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Monaco Grand Prix - driver preview quotes 23 May 2007

Nick Heidfeld (GER) BMW Sauber F1 on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 13 May 2007 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault and Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Renault on the drivers parade.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Sunday, 15 April 2007 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 11 May 2007 Takuma Sato (JPN) Super Aguri F1 Formula One Testing, Day 1, Paul Ricard, France. 16 May 2007. World © Patching/Sutton

Of all the races on the Formula One calendar, Monaco can surely claim the most historic and glamorous reputation. Here the drivers explain what makes the Monte Carlo event so special to them and reveal how they think they may fare over the coming weekend…

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault
2006 Qualifying - 9th, 2006 Race - 6th

“I can't really put it into words. I like the circuit a lot, I usually have a good feeling straight away, and it is one of the unmissable events in motor racing. The races are full of incidents in Monaco - you have to be ready to take every opportunity, and push all the way while staying at maximum concentration to avoid making mistakes. It's a pretty fun challenge to be honest, and I can't wait to get out on the track on Thursday.

“There is a really special atmosphere in Monte Carlo, for sure. The paddock is in the middle of the city, plus the circuit is fun for the drivers and the engineers because it's so different to a normal track…You feel much closer to the people and, at the same time, you can sense this is a place full of history, one of the legendary places in motor sport. It is a Grand Prix unlike any other, and that makes it really interesting.”

Heikki Kovalainen, Renault
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“I can't wait! This is one of the most interesting races of the whole year because the circuit is so unusual. On a street circuit, you simply cannot afford to make mistakes. If you brake a bit too late, you are in the wall, and that's game over. You have to concentrate for every instant. I have good memories of my GP2 race in Monaco, when I set pole, led most of the race and, in spite of pit-stop problems, I finished fifth. I am really looking forward to seeing what the circuit is like to drive in an F1 car!

“To be honest, I think it is tighter and even more narrow than what you see on television! The corners are tighter, the walls are always too close… It is almost impossible to pass unless you are much faster - or your competitor makes a mistake. You are so close to the buildings that the sound is bouncing off them, and that means you hear your engine much louder - and the engines of the cars around you…it's a really strange feeling in the opening laps! Monaco is a spectacular Grand Prix, and it will be an interesting race.”

Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
2006 Qualifying - 15th, 2006 Race - 7th

“I'm looking forward to Monaco. Everything about this race is just spectacular: the backdrop with all those yachts, the stars and starlets, the parties, and unfortunately the prices as well. And, of course, the circuit itself. You can't really put into words what it's like to drive a F1 race car through the built-up streets. The ratio of narrowness to speed simply defies description, and it's something I really enjoy. Two years ago I came second in Monaco. Last year we had a fault during qualifying, which meant I started from 16th, but still managed to pick up two championship points by finishing seventh. It goes to show that the key thing in Monaco is not to make any mistakes.

“The Monaco Grand Prix is a highlight not just for us drivers, but for the spectators as well. Nowhere else can you get so close to the circuit. At modern race tracks the fans are miles away from the action. Also, the sound of the engines downtown is out of this world. I lived in Monaco for a few years and had a lot of fun there. I was looking for a quieter long-term environment for my private life, but I love coming back to Monte Carlo year after year.”

Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“From a driver's point of view the Monaco Grand Prix is something really special in the Formula One calendar. There's very little room for error and you're driving at the limit virtually the whole time. You can't afford to slip up on these narrow streets. I've raced in Monte Carlo in the World Series by Renault, but this year it will be an experience for me to appear there for the first time in a Formula One race. In 2006 I drove on Friday at the Grand Prix, but not very much because of technical problems.

“For the first time since the start of the season in Melbourne, high downforce is required again, and that's another reason why I'm looking forward to Monaco. It's going to be a real challenge and I can't wait to see how well we do. In the past I've always managed all right on city circuits.”

Fernando Alonso, McLaren
2006 Qualifying - 1st, 2006 Race - 1st

“Monaco is another of those races that, at the start of the year, you mark as one that you really want to win. I took the victory at the Grand Prix last year, and although it was an emotional weekend, it was an amazing feeling, one that I will race hard to try and repeat again this season with McLaren. I have not had the results I have wanted at the previous two races, however I have kept scoring good points and we have continued to develop the performance of the car.

