By Melissa Shanley of Setanta Sports
The Monaco Grand Prix is probably the contest which is raced on the most unique and dangerous circuit, but because of its historical position in Formula 1, Monaco’s place in the calendar remains.
The second European race of the season, it will prove to be a difficult track for the drivers to navigate, but one which, according to some, is the most enjoyable.
Five time winner of the Monaco Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher, will have to contend with a five place grid penalty this time in Monaco.
Schumacher, who navigated his way around the tricky track five times to become the person who has the second highest victory record in Monaco, only one win behind Ayrton Senna, was handed the grid penalty following his collision with Bruno Senna in the Spanish Grand Prix on 13 May.
Despite this, the struggling Mercedes driver, who has accumulated only two points so far this season, is feeling confident.
“Every time you go there (to Monaco) you just look forward to finally getting out and driving. Of course, knowing I will lose five positions on the grid does not add to this feeling, but this just means I will have to try even harder,” he said.
Fellow Mercedes driver, Nico Rosberg, is perhaps more familiar with the circuit than many of his counterparts as he grew up in Monaco.
“I love the Monaco Grand Prix weekend and it’s a great feeling to be driving at home, knowing that all my friends and family are watching. I have always been quick around the streets here and I believe a good result is possible... The nature of the track should suit our car, but as we have seen at every race so far this season, tyre management will be crucial.”
Team Principal of Mercedes, Ross Brawn, also feels confident saying: “despite the logistical challenges of the weekend, Monaco is a race that everyone on the team and the drivers really enjoy, and the experience of winning in Monaco is something very special indeed.... I am confident that we will start to see an improvement in Monaco as the developments that we have brought to the car recently take effect.”
Meanwhile, the Williams team will have to get over the fire which marred their victory in Spain and caused injury to members of their team and damage to their equipment.
According to Williams’ Engineering Chief, Mark Gillan, who told admitted “the team's preparations for Monaco have been somewhat hampered by last Sunday's garage fire, but the impact of the fire has been mitigated by what can only be described as a Herculean effort by the factory and our suppliers to restock both the damaged equipment and car parts.”
Pastor Maldonado, who won the Spanish Grand Prix for Williams, is hoping to finish well in Monaco.
“Monaco is a very challenging circuit for the drivers both physically and mentally because you have to concentrate fully at all times, but I really enjoy this challenge and I have traditionally done well here in the past,” he said. “I am full of confidence after my win at the last race so I go to Monaco with high hopes of getting another strong result for the team.”
Fernando Alonso and Ferrari will be hoping for a win in Monaco in order for them to overtake Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel at the top of the standings. In a letter which he wrote to the Ferrari team members, president Luca di Montezemolo called for them to take advantage of their lead and for underperforming driver Felipe Massa to start performing.
“The Championship is in our own hands,” Montezemolo wrote. “The championship is very open and so far, there has not been one dominant force. A series of circumstances and the work done here to improve the car, as well as Alonso's great ability, has led to us leading the Championship after five rounds. We must capitalize on that, with each one of us giving our very best at home and at the race track, including [Felipe] Massa who must bring home the results we expect from him.”
This weekend’s race in Monaco could see a sixth different winner in six different races, making this year’s championship unpredictable, more competitive and wide open.
Monaco’s circuit is based around the towns of Monte Carlo and La Condamine. The narrow track is one of the most difficult in the world because of its changing gradient and tight corners. Due to recent track safety regulations, if Monaco was not already a track and was not such a historical part of the Grand Prix season, it is likely that races would not be permitted on the track.
The strait at the beginning of the track which drivers will use to accelerate is quickly followed by a sharp right hand turn. This is seen as being the most dangerous part of the Monaco Circuit with many accidents having occurred on this bend. In addition to this, two other obstacles of the course are the harbour in La Condamine - into which two drivers crashed in 1955 and 1966 – and a tunnel which means that the drivers find it difficult to adjust their eyes to the darkness when entering the tunnel and the brightness when exiting the tunnel.
Monaco Grand Prix Schedule (Irish Time):
Thursday May 24
Practice 1 09:00 - 10:30
Practice 2 13:00 – 14:30
Saturday May 26
Practice 3 10:00 – 11:00
Sunday May 27
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