Monaco GP: Preview - BMW


The Monaco Grand Prix is both a relic of the past and a highlight of the Formula One calendar. Guests and teams alike will be looking to put on impressive displays around the narrow streets of the principality from 21st to 24th May.

Nowhere else do the drivers complete so many laps of the circuit (78), yet the race distance here is the shortest of any Formula One GP. The tightness of the track makes this an unforgiving place for the drivers: errors are punished with damaged cars, a successful overtaking manoeuvre is worthy of a knighthood, not just a place up the rankings. A good grid position is vital in Monaco, and qualifying is a correspondingly tense affair.

The BMW Sauber F1 Team is heading in an obvious direction. Extensive improvements were made to the F1.09 following a disappointing start to the season, and the Spanish Grand Prix pointed to an upward trend. A sudden leap to the front of the grid is not a realistic aim in Formula One, but the team's positive progression is set to continue. The characteristics of the Monaco circuit present the teams with challenges they will encounter nowhere else during the course of the season, which adds additional intrigue to the question of performance.

Robert Kubica: "I'm a big fan of street circuits, so I'm looking forward to the race in Monaco. I always have a really good feeling going into the weekend here and enjoy driving between the barriers and walls. There is no margin for error, which makes things particularly interesting. Of course, you can't tell in advance how the 2009-spec cars will feel there with the new aerodynamics and slick tyres. We'll find out more on Thursday."

Nick Heidfeld: "Monaco is one of the highlights of the season. It's crazy that the venue least suited to Formula One is also the most popular. The tight and twisty street circuit is brilliant. Only Macau is comparable, but we don't drive there in Formula One.

"There may be a bit less hype nowadays, but the Formula One weekend in Monte Carlo is still something special. It's all about Formula One and parties. There are a lot of famous people around, the harbour is packed with yachts, the sound of the F1 engines reverberates across the principality, and the track is jammed with crowds of people through the evening. In Monaco the spectators get closer to the action than at any other venue. For me, every time I come here it's a wonderful sight.

"On a few occasions already this season, the new, larger front wings have proved to be a bit awkward in the tight confines at the start of races. It's extremely tight through the first corner in Monte Carlo, so there's a big risk of knocking your front wing off against another car."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "We are currently experiencing an extremely demanding period for Formula One - both as a team on the race track and behind the scenes. In both cases, the important thing is to keep a cool head. We lined up at the Spanish Grand Prix with a far-reaching aerodynamic package. That was the result of some extremely hard work, but represents just the first step on a long road. We scored two points, which was extremely positive following the low-point we reached in Bahrain but clearly does not meet our aims. We will step up our pace of development. Monaco presents very specific challenges, as we all know, and the next performance package for the race in Istanbul is already being prepared.

"Monaco is one of the mainstays of Formula One and one of the circuits, alongside the Nürburgring, Spa, Monza and Silverstone, which has made the sport great. Monaco is Formula One up close and personal. Only street circuits like the one in the principality can bring the spectators so near to the action. This is the most famous and glamorous grand prix of the year. The yachts, the parties, the show business - nowhere are they such an integral part of the Formula One experience as in Monaco.

"In sporting terms, the important thing in Monaco is driving precision, mechanical grip and an engine with good drivability at low revs. Monaco has the lowest average speed of any grand prix. High levels of downforce are more important here than low drag, and the cars' aerodynamics are therefore adjusted to generate maximum downforce. There are no long straights at this circuit, but it does have a lot of slow corners and the tyres are subjected to exceptionally high loads under acceleration out of these corners. Monaco is also a test of endurance for the brakes. The speeds the cars reach may not be very high, but that means there is also a lack of cooling airflow."

Willy Rampf, Head of Engineering: "Monaco has the lowest average speed of any circuit on the calendar, so we run maximum downforce on the cars. In the past, this meant that the teams often produced aerodynamic configurations which you didn't see anywhere else - with small and also larger auxiliary wings sprouting out of the cars. That's now a thing of the past, though, as the 2009 regulations no longer permit these kinds of modifications. As a result, the cars will run a similar amount of downforce to last weekend in Barcelona.

"The large number of tight corners in Monaco places a particular emphasis on grip, and we have prepared a specially optimised spring and damper set-up in response to this. The circuit is open to public traffic between practice sessions, which represents a particular challenge with the negative impact on grip levels. This means that the conditions - and therefore lap times - improve significantly in a short space of time as more rubber is laid down during the course of each practice session. The car's steering lock is adjusted to the demands of the circuit; after all, Monaco has the tightest corner of any Formula One venue."

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Published: 15/05/2009
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