“At Monaco you have to really keep your concentration at all times and push to the limit. It is very easy for things to go wrong at this track because it is very narrow and the barriers are very close, and this is why you have to stay focused. Because of the barriers and the need to be very accurate, you do have to use a slightly different driving style here to perform well over the weekend. You tend to be less aggressive in the braking zones. You also need to set the car up with a responsive front, so that you can be on the throttle as early as possible in the middle section of the corner without waiting for the car to turn, it is ways like this that you can find the milliseconds that you need at Monaco.”

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“I am really looking forward to Monaco. It is one of the tracks I have always dreamed of racing at in Formula One, particularly having competed there for the past two seasons in the F3 Euroseries and GP2. For me it is the best circuit of the year, there is nowhere like it for getting the adrenaline going, because the track is so tight and there are no run-off areas, you have to be incredibly precise, there is no room for error and as a driver that makes it all the more exciting. I have always run well at Monaco, having won there on my previous two visits to the race. I am going to the race again this year with the intention of fighting for the win, but that is the case at everything I compete in. However we do have to keep being realistic, this will be my fifth race in Formula One and I am still developing. We have to focus on keeping scoring points for both the constructors’ and drivers’ championships and take it step by step.”

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
2006 Qualifying - 3rd, 2006 Race - DNF

“If I had to follow Formula One as a spectator and had to choose one race, I would have no doubt: I would go to Monte Carlo. It is the most important amongst all the Grands Prix, with an extraordinary combination of the emotions during the race, the particularity of the place and the prestige, surrounding the event. It must be as wonderful to watch this race, as it is to participate in it.

“I love challenges: the more challenging they are the more I'm attracted. I really can't wait to race this Grand Prix. This is a very special place for me and I will never forget my success in 2005, in a race, which I think was one of my most beautiful ones. It will be the seventh time I am going to race here and the first time with Ferrari.”

Felipe Massa, Ferrari
2006 Qualifying - 21st, 2006 Race - 9th

“This weekend is kind of like a second home race for me, as Monaco is my European base when I am not in Brazil and so that is an extra reason to look forward to what is such a special event. I have seen the weather forecast for the weekend and unbelievably, they say there is a chance of rain. Believe it or not, if it does rain, it will be a completely new experience for me, as I have never driven this track in the wet. But when it rains, it rains on everyone!

“Of course, my personal target is to win here and that would definitely be better than anything I have managed in Monaco before. My best result here is only a fifth place, but the word ‘only’ is wrong because I was in a Sauber, when that team was still very new to F1 and at the time, that was not so bad. I also had a sixth with them, but last year I did not have a good weekend. I know that Monaco is a very unique race where there can be a lot of retirements, so the first thing is to try and finish the race.”

Takuma Sato, Super Aguri
2006 Qualifying - 19th, 2006 Race - DNF

“I am looking forward to Monaco not only because of the success we had in Spain, but because in Monaco you need good mechanical grip and the new gearbox that we introduced at the last race and the new aero package that we tested in Paul Ricard worked well. I think that we are developing at a good pace, as everyone else is, and that we have a good car. The Monaco circuit is very challenging for the drivers and cars. Last year we had one of our best races in the SA05 there, but unfortunately we had an electric problem so I could not finish. Historically Monaco is a great circuit, but as it is unique to any other in F1 every moment you are on the track you need precision. It is a challenging race, but I am confident that we can do a good job with the SA07.”

Ralf Schumacher, Toyota
2006 Qualifying - 10th, 2006 Race - 8th

“Spain was a disappointing weekend for me so obviously I am going to Monaco looking for a big improvement. Our car has improved, even if that was not clear from my results in qualifying or the race, but we still have work to do and we will be pushing hard for a better result in Monaco. It is always a great challenge to race at Monaco with the narrow streets and barriers so close. It’s a tough race physically and mentally because you cannot afford even the smallest mistake. Overtaking is nearly impossible so qualifying will be very important. I have good memories of taking pole position in Monaco in the past so our first goal will be to qualify as high as possible to give me the best chance of a strong result. My aim for the weekend has to be to score points again and I am optimistic we have a good chance.”

