Round six of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship takes place around the streets of Monte Carlo. It’s the shortest, yet most demanding track on the calendar, and the drivers love the challenge of F1’s original street race.
The Monaco Grand Prix was on the inaugural F1 calendar back in 1950 and it’s been a regular fixture since ’55. The layout of the 3.3km circuit has remained largely unchanged, the biggest updates taking place in 2004, when a new pit complex was built.
The track has the slowest average speed of any circuit in F1, but the proximity of the barriers and the lack of run-off make it mentally absorbing for the drivers. Most of the corners are blind and the track surface is often slippery, particularly at the beginning of the race weekend.
Pirelli will bring the combination of its Supersoft and Soft tyre compounds to the race. The teams have yet to race the Supersoft rubber this year, so they will have plenty to learn when practice gets underway on Thursday.
Monaco has been a happy hunting ground for McLaren. The team has taken 15 wins in the Principality, more than any other team, and Jenson and Lewis have each won the race once, in 2009 and 2008 respectively. They’ll be hoping to spray more champagne this year.
Jenson Button: “My win at Monaco in 2009 remains one of my favourite victories in Formula 1. 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.”
Lewis Hamilton: “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. Apart from the run-off at Ste Devote, and the tiny escape roads at Mirabeau and the harbour chicane, there’s no room to make a mistake. But when the stakes are at their highest, I just find it more exciting.
“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.”
Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: “I’m incredibly proud of the team’s record at Monte-Carlo. We’ve won the Monaco Grand Prix more than any other team, and it’s a race we all regard as incredibly special, and integral to the sporting image of Formula 1.
“This is a unique event in so many ways – it places unique demands on the driver, the car and the team. Accordingly, winning in Monaco is considered a more significant victory than a win at other circuits.
“Both our drivers will arrive in the paddock feeling particularly determined this year: Jenson, because he will be determined to set the record straight after losing a victory in 2011 that many felt he rightfully deserved; Lewis, simply because he has been driving brilliantlys all season and a victory at his favourite circuit would be just reward for all his speed and commitment.
“For the entire Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team, too, we travel to the south of France feeling determined to string together a faultless weekend and to demonstrate our full potential. I have absolutely no doubts that the team is feeling very strong, and a win at Monaco would be the perfect fillip for their efforts.”