Monaco GP Preview: Toyota


Panasonic Toyota Racing's third and fourth place finishes at last week's Spanish Grand Prix has taken the team's haul for the year to 40. The resultant second place in the two world championships means Toyota will head to Monaco suffering from F1 altitude sickness and in need of a puff of oxygen. Still, the whole team has been working hard to produce a competitive Monaco package to help both Jarno and Ralf twist their way around the Principality in a bid to cling onto such dizzy heights.

Jarno Trulli travels to Monaco still beaming after three podiums in the last four races. Moreover, he arrives as the Principality's reigning street racing champion after conquering all comers around its maze of roads in 2004.

Jarno Trulli: "Monaco is obviously one of my favourite tracks and I have some special memories from last year, when I won the race from pole. It's a dream for any driver to win his first grand prix and the way I won, dominating qualifying and the race, gave me a lot of satisfaction. But that is now the past and I'm ready for the next challenge with Panasonic Toyota Racing this year. The most important corners for connecting up the Monaco lap are Ste Devote, Casino Square, the entry to the tunnel, the chicane, the Swimming Pool and Rascasse. Of those, the Swimming Pool entry is my favourite corner. It's quick, very challenging and I like the change of direction from left to right. Toyota has had a great season so far but it's difficult to predict exactly how we will perform at Monaco until we try the circuit with our package. Monaco is a place where the driver probably makes more of a difference than anywhere else, but the handling of the car is still important and so are the tyres. We'll be giving everything to keep up our run of good results."

Ralf Schumacher heads to Monaco fresh from his fourth place in Barcelona, a result that moved him up into a share of fourth in the drivers' championship on 14 points. Now he is ready for the mental challenge of 78 laps of skimming Monaco's unforgiving barriers.

Ralf Schumacher: "I used to live in Monaco and I still have a holiday home on the Côte d'Azur so this race feels like something of a second home to me. I've always had good results around the Principality too, so I like driving there. But it requires a special approach, not least because of the proximity of the barriers. That makes the Monaco Grand Prix tough both physically and mentally because any lapse in concentration is certain to be punished by retirement from the race. It's a bumpy circuit and a strong performance depends heavily on the tyres that you get. And, because it is so difficult to overtake, qualifying becomes especially important. To predict how Toyota will perform, let's go there first and see how we look in Thursday's practice sessions. As a street circuit, the track is particularly dusty on the opening day so selecting the right Michelin compound will be tricky. But if our car works as well there as it did in Barcelona then we have a good chance of another strong result."

Monaco presents a unique challenge not just for the drivers but for the engineers who have to build cars to last long, punishing afternoons around this most unlikely location for a F1 car - once famously compared to 'riding a bike around your living room'.

Dieter Gass - Chief Race Engineer: "It's difficult to prepare for Monaco because there is no other circuit like it, so we use the data gathered from previous races there. We also put in some work at Paul Ricard last week to test very slow corners and to work on the maximum steering lock of the car for the Loews hairpin, the tightest corner on the calendar. Due to Monaco's tight nature we take a second spare car - one for each of the race drivers. We also have to ensure the suspension is strong enough to survive when a driver brushes the barriers. Monaco is very narrow, which makes overtaking virtually impossible. But, while qualifying is very important you still need a car that can perform for all 78 laps of the grueling race. So consistency is the key and we won't compromise our race pace by being tempted to reduce the fuel load for qualifying. Some cars might do only one pit stop and if you are stuck behind a slower car it can ruin your race."

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Published: 16/05/2005
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