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Monaco Grand Prix - the drivers' view 18 May 2005

David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Practice, Imola, Italy, 22 April 2005 Mark Webber (AUS) Williams BMW FW27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, 7 May 2005 Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota 
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, 8 May 2005 Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) Sauber Petronas 
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, 7 May 2005

Several of them live there, so no wonder they love it...

A thrilling spectacle and arguably the most mentally challenging event of the year - the drivers explain why they relish the challenge of competing around the twisting streets of Monte Carlo, which for many equates to racing in their own back yard!

David Coulthard, Red Bull
2004 Qualifying - 9th, 2004 Race - DNF

"There's something special about driving round the Monaco GP circuit. The first time I drove a GP car here I was sure that my back wheel would catch the barrier at some of the tighter corners, it just didn't look possible to squeeze the car through. To be the fastest car around Monaco you need to have the wall of the rear tyre just kissing the barrier at several places on the circuit, which is an intense experience because of the concentration it takes. One slip and it's all over, there's nowhere you can relax. I've won Monaco twice and I drove one of the best laps of my life to take pole there too. I'll be happy if we can come home in the points again and I see no reason why we shouldn't be able to."

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Red Bull
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"I have raced here twice before in F3000: two years ago I had a big crash and last year I won. I like the challenge of this place, because you are faced with the two options of being quick and accurate or ending up in the wall. I've never been a big fan of street circuits, but Monaco is something special and I love it. The atmosphere is fantastic. The trick here is to have confidence in yourself and in the car. You need a different approach, because with no run-off areas, you can't tell yourself you will brake later and see what the car does. I am feeling confident and well prepared and our car is good in terms of traction, which is very important here, so I think we can have a good weekend. The only negative thing is that I will be first on track for Saturday's qualifying."

Mark Webber, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 12th, 2004 Race - DNF

"Nothing else really compares to Monaco, it's such a unique event for many different reasons. It's always very special to race there because Monaco is so steeped in motor racing history. The circuit has seen so many great races and has created countless racing legends. For the drivers, it's one of the greatest challenges of the season because, although it's a relatively slow circuit in terms of speed, concentration and fitness levels are very important. Mentally, it's a tough track to race on because the margin for error is so small and, with all that armco waiting to suck you in at the slightest mistake, there's no such thing as a small accident in Monaco. I think it's also the race that every driver wants to win as it's known as a real driver's track.

“Monaco also provides the teams with plenty of challenges as the track changes quite a lot over the course of the weekend. You need to make the car as comfortable as possible to drive because the circuit has so many undulations and bumps. However, a comfortable car isn't always a quick one, so it's crucial to find the right balance."

Nick Heidfeld, Williams
2004 Qualifying - 17th, 2004 Race - 7th

"Monaco is definitely one of the most difficult circuits on the calendar, but despite this I like it, so I'm looking forward to racing there again. It's really quite amazing to drive through Monte Carlo so I'm pleased that this race is still on the calendar and I hope that it will stay on it for a long time. Some people say it's not particularly safe, but it's so enjoyable! I've lived in Monaco for a few years and it's always nice to come back. I also have very good memories of the circuit because I've won both an F3 and F3000 race there."

Jacques Villeneuve, Sauber
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"I've been looking forward to racing in Monaco for weeks! It's a great circuit and just the kind of challenge I like.

"Our car was very good in Imola, and even though Spain was a disappointment my tyres were great the whole race in Barcelona. We will be able to get away with running softer compounds in Monaco, so I'm looking forward to being able to fight hard there."

Felipe Massa, Sauber
2004 Qualifying - 16th, 2004 Race - 5th

"Monaco can be a funny track. I never drove a car there yet that had a really comfortable set-up, though last year things were reasonable and I scored points for fifth because I was able to get to the finish. It's one of those places where you can often score provided you get to the end, even if you are not fast. It's very easy to crash there; in 2002 I had a big shunt at Ste Devote after a brake problem. To go fast you have to go close to the wall every lap, so you are always right on the edge.

