Monaco F1 Grand Prix 2011: Preview (VMM)


Woking, United Kingdom, May 24, 2011

It’s a quick turnaround for us at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes this week, with just four days between the chequered flag dropping in Barcelona and cars powering onto the Armco-lined streets of Monaco during Thursday practice for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton is eager to return to a circuit he won at in 2008 and considers one of its favourites. He said: “I love Monaco, it’s a race I remember watching when I was a kid and it’s a place that really showcases Formula 1 at its very best: racing flat-out against around the toughest and greatest circuit in the world.

“After such a strong showing in Spain, I’m really looking forward to Monaco this year because I think we’ll see a different race from previous years. I think a combination of DRS, KERS Hybrid and the tyres will really make the racing come alive, and I’d love to see some overtaking action and some hard racing this year.

“I think the DRS zone at Monaco is only around 300 metres, so it’s pretty short, and not really long enough to enable us to really get enough of a launch on the car ahead. I think the aerodynamics will only really start working properly once we’ve reached the braking zone for Ste Devote, so I don’t think we’ll see too many DRS-assisted overtaking moves next weekend.

“However, I think the tyres will probably give us the greatest scope for excitement and the best chance of passing. While I don’t think the Super-Soft and Soft compounds will be as critical around Monaco as they were at a place like Turkey, I still think the drop-off we encounter as the tyres go off should create opportunities for overtaking. And I don’t think the marbles will be as bad as people fear, because they tend to occur at the exits of high-speed corners, and Monaco is generally quite a low-speed track, so I don’t think we’ll see the build-up that we saw at somewhere like Turkey’s Turn Eight, for example.

“I’m already looking forward to it.”

Jenson Button thinks adjusting to the confines of Monaco after a fast circuit is challenging but very rewarding once mastered. He said:

“Monaco is the most glamorous and historic race on the calendar. Winning there [in 2009] was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, and it remains one of my favourite grand prix victories.

“It’s always a strange contrast going from a circuit like Barcelona, which is fast, open and flowing, then arriving a few days later at Monaco – which is the slowest, tightest and toughest track on the calendar.

“On your first lap out of the pits, the acceleration just feels incredible and the barriers feel far too close! But you build up a little more gradually than you would at any other circuit, and you quickly find your focus. Still, it’s an intense and slightly unbelievable feeling.

“There’s been some suggestion that KERS Hybrid might not provide a useful lap time benefit around Monaco, because you might think you couldn’t really exploit it to give you a boost onto a straight. But our simulations suggest that it’s worth as much at Monaco as it is pretty much anywhere else, which is another positive because I think that the Mercedes-Benz unit is the best in Formula 1.

Martin Whitmarsh is mindful of the team’s unmatched success on the unforgiving street circuit, and is keen for Lewis and Jenson to add to its record. He said: “Both our drivers have won the Monaco Grand Prix, and McLaren has an enviable record around the streets of the principality – we’ve won the race on 15 occasions which is more than any other team – and we go into next weekend aiming to make it 16!

“Our Barcelona race pace, in particular our sector three times, looked very respectable indeed last weekend – and hopefully that will give us a good idea of what to expect at Monaco, because it’s a slow, stop-start section of the track. I think one of the strengths of the MP4-26 is its low-speed grip and traction, so I think we should be in good shape from the start of the weekend.

“Additionally, I don’t think the deployment of driver-operated tools like the DRS and KERS Hybrid will affect the concentration of our drivers. One of the many strengths of having two strong drivers is that they are both gifted enough to be able to deal with those added complexities within the cockpit without it affecting their performance.

“Let’s hope we can put on a showcase race at Formula 1’s showcase event.”

* Official photo and details courtesy of VODAFONE MCLAREN MERCEDES *

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