Finding that elusive Monaco magic 13 May 2005
The Monaco Grand Prix boasts a circuit like no other. So how does a Formula One team prepare for the confines of the Monte Carlo streets? Toyotas chief race engineer, Dieter Gass, explains
Q: What is the biggest difference when preparing for the notoriously demanding Monaco Grand Prix?
Dieter Gas: The most notable addition we have for the Monaco Grand Prix is a fourth car, or more specifically a second spare car. Due to the tight nature of the track and the presence of barriers, there comes a greatly enhanced probability of a driver crashing, therefore we have a spare car for both Jarno (Trulli) and Ralf (Schumacher).
Q: What other safety precautions are needed when setting up the car?
DG: Other safety precautions we need to consider are careful attention to the maximum steering lock of the car because we have to deal with the Loews hairpin which is the tightest corner on the calendar. Likewise, Monaco also has one of the quickest corners of the season with the infamous seventh-gear tunnel. We also have to take preventative measures on the suspension to make sure the car survives when a driver leans on the barriers, which can happen at any time. We do not necessarily have to increase the number of spare parts but we do need to make sure we have enough suspension and bodywork replacements.
Q: What are the particular characteristics of the Monaco circuit?
DG: Monaco is one of the circuits where maximum downforce is a priority. We need to find a good compromise on the car set-up to ensure that we have good mechanical grip. Because it is a street circuit, Monaco is very narrow, which makes overtaking virtually impossible.
Q: So is it tempting to drop the fuel load to attain a strong grid position?
DG: I would not say that we need to focus on anything special for qualifying because we also need to make sure that the driver extracts everything from the car over one lap whilst having a car and tyres that can perform over all 78 laps of the gruelling race. In this respect, we will not compromise our race pace by being tempted to reduce the fuel load for qualifying. I believe we could even feasibly see some cars one-stopping in Monaco this year. Qualifying is important but not at the expense of your performance in the race. Consistency is the key. We have seen in the past that if your car is consistent on a heavier fuel load and you can stay out longer than the cars slightly in front you can get past them during the pit stop phase. However, if you are stuck behind a slower car, there is the danger of the leading group getting away from you, which effectively ruins your chances of a good finish.
Q: How do you prepare for a circuit on which you cannot test?
DG: There is no circuit in the calendar comparable to Monaco, so it can be difficult to prepare 100%. We carry out our pre-race work in Paul Ricard because it gives us the opportunity to test very slow corners. The surface is also quite similar, so we believe it is the best circuit to prepare for Monaco. We obviously draw from a vast array of data gathered from previous Monaco GPs, so overall we have a pretty solid base from where to start in Thursday free practice.
Q: Over a lap of Monaco, on which specific areas of the car must you concentrate to be competitive?
DG: I do not think there is any individual area at Monaco that dictates performance. We have to give Jarno and Ralf a car that is easy to drive for the entire lap. They need to extract the maximum performance from the TF105 without any handling issues that could force them into the barrier and out of the race. It is a tough track to drive, so gives more opportunity for the driver to show his ability and talent, but us engineers still need to give them a competitive car with which to do it.
Q: What were your impressions of the new pit facilities?
DG: I must say that the new pit facilities that were introduced at last year's event were a really big step forward compared to the past. It made working a lot more comfortable, especially for those teams who were previously based in the car park at the top of the hill some twenty minutes walk from the pitlane. I certainly don't miss walking from the car park at the top of the hill down to the paddock and then over to the pitlane, although I must admit I do miss the downhill run on my rollerblades heading back to the hotel in the evening!