2012 Monaco Grand Prix preview – The ultimate prize

May 22, 2012 7:28 pm

This weekend Formula One hosts the most glamorous race of the year surrounded by the glamour and glitz of Monte Carlo.

This really is the big one; ask any of the 24 drivers which race they would most like to win and it is guaranteed most of them will choose Monaco. With 7 previous winners of the prestigious race on the grid, you can rest assured this one is going to be a tough fight and thrilling to watch.

Fresh from his maiden triumph in Spain, Pastor Maldonado is confident of success on the streets of the Mediterranean principality, although his Williams team has undoubtedly been affected by the disastrous post-race garage fire that erupted shortly after the end of the Spanish GP injuring several mechanics. ‘We will certainly do our best.’ said the Venezuelan in an interview with the F1 website. ‘Our package is definitely getting better and although we don’t have the quickest car right now, we are improving very quickly. I have always liked Monaco and after Sunday I am certainly full of confidence.’ The new national hero of Venezuela was on course for an impressive 6th place in Monaco last year when a clumsy Lewis Hamilton took him out of the race with a handful of laps remaining, so the track holds a certain amount of unfinished business for Maldonado. With his Williams car looking strong through the slow final part of the track in Barcelona last time out, it looks promising that he may have the best machine to suit the Monte Carlo track. A second straight win can certainly not be discounted.

World Champion Sebastian Vettel dominated the race here last year, despite pressure from both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. After a somewhat less than flawless start to 2012, the German nonetheless heads up the title charge as Formula One heads into its 6thrace of the season. ‘It’s something special to race in Monaco; it’s tight and there’s no

Sebastian Vettel won the 2011 Monaco GP

room for error.’ he said. ‘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.’ His Red Bull team have a real chance of glory this weekend as team mate Mark Webber bids to bounce back from a disappointing weekend in Spain that yielded just 11th place. ‘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’ the Australian claimed. Red Bull have won the past two races in Monaco so they really do know what it takes to bring home the silverware from the illustrious event.

After a messy race in Barcelona, both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton are confident of re-igniting their title chances at the star-studded race. ‘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.’ beamed Button who won the 2009 race with the Brawn GP team.  ‘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.’ Hamilton, who experienced a nightmare weekend here last year which ended with him accusing FIA stewards of racism, was also upbeat in an interview with the F1 website. ‘Monaco is a very special circuit. It’s up there with Silverstone as the place where I most want to do well at… 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.’ Mclaren were of course the team that the legendary Ayrton Senna led to 5 of his record 6 Monaco wins between 1988 and 1993.

The 2011 podium (L-R) Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel & Jenson Button

2005 race winner Kimi Raikkonen will take part in his first Monaco Grand Prix since 2009 when he returns to the track this weekend, and on recent form he too stands a very significant chance of adding a second victory to his tally. ‘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.’ said the Finn. He enters the weekend on the back of two very strong results, a 2nd in Bahrain and a fighting 3rd in Spain which some felt was less than he rightfully deserved. Formula One could be hailing another first-time winner come Sunday though as Frenchman Romain Grosjean has also shown impressive form so far this year. ‘I think Monaco is going to be a fantastic event and it is a special race for me for sure. There are certain to be a lot of French fans, and I’m looking forward to their support. It’s also a very special event in its own right, and the atmosphere is quite crazy! As a driver you have to stay calm and relaxed and try to do your job. It’s a track that doesn’t allow any mistakes. You have to respect it and that is the key there I think. Hopefully we can have another good result.’ said the jovial Franco-Swiss driver. Could he become the first French driver to win a Formula One race since 1996? Olivier Panis took his Ligier car to victory at that year’s Monaco Grand Prix, and since then Formula One has not been a happy hunting ground for drivers from the French republic.  The team won the 2004 and 2006 races in their former guise of Renault so they could be a force to be reckoned with.

Of the other teams, Mercedes and Ferrari are perhaps less of a factor here, as Mercedes straight line speed is tempered by a tendency to struggle with tyre wear in hot races. Monaco has no straights to speak of and the temperature is forecast to be significantly higher so the Silver Arrows may have to settle for a solid points finish rather than aiming for the podium. Fernando Alonso narrowly missed out on victory in his upgraded Ferrari last time out but is still wary of the threat posed by the established frontrunners of Red Bull and Mclaren, both mired in the pack in Barcelona by abnormal events in qualifying. One team confident of a good showing is Sauber, for whom Japanese Kamui Koabayashi claimed 5th place in Spain. ‘The Monaco track is probably the one where the driver has the most influence on the overall performance. Last year both our drivers were competitive – Sergio until his accident in Q3, and Kamui finished a strong fifth in the race. The main challenge for setting up the car will be to optimise the mechanical grip. I’m confident we will be able to handle this.’ said Matt Morris, the team’s chief designer. ‘We have been competitive so far this season, and I’m confident we can be very strong in Monaco as well.’

All is set. Formula One 2012-spec has been unpredictable to say the least, and there’s the potential for it to become even more unpredictable this weekend. With Hamilton, Button, Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Raikkonen , Grosjean, Maldonado, Kobayashi and Perez numbering amongst the most likely winners of the race, you’d be very brave to place a substantial bet this weekend!

Coverage this weekend is available via both BBC One and Sky F1 HD live from all practice and qualifying sessions and the race itself on Sunday, which starts at 13:00 GMT.

Radio coverage is available from BBC Radio 5 Live of all sessions.

 

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