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Pre-Monaco analysis - the mystique of a Monte Carlo win 23 May 2013

Race winner Jenson Button (GBR) Brawn Grand Prix celebrates victory.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Race, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 24 May 2009 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 10 May 2013 Adrian Sutil (GER) Force India F1 VJM04 takes the chequered flag at the end of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6,  Monaco Grand Prix, Race, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Sunday, 29 May 2011 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Wednesday, 22 May 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus F1 walks the track with Ayao Komatsu (JPN) Lotus Race Engineer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Wednesday, 22 May 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 in the Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Wednesday, 22 May 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 with his dog Roscoe.
Formula One World Championship, Rd6, Monaco Grand Prix, Preparations, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Wednesday, 22 May 2013 Paddy Lowe (GBR) McLaren Technical Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Practice, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Friday, 2 November 2012

“Is Monaco the greatest race of them all?” Jenson Button pondered yesterday.

“I don’t know really,” the 2009 victor said. “I think they’re all pretty special in their own right. Some of them have more history than others and Monaco is definitely one of them. A lot of us also live here, so it’s a very special race. But I think if you’ve had the opportunity to fight for a win and actually cross the finish line first, it’s a very special race, yeah. You feel as though you celebrate that win, obviously with your team, but also with everyone watching here, because it’s such a confined space. It’s a very special place to win. But there are so many other races that mean a lot to us and certain races that mean more to us as individuals rather than Formula One as a whole.”

“It could be, yes, definitely,” Force India’s Adrian Sutil thought. “But I feel this is a normal race, like every other race really. You try to the best possible. In a way it’s a bit different because you know from the past and from experience that there are more possibilities out there. It’s a very tricky circuit, unforgiving and easy to make mistakes, maybe have safety car intervention. The risk is high here and that opens up some situations for you… it can work well for you or the other way.

“Having that in mind gives a nice race, a nice weekend. Starting last or starting at the front doesn’t mean you will win the race. It’s all up. You need to be on the point and just stay focused for the whole race, until it’s finished.”

Marussia’s Jules Bianchi feels the attraction, especially as he’s a local boy born in Nice. “Of course I’m really excited to be in the car tomorrow. I think this race is special for me because Nice isn’t really far from here so it’s like a home race. I can’t wait to be in the car even if I know it’s a tricky track. It’s not easy to be quick here. I had some good records in the junior categories so let’s see what we will do.”

It seems odd that Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg hasn’t won here in junior categories. “It’s definitely special,” he says. “I’ve never won here. I’ve been on the podium in GP2 and that was certainly special. In F1, to achieve a podium here, or even a win, would be special. I think it stands out a bit more than a normal Grand Prix let’s say.”

But it was Lotus star Romain Grosjean, a former GP2 winner, who shocked with a statistic he trotted out. “Monaco is not France but basically it’s not far. A special race, with a special podium, as well at the finish, when you get to meet the Prince, which is nice. There’s 25 points, as at every other Grand Prix, but I think Monaco is a special one to me. One of my first memories was 1996 when Olivier Panis won, the last French driver to win, a long time ago…”

But perhaps it was 2008 winner Lewis Hamilton who found it most special.

“Monaco is spectacular. As Jenson said, a lot of us live here. I don’t feel like it’s like any other race. Winning here is unique and special, in its own way. When you do win here, when you finally get that, you have the most incredible feeling. Every time you come here, that’s what you’re chasing every year.”

Fernando Alonso has tipped Mercedes as a possible winner, but can they turn the tide after their major disappointment in Spain when front-row grid positions translated into sixth and 12th for polesitter Nico Rosberg and Hamilton in the race?

“It’s definitely not easily solved,” Hamilton said of Mercedes’ tyre wear problem. “It’s something we’re working on internally. Just working as hard as we can to assess and understand where we went wrong: tyre pressures, temperatures and all of those kind of things. I don’t think it’s going to be as bad - hopefully - moving forward. It’s definitely something we’re trying to improve on. So hopefully we won’t have as many bad races as we did the last one.

“I don’t particularly think this race represents our best chance if victory this year. We have a good opportunity this weekend but you never know what the others are capable of. Last year they were quite competitive, Mercedes was quite competitive here. Obviously our car is better this year so we should still be competitive this year. But the Ferraris and the Lotuses and the Red Bulls are massively competitive as well. So, we just have to wait and see.

“I definitely do think we have a better chance, though. I think a huge amount of work has gone into understanding where we went wrong. As I said, the guys have really kick-started a lot of different discussions. Obviously it’s a real science trying to understand these tyres. Everyone’s trying to understand them but I really feel this weekend will be a better weekend for us compared to the last. And moving on from here I think we’ll just continue to learn and improve.

“It’s very difficult to overtake here. Mark [Webber] won it last year and just controlled it from the front, even though he had a very competitive car, so yeah, overtaking is very, very difficult here as I proved a couple of years ago. So if you’re able to get out in front, it’s more than likely if you’re able to manage your tyres that you can stay there.”

Though he was cautious about former McLaren technical director Paddy Lowe officially joining the team on June 3, he is known to be very enthusiastic about his former colleague’s imminent arrival.

“I’ve had great experience of Paddy over the last five or six years. He’s obviously a great person and massively intelligent and will be a great asset for the team, so I’m really looking forward to working with him. We all look forward to it.”

David Tremayne

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