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Monaco GP: Preview - McLaren


The Monaco Grand Prix is the jewel in Formula 1's crown. Tucked away on the picturesque Cote d'Azur, the Principality's tortuous, barrier-lined streets provide some of the greatest challenges on the F1 calendar; it's the race that every driver wants to win.

Monaco is the shortest and slowest circuit on the Formula 1 calendar, but it's also one of the most demanding. The proximity of the barriers means there's no room for error, and, with more than 4,000 gear changes during the 78-lap race, there's great emphasis on reliability.

The track layout has remained largely unchanged since French entrepreneur Antony Nogues first proposed the idea of a race to Prince Rainier in 1928. The first Monaco Grand Prix was staged in April of the following year and the race was subsequently included on the inaugural World Championship calendar of 1950. It has been a regular F1 fixture since 1955.

Most of the 3.340km track has been re-surfaced since last year, so the teams can expect the new, super-smooth asphalt to be slippery when practice gets underway on Thursday. That's in direct contrast to the old, abrasive surface at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, scene of the Spanish Grand Prix earlier this month.

With the emphasis on traction and low-speed mechanical grip, Pirelli are taking their two softest compounds to Monaco: the Soft (Prime) and Supersoft (Option) rubber. This is the first time that the Supersoft tyre has been raced this season, but the teams already have plenty of experience with the new-for-2014 Soft compound tyre from the Australian, Bahrain and Chinese Grands Prix.

McLaren has an enviable record at Monaco. The team has won the race 15 times - more than any other constructor, and five of those victories came with the late, great Ayrton Senna. Of our current driver line-up, Jenson Button has won the race once, from pole position in 2009, while Kevin Magnussen is tackling the circuit in an F1 car for the very first time. However, Kevin has raced at Monaco before; he finished fourth in last year's World Series race there.

Circuit de Monaco - the stats you need

First F1 race: 1950

What makes it special: The unforgiving nature of the track and the spectacular scenery: the Alpes-Maritimes on one side and the Monaco Harbour on the other

Wins from pole position: 27

Track abrasiveness: Low. Monaco has a slippery, low-grip surface and traction is king

Pirelli tyre choice: Supersoft/Soft

2013 winning strategy: One official pitstop, but race-winner Nico Rosberg changed tyres twice, his second ‘stop' taking place while the race was red-flagged

Fuel consumption: Low. Only 40 per cent of the lap is spent at full throttle, so most cars will start with less than the maximum 100kg of fuel

Brakewear: Medium. There are 13 braking zones around the lap, but only two of them are from high speed

Weather: Monaco enjoys 300 days of sunshine a year and the forecast looks good. But the weather can change very quickly on the Mediterranean coast

DRS zones: One - on the start/finish straight

Turbo effect: High, due to lots of slow speed corners. Managing the torque around such a narrow track will be crucial for the drivers.

Safety Car likelihood: High. Statistically, there's an 80 per cent chance of a Safety Car; last year's race saw two Safety Cars periods and one red flag

Grid Advantage: The racing line is on the left, so it holds a slight advantage.

Pitlane time: 24s

Jenson Button: "Obviously, I've never driven a turbocharged F1 car around Monaco before - and I'm relishing the opportunity. More than any other 2014 race, I think this event will show us the most pronounced difference between ‘old F1' and the new formula we have. There's far less of an aerodynamic influence here - it's just about bolting as much to the car as possible in a bid to find grip - so I think the engine's influence will be greater.

"So, with less significance placed on aerodynamics, I hope we can enjoy a better race than our two previous outings in China and Spain. Monaco is such a special case - in every respect - I just hope we can string together a good weekend: we'll need to get the absolute maximum from the car in qualifying and on the first lap to be in with a chance to put up a fair showing.

"I'm up for the challenge, and the whole team is doing a great job of staying strong and working flat-out to bring updates to every race - and Monaco is no exception."

Kevin Magnussen: "It's strange to come away from a grand prix having finished 12th and feel satisfied with my performance. But the Barcelona weekend taught me quite a lot about managing and setting my expectations, and, more importantly, it gave me the best opportunity so far this year to really get to grips with the MP4-29. And, had I not had that quali problem, I'm certain I'd have scored points.

"I'm happier with the car, not just in terms of my own driving, but also with the way I work with my engineers to set it up. We haven't totally cracked it, but things are going in the right direction.

"My [World Series] race in Monaco last year was a bit of a missed opportunity - I didn't hook it all together and ended up finishing only fourth - so, more than anything, I want to have a clean and constructive race this weekend. We don't have the pace in the car to challenge at the front, but, wherever I am, I'm determined to make a fight of it."

Eric Boullier, Racing Director: "The last three race weekends have been difficult for us, but the entire team is working flat-out to improve things. Although our drivers are coming at it from different angles - Jenson is a past winner, Kevin is making his Monaco debut - both are keen to see what they can do this weekend. Monaco is always a bit of a one-off, a racetrack on which you can sometimes achieve more than you can on more conventional circuits. As in its famous casino, you can sometimes collect if you play your luck.

"Of course, we'll be relying on a little more than luck this weekend! One of the keys to getting a result at Monaco is the good work that goes on in the garage and the engineering truck. Regardless of our track performance, our mechanics have never tired in their bid to ensure our cars are well built, reliable and looking immaculate. Equally, our engineers and strategists have worked relentlessly to make sure that every ounce of performance makes it to the track.

"Monaco has its own unique demands in terms of car performance, too. Obviously, we'll be bringing a track-specific package to this race - and to Canada too - but, at the moment, we're not targeting any particular race as the start of an overall turnaround. We're simply working hard to deliver iterative improvements to the car - we're confident in that process, and hope it will start to reap dividends in the future."


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