"It's also even harder to overtake there than it is at Imola. The Tunnel isn't really straight enough to line up a pass, and generally speaking you can only pass if the guy in front makes a mistake. But you do get a buzz driving there, though you soon get used to the feeling after your first few laps on the limit. The problem is finding that limit without stepping over it, because if you go over you crash. Simple as that. I did spin once in the chicane without hitting anything, and on the exit to the Swimming Pool, but that was pure luck!"

Fernando Alonso, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 4th, 2004 Race - DNF

“It (Monaco) is great - especially on the first laps on Thursday when you have to get used to everything again, it is a special feeling. By Sunday, once we have run in free practice and we are really comfortable with the track, then things feel more normal, but it is still a unique race for the drivers and the teams. Every team brings a special package for Monaco, and we need to have a special mentality in the car. You cannot make any mistakes in Monte-Carlo, and that means 100% concentration from Thursday to Sunday. Mentally, it is very demanding.

“Everything (not just the driver) needs to be good. In the three years I have driven there, I have driven the same way - but a few years ago I was back in the pack, then last year with Renault we were fighting for the win. The car is very important as well: you need good suspension, the aero is maybe less important, but the engine must be good, and soft in the power delivery. The R25 is easy to drive, and predictable, so I think we have a strong car for this circuit. We will be aiming for the podium from the start of the weekend - and then we need to see things unfold, and how we can fight for more.”

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2004 Qualifying - 11th, 2004 Race - DNF

“It is just a special weekend for me. I feel very comfortable there - I used to live in Monaco, and now I bring my boat down for the race, which means all my family can come and stay as well. I actually drive the boat from Italy up to Monte-Carlo, spend time relaxing in the days before and then during the race weekend, when the day is over it is great to go back on the boat and spend time with my family.

“I have very good feeling with this circuit. You need to be very precise with the car, and be aggressive without making mistakes. I love the sensation of driving through the streets, and really pushing to the limit. In the past, I have always gone well in Monaco, and it should be the same this year.

“I have been on the podium twice in Monaco, and I think I am with the right team for this race - Renault did a great job last year with Jarno (Trulli) to win the race, and the R25 will definitely be fast there. What's even more important is that I think I can have a good race weekend from the start now: I am in the right place in first qualifying, near the end of the session when track conditions will be best, and that means I can fight to get a good grid position, which is so important in Monaco. It feels like I have broken out of the cycle I was in, where I kept on having to qualify early. That is one thing, and now with Renault, I have a great car. As I said, I have already finished third and second in Monaco. It would be wonderful to go one better this year.”

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
2004 Qualifying - 5th, 2004 Race - DNF

"I have so many fond memories, I always enjoy coming here. It's just a lot of fun to wind your way through the streets here. Even though it will be difficult for us this time, because the position on the starting grid at Monaco is somewhat decisive for the outcome of the race: but that does not diminish my excitement. We are looking forward to taking on this challenge. Giving up is not an option, but giving up before you try is completely out of the question. Like I said: this is sports, and in sports anything is possible.”

Narain Karthikeyan, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

“I cannot wait to drive in Monaco as normally I go well on street circuits. I was fast at Macao when I was racing in F3. Monaco has a great heritage. The race will be hard for the Bridgestone tyres but above all for the gearbox because we change gears so often in Monaco. Qualifying will also be crucial, as there is nearly no room for overtaking; but I am ready for the challenge.”

Tiago Monteiro, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

“It is very exciting to go to Monaco, one of the biggest names in Formula One and a dangerous circuit. It is very special for a racing driver to go there. The preparation for Monaco is very important: not only the car has to be well set-up but also the way you prepare yourself mentally. More than in any other places, you need to have everything ready before you go in the car. A single little mistake in the car can have serious consequences; therefore you need to be concentrated at 100% all the time. I think this is a race where we can be good and with a bit of luck we could maybe score a point. I want to keep up with my good result in Barcelona. Usually I have always loved driving on street circuits. When I was in Champ Car, eight out of 19 races were street tracks and I did get on well. So we will see in Monaco in a Formula One car.”

