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Monaco GP: Preview - McLaren

NEWS STORY
18/05/2015

Monaco is unlike any other venue in Formula One. It's the shortest and slowest circuit on the calendar, but it's also one of the most challenging, owing to the narrowness of the Principality's streets and the proximity of the barriers.

The 3.340km/2.075-mile layout has remained largely unchanged since it first hosted a world championship grand prix in 1950. There have been minor alterations over the years in the name of safety, such as the easing of Rascasse and the introduction of TecPro barriers, but the original challenge and character of the circuit remain intact.

Technically, the circuit is very demanding. There are many short bursts of acceleration from low speed, all of which put an emphasis on traction, and the bumps in the road force teams to run their cars with much softer suspension than at a conventional racetrack. The steering angle of the front wheels has to be increased as well, in order to make it round the Loews Hairpin.

Much of the track has been re-surfaced since last year, but the asphalt is expected to remain slippery. Grip levels will improve as more rubber gets laid down over the course of the weekend, but the teams will be chasing the mechanical grip provided by Pirelli's two softest compounds, the Soft (Prime) and Supersoft (Option). Engine driveability will also have a large bearing on performance.

McLaren is the most successful constructor in the history of the Monaco Grand Prix, having won the race 15 times. Five of those victories came with the late, great Ayrton Senna; of the team's current line-up, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button have both previously won the race.

It's all about: the race

Start time: 14:00 (local)/13:00 (BST)
Race distance: 78 laps (full world championship points awarded after 75 per cent distance/58 laps)
2014 winner: Nico Rosberg
2014 pole position: Nico Rosberg 1:15.989 158.233km/h
2014 fastest lap: Kimi Raikkonen 1:18.479s 153.213km/h
Chances of a Safety Car: High. Statistically, there's an 80 per cent chance of a Safety Car - largely due to the lack of run-off. There was one Safety Car period last year, following an accident involving Adrian Sutil
Don't put the kettle on… Between laps 25-27. With it being so difficult to overtake around Monaco, track position is king. Last year's race was won using a one-stop strategy, the top four cars starting on the Supersoft tyre and then switching to the Soft
Weather forecast: It's unpredictable in Monaco at this time of year. However, the guidebooks tell us that the Principality receives 300 days of sunshine per year, so there's more chance of sun than rain

It's all about: the track

First race: 1950
Circuit length: 3.340km/2.075 miles
Run to Turn One: 210 metres
Longest straight: 510km, on the approach to Turn One
Top speed: 295km/h on the approach to the chicane
DRS zones: One - on the approach to Turn One
Key corner: Casino Square. The entry and the exit are both blind, requiring bravery and precision from the driver to get right
Pitlane length: 301 metres
Major changes for 2015: Re-surfacing work

It's all about: the car

Fuel consumption: 1.5kg per lap, the lowest fuel consumption of the year
Full throttle: 50 per cent
Brake wear: Medium. There are 12 braking events, of which six are quite severe
Gear changes: 48 per lap/3744 per race

Fernando Alonso: "Monaco is one of those circuits that's in its own league. Although it's almost impossible to overtake there, it still produces one of the most impressive and exciting shows on the Formula 1 calendar. As a circuit and as a place, it's completely unique, and this is what makes it so special. There are three areas you have to focus on for this grand prix - qualifying, concentration, and strategy. Saturday is where you can increase your chances of getting a good result from the weekend, so this will be our first objective, and I'm hopeful we can continue to strengthen our qualifying performance and improve our starting position.

"On Sunday, the most important thing is concentration - the streets are so narrow and twisty that there is no margin for error - so if you can do this and also maximise your strategy, you have the best chance of moving up the order by the end of the race. My home race in Barcelona was obviously a frustrating weekend for the whole team; we were unlucky with how my race ended and we firmly believed we could've achieved a positive result there. Our fighting spirit is still strong though, and we're determined to take that to Monaco and see how much progress we can make there. I'm hopeful our car will perform better there than in Spain, and we'll be pushing again to get into the points.

