The most prestigious race of the season is just around the corner. The Monaco Grand Prix is a law unto itself: speeds topping 280 km/h are permitted in the town centre, a city circuit that throws up the ultimate challenge in terms of precision driving. Sheer engine power alone doesn't get you very far here, but aerodynamic downforce is of the essence. Passing manoeuvres are a thing of rarity, so a good starting slot on the grid is invaluable. Friday is traditionally free of F1 engine noise as numerous spectators arrive in their yachts, turning the harbour into one of the flashiest marine parking lots in the world – and an almost seamless pedestrian walkway. For some the Monaco Grand Prix spells fun and entertainment, for others it's a matter of high-performance sport and high-tech. The BMW Sauber F1 Team with its drivers Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica heads for the Principality with the aim of further bolstering its third place in the constructors' standings.
Nick Heidfeld: "I'm looking forward to Monaco. Everything about this race is just spectacular: the backdrop with all those yachts, the stars and starlets, the parties, and unfortunately the prices as well. And, of course, the circuit itself. You can't really put into words what it's like to drive a F1 race car through the built-up streets. The ratio of narrowness to speed simply defies description, and it's something I really enjoy. Two years ago I came second in Monaco. Last year we had a fault during qualifying, which meant I started from 16th, but still managed to pick up two championship points by finishing seventh. It goes to show that the key thing in Monaco is not to make any mistakes.
"The Monaco GP is a highlight not just for us drivers, but for the spectators as well. Nowhere else can you get so close to the circuit. At modern race tracks the fans are miles away from the action. Also, the sound of the engines downtown is out of this world. I lived in Monaco for a few years and had a lot of fun there. I was looking for a quieter long-term environment for my private life, but I love coming back to Monte Carlo year after year."
Robert Kubica: "From a driver's point of view the Monaco Grand Prix is something really special in the Formula One calendar. There's very little room for error and you're driving at the limit virtually the whole time. You can't afford to slip up on these narrow streets. I've raced in Monte Carlo in the World Series by Renault, but this year it will be an experience for me to appear there for the first time in a Formula One race. In 2006 I drove on Friday at the GP, but not very much because of technical problems.
"For the first time since the start of the season in Melbourne, high downforce is required again, and that's another reason why I'm looking forward to Monaco. It's going to be a real challenge and I can't wait to see how well we do. In the past I've always managed all right on city circuits."
Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "The Monaco Grand Prix is fascinating. On the one hand it's the highlight of the season, and on the other it's an anachronism. The race puts the teams under extreme pressure due to the narrow circuit, it's an extreme challenge for the drivers because of the sheer precision it demands, and for the spectators it's a unique experience to be so close. No grand prix is as famous as this one and none as glamorous. Yachts and partying are a matter of taste, but Monaco wouldn't be the same without them.
"Technically, the aerodynamic requirement is for maximum downforce and an engine that copes well in the low rev ranges as well. Both our cars are on schedule to receive fresh engines. We haven't had any problems so far this season on the engine side. We managed to get to the bottom of the gearbox problem in Nick's F1.07 in Barcelona before the race day was over, and corrective measures were already being applied during the test in Paul Ricard. We have also worked through Nick's botched-up pit stop and learnt the lessons for any future incidents.
"For us in Monte Carlo it's a case of notching up a fault-free weekend and further cementing our third place in the constructors' standings."
Willy Rampf, Technical Director: "Monaco is a circuit you simply can't compare with any other. It's always got some surprises up its sleeve and the latest team rankings can easily be shaken up here. After our positive test session in Paul Ricard I think we are well prepared. Monaco is the circuit with the lowest average speed, which is why maximum downforce is so important. Greater downward pressure takes precedence over efficiency, and coming out of the many slow turns demands good traction above all.
"It is also crucial that the car responds with absolute precision and predictability, because the tiniest of errors will mean hitting the crash barriers and the end of the race. The car will go to Monaco with aerodynamic modifications, and we are using a front axle specially developed just for this race to ensure there's enough steering angle in the tight turns like the former Loews Corner."