They will retain the dramatic aerodynamic upgrade introduced in Spain, even though it was disappointing there, as the team believe that it was more of an underlying problem with mechanical grip and traction that made them underperform in Barcelona, and the cars have also had further, Monaco-specific, updates to maximise downforce.
“We have to go into the weekend and see how it goes tomorrow,” Raikkonen said on Thursday, “and go from there. But I expect us to be as good as we’ve been this year at least, and then obviously whatever happens over the weekends we will see. But I think it’s a pretty normal race weekend for us, even though it’s always a special place.
“Obviously we think that they [the upgrades] are good parts; otherwise they would not be on the car at all. There were certain things we wanted to learn and I was prepared to take the chance and work for the long future for all of us [by running the old configuration so that they could effectively do a back-to-back comparison in Barcelona]. I think we learned things and I’m sure that we will get them working 100 percent in the future. Maybe here I think they should be fine. You know, every circuit, every condition is different. It was a bit of a tricky weekend for us but I’m sure we’ll be better here and in upcoming races. Like I said, it wasn’t ideal for us but the aim is to improve. We have come still a long way from last year and we want to improve and improve and we have to keep working.”
Both Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton yesterday stressed the importance of qualifying here. While the McLaren driver said that his victory here in 2009 was special he also said that qualifying the previous day had given him the most satisfying pole of his career. And Hamilton said: “It’s just not possible to overtake here. I know, because I tried everything to do that with Nico last year and couldn’t do it.”
Raikkonen, whose qualifying performances recently haven’t been great, thinks things might be okay here for him and Ferrari.
“Obviously it’s not been ideal. If you think it’s not going to be ideal, it’s probably going to be better than expected. It’s always the important race, but every race is simple in qualifying. This might be a bit more but these days it’s not the easiest thing to overtake. We do our best, try and get things right all weekend long and be up there.”
Hamilton said that he expects the red cars to be strong here.
“They should be closer. There are fewer straights here and fewer issues with harvesting power from the ERS systems, so I think they could be strong. It would be nice to have a good battle.”
Interestingly, he says he isn’t expecting any problems with team mate Rosberg’s tactics in qualifying this year, and may have the advantage that, should he choose to do so, this week it’s his turn to run first in Q3.
“I do have the choice this year, which is good. It’s lucky that I get that in the sense that at the first race we tossed a coin, I guess Nico perhaps won in the first race and chose to go second and from race to race, there’s pros and cons to being the first car or wanting to be one of the latter cars in qualifying, and naturally here, yellow flags and all those kind of things are an issue. To be honest you could get it wrong either way. If you decided to go first and then on your lap there happens to be yellow flags... I don’t know.
“I think we’ll play to be as a team, me and my engineers decide. I’m confident that last year’s episode will not recur and so I don’t feel pressured either way. I’m just going with the mindset of trying to be even better than I was last year and do a better lap.”
Sounding as relaxed as you’d expect after finally signing a new three-year contract with the team, he added: “I’ve given a lot of thought recently to how I can improve here. I won here in 2008 but that wasn’t spectacular, so I can improve, and potentially we have the car to win.
“This race is a fresh start and I feel good coming into this weekend, mentally and physically, I really, really do. How it all comes out we’ll see as the weekend goes on. Qualifying is everything here.”
If Rosberg wins again he will join Monaco masters Graham Hill and Ayrton Senna among the circuit’s hat-trick victors, but Hamilton admitted: “To me that’s irrelevant. I want the world championship. Life won’t end if I don’t win this weekend. It’s not that I don’t want to win, but I want that world championship way more than I want to win this race.”