 impressed team owner Frank Williams.
“It was a very exciting race to watch,” Williams said, “particularly because of my personal interest in Juan Pablo. There was lots of overtaking in a race that was always on the bubble, but Juan Pablo was in firm control throughout.
“I offer my congratulations to Chip Ganassi doing a great job. And I congratulate Juan Pablo on securing a victory with a one-off car in a one-off race. He dominated it all the way and made no mistakes. The only pressure came from (Buddy) Lazier, to which Juan Pablo responded by moving up his game.”
Montoya, a former test driver for the Williams F1 team, has a long-term contract with Williams, and the Colombian driver is expected to race in F1 by 2002.
Driving tips: Gerhard Berger, a veteran of 210 Grand Prix starts and now the director of BMW Motorsport, gave Williams-BMW rookie Jenson Button some driving tips for racing at Monaco on Wednesday. Berger, who crashed in the first turn in his first race at Monaco, gave Button advice about that turn and the rest of the circuit as they toured the track on motorcycles.
“Monaco is not an easy race to be doing the first time,” Berger said. “You need to know a few things. On the other hand, it is entirely possible for talented new drivers to come here and do good lap times.
“It is certainly possible to show your potential here. I am also looking forward to (watching Button race), because he has never seen this circuit and he has never driven it. It will be interesting.”
Maximum downforce: Monaco’s tight, sharp corners require that the cars are set up with as much aerodynamic downforce as possible. At most tracks, including the new F1 circuit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the drivers and engineers try to find a balance between downforce for more traction in the corners and the opposite for the highest possible speeds on the straightaways.
“Monaco is one of those rare circuits where we run maximum downforce, almost regardless of efficiency,” said Ferrari’s technical director Ross Brawn. “We run to the limit in terms of wing settings.”
Villeneuve thrilled about United States Grand Prix sellout: “It’s fantastic--that’s great,” British American Racing driver Jacques Villeneuve said when hearing the news that all grandstand seats for this year’s inaugural United States Grand Prix on Sept. 24 have been sold.
“Formula One in the States has never been very big in the past, so it’s good to see that there is going to be a lot of people,” Villeneuve said. Villeneuve won the Indianapolis 500 in 1995 and the Formula One World Championship in 1997.
Getting kicks for charity: Several F1 drivers, including Michael and Ralf Schumacher, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jarno Trulli joined other celebrities and soccer stars in a charity soccer match on Tuesday organized by Monaco’s Prince Albert.
“We won, 3-2,” Michael Schumacher said. “I don’t know how often the prince’ s team has lost, but we are now one that they have lost against. It was a nice game, honestly. Both sides had a couple of professional players, which always makes the game a bit more fluid. Everybody was careful, nobody got injured ... and it was a really good evening.”
Extra cars: F1 teams normally bring three complete cars to a Grand Prix, but because of Monaco’s unforgiving walls, most teams brought four cars to this race.
Monaco tradition: With the exception of Monaco, every Grand Prix weekend, including this year’s inaugural United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis on Sept. 24, conforms to the same schedule with practice Friday, qualifying Saturday and the race Sunday. But Monaco has a long tradition of practice Thursday, giving the F1 teams a day off Friday and then resuming with qualifying Saturday and the race Sunday.