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Monaco preview quotes - Bridgestone, Lotus, Virgin & more 12 May 2010

Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, 7 May 2010 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Williams (Right) on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 9 May 2010 Vitantonio Liuzzi (ITA) Force India F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 8 May 2010 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 9 May 2010 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W01.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 8 May 2010

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

Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development
"The street course in Monaco is a difficult circuit for drivers and tyre engineers. It is made up of public roads which uniquely are still used by the public over the course of a Grand Prix weekend. This means that track evolution is not the same as we would see at other venues. The actual track surface is very smooth as it is polished by the use of road vehicles, and finding grip is a priority for drivers. After reviewing last year's data and because of the changes in positioning for our compounds this season, we can use the super soft and medium at Monaco. In higher temperatures with a good track surface our medium compound should work very well and combined with the super soft we are confident about this allocation. However, we must also remember that we have had many exciting wet races in Monaco in the past, and the unforgiving nature of the barriers is often experienced."

Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus
2009 Qualifying - 7th, 2009 Race - DNF

“I obviously didn’t get the chance in Barcelona to build on the step forward we took with the updates so I’m looking forward to getting back on track and pushing on. It’s so busy on track in Monaco there’s no time to relax, and there are no run off areas so you pay heavily for any little mistakes, but I really like street circuits as they reward good car control, and I think we’ll be pretty good here from how the car felt in Spain. I’ve managed to get a round of golf in with Tony since we left Barcelona, and it’s probably not fair to say how he got on… but generally it’ll be good to get out on track again and keep up the momentum we’ve had all year.”

Jarno Trulli, Lotus
2009 Qualifying - 18th, 2009 Race - 13th

“It’s something very special in Monaco. Whether you’re driving or just walking around, you can almost breathe in how exciting it is. Every driver in the world wants to win here, and I was lucky enough to do so in ’04, but the whole experience can be tough - it’s important for us to concentrate on the race, and here you’re under so much pressure it can be difficult to get the time to think, and concentrate on the actual race, but that’s how it is, so we deal with it. Getting in a good lap is also a challenge, but if you can manage the traffic it’s very satisfying. One of the most important parts of the circuit is through the swimming pool - you change direction at high speed, then brake for the next chicane, which is slow but you still need to get through it quickly. You jump over the kerbs there, not too much or you launch yourself into the wall, but just enough to carry the speed through. That’s why concentration levels are important - get that right every time and you’re ok - if not, you’re out.”

Tony Fernandes, Lotus team principal
“I’ve been coming to Monaco ever since AirAsia first came into the sport as a sponsor, and it’s somewhere I love coming to. It’ll be great being here with Lotus Racing - pretty emotional as Lotus has so much history here. It’ll be a special moment for me and a huge amount of fans to see the green and yellow on track again, so I can’t wait for Thursday and to see the cars out there at what’s almost their third home race!”

Mike Gascoyne, Lotus chief technical officer
"Monaco is obviously a unique place. I enjoy walking around as you realise what a mad place it is to race cars! Engineering wise it’s a major challenge - it’s very bumpy with lots of slow corners and qualifying is critical as it’s almost impossible to overtake, but I still love it! We should do ok here - we’re good in the slow speed sectors and both our guys are experienced in dealing with the bumps and the traffic, particularly Jarno whose win here was very special, so all in all I’m looking forward to it.”

Graham Watson, Lotus team manager
“The challenge really begins as soon as the Spanish Grand Prix finishes as we have to pack up everything there and then get it all over to Monaco in time to try and finish setting up by Tuesday night. We have some very experienced truckies and mechanics in the team, who know their way around the confines of the Monaco paddock, and that definitely helps us make sure we can meet all our engineering deadlines, and have the cars ready to go out on track on Thursday morning. We may be one of the new teams, and we definitely don’t have as much equipment yet as some of the more established names, but we’re still able to pack in everything we need to cope with any eventuality over the weekend, including a composite and fabrication workshop on site, which hopefully won’t be needed, but with the nature of Monaco in mind, are necessities here.”

Timo Glock, Virgin
2009 Qualifying - 19th, 2009 Race - 10th

“The double finish in Spain was a nice reward for all the hard work by the team and we hope that was a turning point for us. As we overcome our reliability issues we need to turn our focus to bringing more performance to the car, so there’s still quite a road ahead for us. Nevertheless, we are all looking forward to the team’s first Monaco Grand Prix this weekend. It’s a fantastic race from every point of view and a very busy weekend on and off the track. It is always special to return here and the thrill of racing here never seems to diminish because it’s such a challenging track to drive and there’s a lot of spectacle to go with it, not to mention a lot of promotional activities as well. I think it will be an interesting weekend because it is not often that we see the kind of weather we are expecting here - rainy and overcast rather than the usual high ambient and track temperatures. I’m looking forward to it.”

