After 5 races and 5 different winners from 5 different teams, we approach the 6th round of the 2012 Formula 1 World Championship - the Monaco Grand Prix. Will we see the 6th winner this weekend, if yes, then the question is who well he be?
One of the very few classic venues left on the calendar, Monaco is arguably the toughest track on the calendar as drivers drive around the tight and twisty streets of world's second smallest country.
Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel who also won the Monaco Grand Prix last year leads the drivers standings with Fernando Alonso - both tied on 61 points.
“It’s something special to race in Monaco; it’s tight and there’s no room for error. It’s rough and, as it’s a street circuit, the road surface is uneven so you get shaken in the car and there is no room for mistakes. You have to push yourself and the car to the limit to be fast, you have to push as hard as on other tracks, but there’s no room. You can almost feel it when you are just missing the wall and just get through - but it’s a nice feeling. You need to be fully focused on track, it’s a special thing to win in Monaco.” said the double world champion.
His team-mate Mark Webber is equally excited and at the same time understands the challenge of racing in Monaco after having a tough weekend in Spain which ended his streak of 4 back to back fourth places.
“Monaco is a really special track, it’s an old circuit in terms of when it was first designed and the layout hasn’t changed too much since. It’s got a bit easier from when I first joined Formula One ten years ago, but it’s still a test of man against the track and with the car. You’re racing other people, but it doesn’t always feel like it because the track is always asking you to give more. If you bite and try to give it more then you crash so it’s a very, very challenging circuit mentally. Physically it’s quite straightforward, but in the mind you need to be very disciplined and that’s the challenge around Monaco.” Webber said.
But fans will prefer to see another new winner this weekend and Lewis Hamilton is one of their favourites. Having scored three pole position this season(including Spain exclusion), the 2008 world champions has failed to score his pace when it matters - raceday! In Bahrain, he lost valuable time when McLaren pit crew fumbled twice in pits. Having clocked the fastest lap time in qualifying, half a second quicker than rest of the field, he was exluded from the session for failing to return to pits due to insufficient fuel.
“Monaco is a very special circuit. It’s up there with Silverstone as the place where I most want to do well at. Even though Monaco has the slowest average speed of all the circuits we visit in a season, it always feels incredibly quick. That’s because the acceleration is so rapid and the walls so close: there really is no room for error.
“Still, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that, despite pushing for the win, consistency and scoring decent points is currently the most sensible way to tackle this world championship. I’ve scored points at every race, and I’m only eight points off the lead of the championship. That’s a really encouraging statistic and it’s reassuring to see my approach is paying off. Nevertheless, I’m coming off the back of two relatively disappointing results and there would be no better place for the cards to fall in my favour than at Monaco.”
His team mate Jenson Button is optimistic about his chances of winning this year having won the race in 2010.
"Monte-Carlo is a place where every driver wants to win, but achieving it is so satisfying because you know you’ve conquered one of the toughest circuits in motorsport. Winning the Monaco Grand Prix will always be really special.
“I remember last year having a fantastic car beneath me and feeling really confident that I could challenge for the win. As it happened, circumstances beyond our control worked to pull that opportunity away from us, but I go back to Monte-Carlo with a little bit of unfinished business. I’d love to win for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, the team has a great history around Monaco and I’d love to add my name to McLaren’s Monaco winners’ list.
“This year, we’ll be running Pirelli’s Supersoft compound for the first time - which should be interesting. And while our car isn’t especially suited to the tighter confines of a track like Monaco, I’m optimistic of getting on top of the balance issues that have affected me for the past two races. It’s going to be a fantastic weekend.”
Raikkonen says that his E20 has been fast in all races so far and hopes for another good performance following consecutive podium finishes.
“Monaco is a little bit different and it’s hard to say how it will go there. However, as a special race there is nothing like Monaco. There is no better feeling than to get things going well in there. To race in the streets of Monte Carlo is really different from everywhere else; a challenge I look forward to every year. It is very, very difficult, almost impossible, to have a clean weekend there.
We’ll have to see how the tyres perform and if there are any good strategies to be made, but the most important thing is qualifying well. It’s difficult to know how good the car will be in Monaco as you can’t simulate its characteristics, certainly not at any of the circuits we’ve visited so far this year. We can say the E20 has been fast everywhere else so let’s hope it’s also fast at Monaco.”
Fresh from his first victory in Spain, Maldonado is hoping for another strong result for the team.
“Monaco is a very challenging circuit for the drivers both physically and mentality 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. 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.”
Schumacher, who has won the Monaco Grand Prix 5 times in his F1 career will lose the same number of positions on the grid due to his collision with Bruno Senna in Spain.
"Monaco is just a circuit of its own very unique character. Of course, knowing that I will lose five positions on the grid does not add to this feeling but this just means that I will have to try even harder. I'm actually quite confident that we should look reasonably good in Monaco due to the hard work that everybody in the team is putting into the development of our car. So let's make the best out of the weekend."
Pirelli will bring super-softs and soft tyres this weekend, just like last year as street circuits like Monaco aren't much harsh on tyres. The race will run over 78 laps as drivers will cover a distance of 260km around the 3.34k circuit.