A small but special space - the logistics of Monaco explained 21 May 2008
In terms of glamour and spectacle, Monaco is incomparable. But practically speaking, with space at a real premium, the Principalitys race causes more than a few logistical headaches. Toyotas team manager Richard Cregan describes the unique demands of the Monte Carlo event and how the Japanese team cope
Q: What are the logistical challenges of Monaco?
Richard Cregan: The problem that comes up every year is the traffic and the basic nature of Monaco. Space is at a real premium so we have to make compromises, such as having a truck of spares down in the paddock with the motorhome, quite some distance from the cars. Normally all the equipment is either within the garage or immediately next to it so logistically this means Monaco is more of a challenge to get the right parts to the right place on time. No matter how much effort the organisers make, inevitably it's still difficult, but that's part of what makes it special.
Q: Are the difficulties made more obvious by some of Formula One racing's new venues?
RC: Yes. When you come to a new paddock, like Istanbul, everything is laid on and it's fantastic but that can never be the case in Monaco. You still enjoy the challenge of going to Monaco. When it's all set up it is unique and that's one of the nice things about working in Formula One. I hope we never lose it.
Q: Has the situation improved over the years?
RC: Organisationally, the biggest improvement in recent years has been the new garages and pit lane; that's made a huge difference because now it is manageable. In the past we prepared the cars in the parking area under the palace and basically that was like a rally service park with equipment all around! The solution we have now is as good as you can realistically get considering all the limitations. This year, a big change for us is that there is no spare car so effectively we will have more space. A few years ago we used to have two T-cars in the garage, so we've gone from four cars to two.
Q: Is this the only race where the engineers don't sit on the pit wall?
RC: Yes. They are in the building above the pit garage - even our usual pit wall stand is up there. We tried putting it at the back of the garage, overlooking the grid, but we needed that space for the tyres. In many ways it is more convenient to have all the engineers in the same room because it is easier to communicate, but on the other hand for the race engineer it's more difficult because he is up and down the stairs all the time. It's manageable, we make it work.
Q: How do you cope with having personnel in two locations - in the garage and in the paddock?
RC: It's quite a distance between the two areas and it's not always possible to move freely between them because access to the garages is limited when cars are on track. One of the issues we always have is when everyone arrives there's a huge load on the local mobile phone network and it doesn't always work perfectly so you have to set up your own radio communication. You have an extra man for IT because you need to deal with the radio system being expanded. In addition, you've always got one or two guys down in the paddock area because that's basically where all the parts are, so if you need something they bring it up and down. You need extra people if you want it to work properly.
Q: Does it feel strange not running on Friday in Monaco?
RC:It's good in some ways but personally I like the flow of a race weekend. What happens in Monaco is that you are preparing on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday you run the cars. Then you have a free day and everyone comes down again, so you have to get them all ramped up again with the adrenaline flowing for Saturday.
Q: How many Monaco Grands Prix have you worked? What's impressed you in that time?
RC: This will be my seventh and every time I go there, when you see what they achieve and how they run it, it's amazing. The marshals, I'd say, get a car off the track quicker in Monaco than anywhere else. They are really on the ball; it's a very slick operation.
Q: Do any Monaco anecdotes spring to mind?
RC: Last year before the start of one session we had a water pipe on the top floor burst and of course, as usual, it all went in the wrong place. A torrent of water came down through the floor on top of all the electrical distribution boxes and racks in the garage, so we ran the cars from a Panasonic Toughbook lap top. But then, apart from people dropping phones and radios into the harbour, it hasn't been too bad!
Q: Do you get involved in negotiating with the harbour master?
RC: I do have some involvement with the harbour master, on behalf of sponsors and clients who want their boats in. Doing that is not even down to money, it's a matter of which positions are available, who's in already and there's a lot of negotiating involved. It also depends on what they are going to do with the boat. The harbour master wants to see if there are parties involved or celebrities brought in; the more parties the better. He wants to see the buzz and the glitz.
Q: Overall, is it more a pleasure than a logistical nightmare?
RC: I love the place. I like to take the best out of every Grand Prix rather than looking at negatives. In years to come we'll look back and think, we had the opportunity to race in Monaco and we were getting paid to enjoy motorsport there. What more can you ask for!