Lucas di Grassi, Virgin
2009 Qualifying - n/a, 2009 Race - n/a

“I’m really looking forward to the team’s first Monaco Grand Prix and my own F1 debut here at this incredible and historic racetrack. I really enjoyed racing here in previous years in the support categories but this year, driving here will be very special. Obviously I will still not have the second revised VR-01 until Turkey, so it will be another case of doing the best possible job and ensuring that we perform as the best of the new teams. I was pleased with my performance in Spain so I’m optimistic that we can have a good race here. It’s an incredible track to drive because of the close racing and also the close fencing! As a driver you have to be fast but you can’t afford to make any mistakes - it’s easy to get into big trouble here as even the best drivers have shown in the past. I am also intrigued to see what the weather will bring because it’s not looking good for the weekend.”

John Booth, Virgin team principal
“It’s been a race against time to get from Spain to Monaco and to put in place the garage and motorhome environments that we rely on during a European race weekend. The team has done a fantastic job with very little time, no doubt spurred on by a successful weekend in Spain, which we hope to replicate this time out. It looks like it could be a challenging weekend for all of us. This is a track that is important to master at the best of times, but it’s very rare that the weather plays such a hand in the race in the way that we expect it might this weekend. With this in mind, it’s good to have two drivers with such experience of the challenges this track presents.”

Nick Wirth, Virgin technical director
“Monaco represents an interesting technical challenge, which the Virgin Racing drivers and many of the engineering team are quite familiar with. A car with stable aerodynamic characteristics, high downforce coupled with good ride is typically fast here. As usual, we’ve done our homework back on the Wirth Research simulators in preparation for this fantastic event, and for the last time we will be running two different cars until Lucas gets his new VR-01 in Istanbul. We anticipated, and observed, quite a difference in the aero characteristics of the two different cars in Barcelona and this will be amplified again as we bring some more aero parts to Monaco, some arriving so late that they will only be running from Saturday. As we gain more experience with our unique digital development process, it looks like our forthcoming developments will start to lift the cars’ performance both here and at future events.”

Cosworth, engine suppliers to Williams, Lotus, Virgin & HRT
“Monaco is arguably the circuit which generates the most superlatives of the season; it is the shortest lap of any circuit on the calendar and the shortest race distance of the year, the race has the highest number of laps but the slowest average speed. It is also widely recognised as the most challenging race of the season from a driver’s point of view.

“A maximum downforce circuit, it is not one of the toughest tracks on the calendar in terms of outright engine power - with just half the lap spent at full throttle - but it is still a rigorous test of an engine’s performance. The lack of any long straights and the number of low speed corners means that cooling becomes a critical issue. The engine homologation regulations prevent the addition of any special engine cooling devices for this race, so cool or wet weather conditions would be welcome to prevent the engine overheating.

“Drivers need to find a good rhythm to put a good lap time together, which requires good driveability from the engine, good traction through the slow corners and quick acceleration in the low speed gear range. While Monaco often allows drivers to shine, the finer points of engine performance can make a noticeable difference to the lap time, and when overtaking is so tough, a good qualifying time will be crucial. There is also the added pressure of being a street circuit; the bumpy nature of the track puts all elements from the driver, car and engine under added pressure which can certainly take its toll over 78 gruelling laps.”

Rubens Barrichello, Williams
2009 Qualifying - 3rd, 2009 Race - 2nd

“Monaco is a completely different track to Barcelona and has a completely different set of challenges to any of the other circuits we race on. It’s crucial to qualify well because it’s so difficult to overtake, so getting the car set-up correctly in practice is really important. The car needs to be well balanced and have good traction; because it’s a street circuit, you don’t get a lot of grip from the track. Mechanical rather than aero strength is key and you really have to be on top of the car all the time. Monaco is a special track. It’s so pleasurable to drive fast and it’s perfect for taking the car to the limit. I particularly like the Casino Square section. When people watch it on TV, I don’t think they realise that we are going at about 200mph! I’m quite hopeful for the team this race. The track should play into our hands and the weather could also play its part again this weekend. We shall see.”