Robert Doornbos, third driver, Jordan
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

“I am really looking forward to going to Monaco, as probably all drivers are in the paddock. It is the most famous street circuit in the world and it is very exciting to drive there. I raced there last year in F3000 and I have always enjoyed driving on street circuits as you can feel the speed. It is very challenging for a driver not to make any mistakes and stay concentrated the whole time. So I will make sure I am very fit and do a good job on Thursday.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 1st, 2004 Race - 1st

"Monaco is obviously one of my favourite tracks and I have some special memories from last year, when I won the race from pole. It's a dream for any driver to win his first grand prix and the way I won, dominating qualifying and the race, gave me a lot of satisfaction. But that is now the past and I'm ready for the next challenge with Panasonic Toyota Racing this year. The most important corners for connecting up the Monaco lap are Ste Devote, Casino Square, the entry to the tunnel, the chicane, the Swimming Pool and Rascasse. Of those, the Swimming Pool entry is my favourite corner. It's quick, very challenging and I like the change of direction from left to right. Toyota has had a great season so far but it's difficult to predict exactly how we will perform at Monaco until we try the circuit with our package. Monaco is a place where the driver probably makes more of a difference than anywhere else, but the handling of the car is still important and so are the tyres. We'll be giving everything to keep up our run of good results."

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2004 Qualifying - 2nd, 2004 Race - 10th

"I used to live in Monaco and I still have a holiday home on the Côte d'Azur so this race feels like something of a second home to me. I've always had good results around the Principality too, so I like driving there. But it requires a special approach, not least because of the proximity of the barriers. That makes the Monaco Grand Prix tough both physically and mentally because any lapse in concentration is certain to be punished by retirement from the race. It's a bumpy circuit and a strong performance depends heavily on the tyres that you get. And, because it is so difficult to overtake, qualifying becomes especially important. To predict how Toyota will perform, let's go there first and see how we look in Thursday's practice sessions. As a street circuit, the track is particularly dusty on the opening day so selecting the right Michelin compound will be tricky. But if our car works as well there as it did in Barcelona then we have a good chance of another strong result."

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - 6th, 2004 Race - DNF

"It is great to arrive in Monaco on the back of the positive result for the team in Spain. Hopefully we will be able to carry the performance through, as Monaco is a race that everyone really wants to win, however it is a completely different challenge. It is the shortest and slowest track we race on, with speeds averaging about 160km/h. However even without the fast speeds, high g's and braking points, it is very tough on both the cars and the drivers. There is constant cornering and because of the twisty track you need to concentrate 100% as any small error will mean the end of the race. You can't really overtake, but you can take a chance under braking into Mirabeau, if the car in front is much slower or makes a mistake."

Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - 10th, 2004 Race - 4th

"I always love racing at the Monaco Grand Prix, the location, atmosphere, history, and my victory here in 2003 is a highlight of my career. It does have its difficulties, no run off areas, tight Armco, an interesting track surface with gutters and manhole covers, but with Monaco, they don't really bother you. Because of the track surface you will see the cars with the highest ride height of the season. Good front end grip is key for all the twisty corners, and you need to be quick through the apexes. Also aero efficiency is not as important as handling here, and everybody will run with maximum downforce. We had a good test at Paul Ricard, working on set-up for the race, so I am looking forward to getting back out on track on Thursday. "

Alexander Wurz, third driver, McLaren
2004 Qualifying - NA, 2004 Race - NA

"I am happy to be back behind the wheel of the West McLaren Mercedes third car this weekend in Monaco. I have had the opportunity to race here three times before and it was a great experience, so I am looking forward to driving the MP4-20 on the circuit. Despite my accident during Friday's session, we had a good test overall at Paul Ricard, with my work focusing on tyre selection with Michelin. Mechanical grip is key in Monaco, as a result of the low speeds and the track layout. Also, grip levels are quite low, but they do tend to increase as more miles are put in on the track and more rubber has been laid. Therefore our work with Michelin on Thursday will be as important as always."

More to follow.