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Pre-Monaco analysis - favourites cool on Monte-Carlo prospects 24 May 2012

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Wednesday, 23 May 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 May 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 13 May 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012 on the grid with race engineer Andrea Stella (ITA).
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 13 May 2012 Ferrari F2012 in pit lane.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Wednesday, 23 May 2012 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Wednesday, 23 May 2012 Pirelli tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Wednesday, 23 May 2012 Lucas di Grassi (BRA) and Paul Hembery (GBR) Pirelli Motorsport Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Wednesday, 23 May 2012 McLaren with Pirelli tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Wednesday, 23 May 2012

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, two of the big favourites for victory at Monaco this weekend, both played down their chances yesterday.

“I’m not frustrated,” Hamilton said after the problems he’s faced this year after setting pole position three times yet not yet winning a race. “This is the way racing goes sometimes. Of course, looking at the qualifying results we’ve had for the five races, we would have loved to have finished further up and we definitely need to improve to ensure that we stay where we are or move forwards. Yeah, we’ve started high up and finished a little bit further behind from where we started so we’ve gone backwards a little bit in most of the races, but we’re working very hard to make sure that doesn’t continue.

"It’s wide open here, and this track is where the driver can make a difference. I love it here. To be able to wake up in your own bed and drive just down the road and be at work is a fantastic feeling.

"I am sure it will make quite a big difference, I loved where I lived before [in Switzerland] but this is just a different place and I seem to be enjoying it a bit more."

“Monaco is a unique circuit and you never know what car may dominate and this year even more so," Alonso said. “We didn't know which cars were going to be quick at Barcelona, let alone at Monaco. But the most important thing here is on Saturday during qualifying. If you start from the first two rows you have a podium chance, otherwise it's almost impossible, or at least very complicated.”

Ferrari’s F2012 lacks traction, especially relative to a car such as Williams’s FW34 which excelled in that respect in Barcelona, but Alonso says he isn’t too worried about that as far as qualifying is concerned.

"With new tyres and over one lap you can sort of mask the traction problems, so it's not a big worry for us. In the race we'll see. Degradation will be big, but safety cars and anything that can happen in the race can help you or hurt you and there's no way to control that."

He expects Williams to be a force again here, as do most of the other potential frontrunners.

"Williams has been strong in all races. In Australia we were fighting with Maldonado for fourth before his accident. In China they had a small problem in qualifying and then in the race they were sixth and seventh. So Williams has had great races in all the Grands Prix. In Barcelona it was the icing on the cake because they won, but I think here they will be fast again. We'll see. We don't know who will be on top here and it's hard to name favourites."

Spanish Grand Prix winner Pastor Maldonado merely smiled when people asked him about his chances of becoming 2012’s first repeat winner, knowing that while scoring his first race win was “a really special feeling,” that it has put him under even more pressure to do well here.

“I’ve been always so quick here, especially in GP2 and World Series as well. Last year I was doing a good job, I was P6 but it’s always difficult. This kind of track, you never know for the traffic, for everything. The track is going to change a lot during the weekend and we need to follow the track and we need a very good balance in the car as well and to be ready in the right time in the track. So, we’ll see. I will do my best, again one more time and we’ll see. I believe it is still possible to be competitive here, then we’ll see.

“For sure it is going to be difficult now. The gaps and the team levels are so close, so anything can make the difference. We need to put everything together to make a step forward, and I need to say that Williams are doing a very good job at the moment, I feel all the people are very motivated, they are pushing so hard - me too - it’s a very good feeling in the team. And you know, still we need to improve. We are not at 100 per cent at the moment, we are not the best team - but we are not that far, we are there and we need to try to improve every time.”

Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery, meanwhile, put the most significant challenge that they face, beyond sheer survival in the Armco jungle, into perspective.

“Monaco is a highlight of the season and a place where our super-soft and soft tyres have provided plenty of entertainment in the past. Last year, we had three drivers on three different strategies set for a grandstand finish - before a red flag got in the way. The super-soft is the only compound that remains unaltered from last year, as it proved to be so effective on circuits like Monaco, but of course the profile has been re-designed to better suit the 2012 regulations. With the wear rate being so low in Monaco, the drivers will be able to push at their hardest from start to finish. Tyre strategy will be very important, as on-track overtaking is more difficult here than anywhere else. Having said that, the Principality has a history of often springing a surprise. With the cars so evenly matched now, even the slightest advantage or smallest mistake can have a big impact on the final outcome of a race, as we’ve seen so far this season.”

David Tremayne

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