Nico Hulkenberg, Williams
2009 Qualifying - n/a, 2009 Race - n/a

“This will be the first time I have driven Monaco in a Formula One car and I’m really excited about it. I’ve driven the track in GP2, but I think this weekend will be a completely different experience. After Barcelona, I’m pleased this is a back-to-back so I can race again straight away. The track is fairly intense. All the corners are pretty tricky to negotiate, the swimming pool complex is fairly quick and Loewes and the tunnel are really awesome to drive. In general, Monaco is a special place to host a Grand Prix and I can’t wait to get out there and get going.”

Sam Michael, Williams technical director
“From a technical perspective, Monaco is a race on its own. The circuit demands a softer set-up than usual and maximum downforce, so after a series of upgrades brought to the car in Barcelona, this is the second race in succession when we will be making some significant changes to the car, although some of these updates will not carry through to the rest of the season with the possible exception of Singapore. The track has some quirks all of its own that demand a special set-up, for instance the traction limits at Rascasse, the importance of carrying speed through St Devote, the highly cambered exit of Mirabeau and the high steering angles required at Loewes. From a driver point of view, the race is one of the stiffest tests of ability as the narrow circuit demands they use the full track width and run close to the barriers to find lap time. In recent seasons, we have performed well in Monaco and both the engineers and drivers will be working hard to build on the points finish from last weekend.”

Adrian Sutil, Force India
2009 Qualifying - 15th, 2009 Race - 14th

"We brought some aero and mechanical parts to Spain and it was a reasonable step, but we've had bigger steps before. For Monaco we have another package, and that should help us a lot. I can't wait to get there: I like the circuit, and I've kind of had good results there. Kind of, I'm saying! I remember in 2008 with the accident with Kimi (Raikkonen) being very close to a great finish, but it didn't happen. This year is a very different situation. I have a good car, and it doesn't matter which weather is around. If we have a good qualifying there, which is very important, a couple of points are possible there, or even more. I think in Monaco, as always, everything is possible. You never know what will happen. The race is long, and a lot of mistakes can be made. You just need to stay concentrated and focussed all the way through, and then you can have a good result. That's our main goal. I think for us every circuit - it doesn't matter where - we want to score points. And that's what I want.”

Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India
2009 Qualifying - n/a, 2009 Race - n/a

“I won't have to relearn the track as I have quite a bit of experience there from F3000 and then the three years I did in F1, but for sure the cars have changed a lot since I was last there and you need to get used to the handling on this type of high downforce, twisty circuit. Qualifying is for sure going to be tough here with the 24 cars out on Q1 so we will have to really work hard to optimise this, but the race is always a real thrill for any driver. The aim is to do the maximum and get back into the points. It's good to know I have been in this business for quite a while and reaching 50 races is an achievement, and it feels particularly nice to be able to do this in Monaco. I love the track, it's a great race and we always have some highlights there. I really want to be back in the points to celebrate my 50th race.”

Paul di Resta, Force India third driver
“I'm not driving (in Monaco) but it's going to be great, I am really looking forward to it. I have been there as a support race in Formula Three going back six years but it will be nice to be there as part of an Formula One team, which is the main theme of the event! I am there for a week so I am sure I will enjoy the whole atmosphere, but equally you have to be very professional and I need to take as much information out of the weekend as possible about the track, the settings and so on, so even when I'm sitting on the sidelines I'm going to be working hard.”

Dr Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal
“Very clearly we're strong in some areas and on a track like Monaco, which requires a lot of downforce, I think our car will perform well. We have a little additional downforce package for Monaco, and both drivers are very much looking forward to it. Both have consistently done well there, so I'm also looking forward to being well into the points. I've never in the last three years seen Adrian be so happy and excited, and have such confidence. Tonio also takes confidence there knowing he has had some good results and has a good car underneath him. We're very optimistic.”

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP
2009 Qualifying - 6th, 2009 Race - 6th

"The Monaco Grand Prix is my home race and it's always an enjoyable weekend. Formula One brings a real atmosphere to my home town and it's very special to have all of my family and friends there to support me over the weekend. Living so close to the track is helpful too! After a rewarding first four races, Barcelona was disappointing, so we will hope to see an improvement for Monaco and we will work hard to understand our issues from last weekend. Monaco is a completely different circuit with its own unique challenges and characteristics so it will be interesting to see how the car goes there. I had a good race last year, qualifying and finishing in sixth place, so it would be nice to go a few places better this time."