Jarno Trulli, Toyota
2006 Qualifying - 6th, 2006 Race - 17th

“I am really looking forward to Monaco because it is one of the best race weekends of the year and I have always performed well there. Of course, my victory from pole position in Monaco in 2004 is one of my happiest memories in Formula One but I have had many other good performances there as well. I am optimistic we can score a strong result this weekend and put what happened in Spain behind us. It was such a pity about the technical problem in Barcelona because I am certain I could have had a really good result. We were strong in qualifying and it was particularly encouraging to see we had the same fuel strategy as the leading cars, so performance-wise we have made a step forward. If we can get back to the reliability we showed at the start of the season, Monaco should be a positive weekend for us.”

Nico Rosberg, Williams
2006 Qualifying - 8th, 2006 Race - DNF

“Monaco is the race of the year. The spectacularly exciting but very narrow track is right in the middle of my hometown, where I grew up, so it’s also a very special race for me. All of my friends are there and the atmosphere is just great. All that has been missing from the mix is a good race result, but let’s see if we can change that this weekend.”

Alexander Wurz, Williams
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“This weekend is going to be very cool. It is just amazing to drive a Formula One car through the streets of Monaco. The track gets quicker every session and, once you’ve built up a rhythm on the track, it is just mind blowing how much adrenaline you build up driving between the armco. Every corner is difficult and, with the changing track conditions, it is obviously important to be on top of your game. In terms of set-up, it is most important that the driver has a good feeling about his car and can drive it with confidence. That is one of the key ingredients for setting a quick lap time around Monaco.

“In terms of off track work, Monaco is always the busiest weekend for all the drivers, and that’s a challenge in itself. Nevertheless, it is still one of my favourite race weekends of the season. It’s as hard as ever to forecast the result for the race. The only thing I can say for sure is that it’s going to be a close fight, and that is cool.”

Rubens Barrichello, Honda
2006 Qualifying - 5th, 2006 Race - 4th

“Like most drivers, Monaco is one of my favourite races and I have some fantastic memories as I have finished on the podium four times there. Monaco is unique in many ways and it certainly has a special place in F1 history. I particularly enjoy qualifying at Monaco, it's one of the biggest challenges of the year and so important to get right. Overtaking is very difficult so you have to qualify well and get a good grid position. Strategy is also crucial in Monaco as the pit-stops can help you gain track position.”

Jenson Button, Honda
2006 Qualifying -13th, 2006 Race - 11th

“Monaco is the most famous race of all, where all the glitz and glamour of Formula One is on display, and there is no question that it is a very special place over the race weekend. It's a very different race from any other on the calendar with so much history and it means even more to me as I live in Monaco, so it is one of my home races. Yet ironically the qualities which make it so appealing also make it a frustrating weekend for the teams and drivers. It's unbelievably busy and getting around can be just impossible! When I'm not in the paddock, I'll be getting out of the Principality and up into the hills behind the action to relax and give myself some space.

“The circuit itself is very tight and twisty and you can really feel the speed of the car when the barriers are so close to you. The whole lap is one non-stop challenge and you just have to get your head down and keep focused. You have to keep the car out of the barriers but not worry too much about getting a few scrapes during the race. The absolute key to a really quick lap is being uninhibited and not letting the barriers intimidate you. This is a circuit that rewards precision like no other.”

Adrian Sutil, Spyker
2006 Qualifying - NA, 2006 Race - NA

“I think it's the highlight of this year for me, so I'm really looking forward to it. I really like the track. In F3 it was already a really nice event, very challenging for sure. Everything is very narrow, the barriers are very close, so you need to find the middle and not push too hard at the beginning. You have to learn the circuit and not crash the car! That's very important, especially in the first and second practice sessions.

“My first time there was in F3 when I raced in 2005, but I knew the corners already for sure, but reality is always different, all the bumps and so on. You're much more careful then! It was a good weekend, and actually I still have the track record with an F3 car and started on pole position there in 2005. In the second race I crashed in the first corner. It's really easy to go out there, so I know already some tricky places.”

Christijan Albers, Spyker
2006 Qualifying - 16th, 2006 Race - 12th

“For a driver it's a really difficult weekend, because there are a lot of distractions. It's a very busy place, the garages are very small, and so on. But I think on Sunday night everybody will relax and everything will be easy!”