"Monaco is a tough challenge, mentally, but that's what makes it even more rewarding when you hook up a perfect lap. I've always enjoyed racing there and I've enjoyed victory there twice - in 2006 with Renault, and the year after with McLaren. Winning there is an unforgettable experience. It's also a truly unforgiving circuit, so making mistakes comes at a high price. But Monaco is Monaco, one of the best races of the year, and the reason that the drivers love going back there each season."

Jenson Button: "It's true what they say - Monaco is the jewel in the crown of the Formula 1 calendar in every sense. It's a real test of man and machine working in harmony to hook up the best lap, and maintain that consistency lap after lap. It's very easy to make mistakes there, and you need complete confidence in the car and incredible control and accuracy to get the most out of a lap. Qualifying is so important because overtaking is famously tricky; we've been steadily improving our starting positions since the beginning of the season, so I'm hopeful we'll see further progress on Saturday.

"Monaco is a low-speed circuit that doesn't rely that much on aerodynamic performance, but you do need good balance and driveability. I'm hopeful we can sort out the balance issues we had on my car in the last race, so Monaco should see an improvement. After a disappointing race in Barcelona, naturally it's easy to be frustrated when you step out of the car, especially when you feel you deserved more. I firmly believe that we're making solid progress, which is why having a difficult race is hard to take. However, we've put that race behind us and I think we've a decent chance of continuing our upward trend in Monaco.

"I love Monaco; I won there in 2009 and the feeling you get driving there is absolutely mega. While nothing beats the feeling of racing at your home grand prix, Monaco has become an adopted home race for me, so driving around these famous streets so close to where I live makes it even more special. Racing at Monaco is an incredible challenge - being precise on turn-in, hitting the apex and balancing the throttle, while being as patient as possible to get the best exit, is a real art. The flow of corners in the middle sector - from Mirabeau, into the Hairpin and on to Portier - is particularly tricky, as it's so easy to go a foot off the racing line and end up in the wall. Monaco always produces great drama, which just adds to its legendary status as one of the best grands prix on the calendar."

Eric Boullier, Racing director: "After the disappointment of Barcelona, the whole team is looking forward to Monaco, to put the last race behind us and keep working on improving our package. Barcelona is a gruelling track for a Formula 1 car, so our relative performance was encouraging until we discovered the problem with Fernando's brake overheating. We were certainly unlucky, but we're still able to take with us some positives and focus our attention on our next challenge - Monaco. It's a tough, demanding street circuit that requires teams to take a totally different approach, but that's what makes it even more special.

"The nature of Monaco's narrow streets means there's less focus on outright power and more on driveability and balance. On this circuit there are even more factors at play than elsewhere - traffic, Safety Cars, unusual strategies - so our first target is to maximise our performance on Saturday. Qualifying positions can often dictate the outcome of a race there as overtaking is so difficult, so it's important we focus our efforts there first and foremost.

"The Monaco circuit evokes so many good memories for McLaren: 15 wins, 11 poles and 10 fastest laps. It's a special place for us in every sense. The combination of legendary corners - Tabac, Rascasse, Casino Square, the Swimming Pool, and of course the Tunnel - and the unique challenge it presents, makes it the circuit every team wants to win at. We'll approach the weekend in the same way we always do, with maximum effort and determination to progress."

Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer - chief officer of motorsport: "Monaco has multiple low- to mid-speed turns, braking and acceleration, with a unique street circuit layout. The fine line between success and failure on this track will be the driveability of the car.

"Honda will do our utmost to fine-tune the driveability of the power unit to match each turn during all 78 laps of the race, the highest numbers of laps of the season."

The 1950 Monaco Grand Prix remains the slowest world championship race ever staged. Juan Manuel Fangio won it at an average speed of 61.329mph; by comparison, Nico Rosberg won last year's race at an average of 88.74mph.

Matt Morris, director of engineering: "We put as much downforce on the car as possible at Monaco. There aren't any long straights, so the extra drag that the car produces doesn't penalise you as much as it would at other racetracks. There are a few tricks to Monaco that you need to factor in, such as running the suspension very soft and altering the steering angle of the car to get you around Loews Hairpin.

"This is also a track at which the driver can make a real difference. He needs confidence in his car and in the track, and you need to let him build that up during practice to ensure he's ready for qualifying. With it being so difficult to overtake around Monaco, a lot of emphasis is placed on getting a good grid position."

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