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP
2009 Qualifying - n/a, 2009 Race - n/a

"I have always liked to drive in Monaco and that's why I am really looking forward to competing there this weekend. The Monaco Grand Prix certainly adds something very special to the Formula One calendar and driving through the streets of Monte Carlo is undoubtedly unique. We go there and hope that the characteristics of the street circuit suit our car better than in Spain last weekend. On the other hand, we should be careful to expect too much this time as we have seen in Barcelona that there is still a lot of work ahead of us. So, other than having achieved my best result so far this season, I have taken with me a lot of motivation to work even harder with our engineers to improve the car further."

Ross Brawn, Mercedes GP team principal
"The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most challenging race weekends of the year but everyone revels in the special atmosphere and as engineers, we love the unique demands and the extra pressure that the street circuit generates. In addition to a car which is strong mechanically, you need good power and drivability, provided by our Mercedes-Benz engine, for the low-speed corners. Monaco requires a particular set-up and therefore whilst we will run our new aero package but we will revert to our previous specification suspension system to allow for the steering lock required around this unique circuit. The drivers play their role at Monaco perhaps more so than at any other track. Precision, consistency, speed and control are essential and with Michael and Nico, we are fortunate to have two drivers who excel here. Together with Mercedes-Benz, we achieved the dream result of a one-two finish last year, and whilst we are not at the pace of the frontrunners at the moment, at Monaco you just never know what can happen."

Norbert Haug, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"The Grand Prix of Monaco is the most spectacular, most popular and most glamorous event on the race calendar. If teams and drivers could choose one race that they desperately want to win, then their choice would be Monaco. Mercedes-Benz has mostly found the unique street circuit in the Principality to be a place for great results. Starting with our first victory in 1998, we have won seven of the last 12 Grands Prix together with our partners, the last three being a hat-trick in 2007, 2008 and 2009. With our new team, Mercedes GP, we currently do not belong in the absolute favourites for race victories. However the Monaco Grand Prix is known for its own rules and we will work fully concentrated on achieving a good result. With Michael and Nico, we have two drivers who both like this circuit and in my view, both belong among the fastest drivers on this special and demanding circuit."

Robert Kubica, Renault
2009 Qualifying - 17th, 2009 Race - DNF

“I always enjoy street circuits, especially Monaco, and I've always gone well there. There are aspects of Monaco that are both positive and negative for our car, so it's difficult to know how competitive we will be until free practice begins on Thursday. Also, as we saw in Barcelona, qualifying is going to be the most important part of the weekend because overtaking is even more difficult in Monaco. If you want to score good points you need to qualify towards the front and avoid any mistakes. It's all about having a car that is reactive and easy to drive. To find those final few tenths you need a car that gives you the confidence to really push to the limit and almost kiss the barrier with your tyres. I expect it will be even more challenging to drive Monaco this year with a full tank of fuel because the car will become less reactive. The tunnel used to be taken flat, but with heavy fuel I expect it will be much more of a challenge.”

Vitaly Petrov, Renault
2009 Qualifying - n/a, 2009 Race - n/a

“I’m really looking forward to Monaco and driving a Formula One car there for the first time. I enjoyed the track in GP2 and I'm sure it will be even better in my F1 car. But I know it will be a difficult race too because it's a street circuit and there's no room for error. Also, overtaking is almost impossible in Monaco so qualifying will be very important, and it won't be easy with so many cars on the circuit, especially in Q1. I think to complete just one clean flying lap will be a good achievement. More than anything, it's important not to make any mistakes if we want to finish in the points.”

Steve Nielsen, Renault sporting director
“We're looking forward to Monaco and feeling confident. Robert's driving fantastically well, while Vitaly is getting stronger with every race as he gains experience. But more than ever, Monaco will be about qualifying and the start. I think it's first qualifying that everybody is dreading, with 24 cars out on track and some big performance differentials between the fastest and slowest. The challenge will just be to get a clear lap. But it will be a real lottery, and some big names could easily go out in Q1. Back-to-backs are tough enough anyway but when Monaco's the second race of the two, everything's got to be ready a day earlier because we practice on Thursday. That makes a steep hill just a little bit steeper. It was a bit of a breakneck 24 hours to get the team and equipment to Monaco, but everybody is now working hard to make sure we're ready to go in first practice on Thursday morning.”

Jenson Button, McLaren
2009 Qualifying - 1st, 2009 Race - 1st

“I won at Monaco last year - it was one of the highlights of my season, and also of my entire racing career. It’s a race that you grow up watching; you know the circuit, every corner, by heart before you’ve ever driven there, so it’s an extremely special place. It’s a race every young driver dreams of winning.

“Even though I’ve been racing there for many years, the sensation of speed you experience when you first drive a Formula One car out of the pits and up the hill is something that you can never fully anticipate. The acceleration is incredible, and the walls are so, so close.

“To get the best out of the weekend, you’ve really got to build your speed up gradually - there are no benefits from attacking from lap one and risking a mistake. The track rubbers in incredibly quickly over the weekend, and it’s all about letting the car naturally find more speed through the corners as the conditions improve and your confidence increases.

“I love the place, and I’m really looking forward to getting back there. I think the result is extremely tough to call this year because there are a lot of very competitive drivers in the field, so I’d like to think there’s a good chance of a slightly unpredictable race this weekend.”

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2009 Qualifying - 20th, 2009 Race - 12th

“I love the Monaco circuit - it’s the greatest track in Formula One. And my victory there in 2008 is still probably my best win in Formula One, and one of the greatest moments in my career. It was an incredible day.

“In 2008, it was wet, and, looking at the week ahead, the weather also looks extremely unpredictable, with heavy rain forecast for much of the week. Even if it doesn’t rain on the Sunday, the possibility of heavily disrupted practice and qualifying sessions means that we’ll probably go into the race with a chance of one of the most exciting and unpredictable Monaco Grands Prix for many years.

“And that would be fantastic, because, with just a single stop in the race for tyres, there’s going to be less opportunity for strategy to play a role in deciding the outcome, unless it rains of course.

“That means qualifying will be more important than ever: while we’re still working hard to improve our qualifying pace, I think that Monaco is a place where the input of the driver is more important than at any other track, so I’m pretty confident that we’ll be able to do a good job.

“In addition, I’ll also be wearing a specially painted helmet for the occasion. When you see it, you’ll know why I’ll be hoping for it to swing the odds in my favour!”

Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
“You don’t need me to tell you that our record around Monte-Carlo has been exemplary - McLaren has won the race 15 times, including a six-year lock-out between 1988 and 1993. It’s a race where we love to compete and where we have produced some fantastic performances over the years.

“For 2010, we are under no illusions that it will be a challenge to add to our tally: we have not typically been able to demonstrate our ultimate pace in qualifying, and the MP4-25 is not a car that we feel is best suited to slower, tighter tracks with short, slow-speed corners.

“Having said that, I know full well that the team always seems to produce something special for the race, and, in Jenson and Lewis, we not only have two street circuit specialists, but also the last two Monaco Grand Prix winners, which is a very significant string to our bow.

“I know that both Jenson and Lewis are looking to win in Monaco, and both feel very confident about their chances. It would be a fantastic achievement for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes if we were able to score a third victory in Monaco in just the fourth year of our partnership.”

Pedro de la Rosa
2009 Qualifying - n/a, 2009 Race - n/a

"My last race in Monte Carlo was in 2002 and I finished tenth in the Jaguar. For me this is the most difficult circuit of the season, as it is very challenging. You have to really concentrate in order to avoid the slightest mistake. To have maximum track time in the practice sessions and find a good rhythm is very important. You need a lot of downforce and a good car for the narrow, slow corners. I'm afraid we may struggle a bit in Monaco, so I don't expect an easy weekend for us. Off the track I understand why people love coming to Monaco, although it is absolutely not my sort of lifestyle. They are on a party mission, while we have a different schedule and tasks. As a racing driver I find it a rather chaotic weekend, from a fan's perspective it must be great fun."

Kamui Kobayashi
2009 Qualifying - n/a, 2009 Race - n/a

"It will be my first Formula One race in Monaco, but I have some experience from GP2 - although not the best ones. Both races turned out to be short for me when I was involved in accidents. It wasn't my fault and it can easily happen in Monaco. Driving there in a Formula One car must be fantastic. I'm really excited and looking forward to it, especially as I can see us improving as there is a positive trend. But I know it will be difficult to continue this in Monaco, as I don't think our car is ideal for slow corners. Of course Monaco is very challenging also for a driver. I'm well aware I have room for improvement, so I will push hard and do my best."

James Key, BMW Sauber technical director
"It will be a very different event, as it is the first very high-downforce circuit of the season. It will be interesting to see how these longer wheelbase, high fuel level cars work there because it's something we haven't experienced before. But obviously a very exciting event. Tyres will be very soft, so we have to see how we manage those. And, of course, we have to be extremely careful how we time our qualifying runs with so many cars now on the track. We have some small developments on the car specifically for Monaco. We have to work hard on the mechanical set-up to make sure that we can cope with the bumps, but also keep the aerodynamics strong as well, then it could be reasonable for us. But it's a very different event from the first five races, so it will be interesting to see how that shuffles the pack."

More to follow.