We’re only six races into the season and still six months from the season finale but we’ve reached the biggest race of the 2011 Formula One World Championship. The Monaco Grand Prix is the most prestigious race on the calendar and one that every driver wants to win. Four of the top five drivers in this year’s championship have won on the streets of the principality. The one man who hasn’t is the man who has dominated 2011 so far.
#1 Sebastian Vettel (Last Race #1)
Four wins is an impressive record for anyone in any season. But Seb’s four wins have come in five races. And this one was easily the hardest fought as he was hounded right to the end by Lewis Hamilton. Unlike the Chinese Grand Prix, Vettel was able to hold off Hamilton despite the dodge KERS unit. You’ve got to think that Vettel might be the best in the world right now after that performance.
#2 Lewis Hamilton (LR #3)
Lewis is the only driver this season to be able to challenge Vettel in the race. He got the best of the German in China and almost turned the trick in Spain as well. While the MP4-26 can’t match the Red Bull on raw pace in qualifying but the Macca has a little something called race pace. In other words, the Red Bulls don’t have to bother themselves too much on Saturday but definitely have to watch their back on Sunday.
#3 Mark Webber (LR #2)
Webber on the street circuit: “It’s clearly a demanding street circuit, which requires incredible concentration and composure for the drivers throughout the weekend, starting with Thursday’s practice sessions. The dramatic coast line and cliffs make an incredible backdrop to one of the most famous tracks in the world – it’s clearly like no other circuit we race at.”
#4 Jenson Button (LR #4)
Button on the use of KERS at Monaco: “There’s been some suggestion that KERS Hybrid might not provide a useful laptime benefit around Monaco, because you might think you couldn’t really exploit it to give you a boost onto a straight. But our simulations suggest that it’s worth as much at Monaco as it is pretty much anywhere else, which is another positive because I think that the Mercedes-Benz unit is the best in Formula 1.”
#5 Fernando Alonso (LR #5)
It wasn’t a good day for Alonso at his home race, all things considered. While he did lead the race for a bit right off the start, going from leading to finishing one lap down cannot be called a successful day. But he did finish best of the rest (i.e. not Red Bull or McLaren drivers) which counts for a bit. But it looks like Ferrari has a long way to go to be contenders this season.
#6 Nico Rosberg (LR #6)
Nico on his personal connection to the street circuit: “The Monaco Grand Prix is always a thrilling weekend for me. It’s my home race and to drive in front of my family and my friends is always very special. My old school is actually right next to the paddock! I also really love driving the circuit as you have to drive very aggressively but also be so precise. The drive through the tunnel at 280 kph is always a real adventure. You are so close to the barriers that you can really feel how fast the cars actually are. This year, the race has the potential to be more exciting than ever. If KERS and the DRS do make overtaking possible, it will be great for the fans.”
#7 Vitaly Petrov (LR #8)
Petrov on the differences between 2010 and 2011: “Well, we have the KERS and Drag Reduction system (DRS) to deal with so there is considerably more for a driver to think about in the cockpit. At the moment, it is good having them (KERS and DRS) because it helps the overtaking considerably, so I think it’s a good thing. For me, this is not the main issue at the moment – the tyres are what we have to understand because these are affecting the outcomes of races.”
#8 Nick Heidfeld (LR #11)
Heidfeld on what he expects from tires in Monaco: “Well, over the course of the weekend, the track surface has historically improved more than any other circuit on the F1 calendar. This time around it will be interesting to see by how much and in what way it improves because these Pirelli tyres work very differently from the Bridgestone tyres we used previously. I expect tyres will be a key factor in Monaco, as they have been at the other races too.”
#9 Felipe Massa (LR #7)
You kinda had to wonder how long it would take for heads to roll at Ferrari after the last couple of seasons. Aldo Costa, the team’s technical director since 2007, “resigned” his post and will be reassigned within the company. The team will be restructured so that the technical group, engine and electronics, production and chassis departments will all reported directly to the team principal. I can’t see how that makes anything better.
#10 Kamui Kobayashi (LR #9)
Did you know that only six drivers have finished in the points in each race that they have been running at the finish? There are the two Red Bulls, the two McLarens, Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi. He has four points finishes from five starts and that DQ in Australia where he would have otherwise finished in the points. I really hope this guy gets a shot with one of the big teams because he certainly has the talent to run at the front of the field.
#11 Michael Schumacher (LR #10)
Seven-time on the legend that is the streets of Monte Carlo: “Monaco has always been one of my favourite races and I love driving there. The street circuit may be somewhat anachronistic when we usually care so much about safety but the race is so special on the Formula One calendar that for once, you just go for it. What I also like is that it must be great for the fans to be close to the cars and experience the power.”
#12 Sebastien Buemi (LR #12)
Formula One’s other Seb hasn’t been living up to his namesake’s results but he’s not doing too badly. For a relatively underfunded junior team, they aren’t doing too badly. They’re beating better funded teams like Williams and Force India, for example. And Buemi is the one that’s leading the charge for Toro Rosso. For a man who started the season under heavy threat of losing his seat, he’s not let the pressure get to him.
#13 Paul di Resta (LR #13)
Dario’s cousin on the importance of qualifying: “Qualifying is normally the key in Monaco. It used to decide your race. We’ll have to see if it’s any different this year with the nature of the Pirelli tyres and the different strategies, but I think overtaking will still be very difficult. I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge.”
#14 Adrian Sutil (LR #14)
Adrian on the glamour of racing in Monaco: “Monaco is a very special place for me. I’ve always liked street circuits, but I also have great memories there. It’s a circuit where I’ve usually gone well and 2008 was a great race for me, even though we didn’t get the result we deserved. It’s a special race weekend in general. It’s a little bit longer because you have Friday free and you can let all the glamour soak in.”
#15 Sergio Perez (LR #17)
Sergio on the his love of Monaco: “I love that tight street circuit – it is one of my favourites. Last year I won the GP2 feature race there and now I can’t wait to get my first Monaco Grand Prix under my belt. It will be a very special weekend for me. It is the race I was waiting for and on this circuit a driver can make a bigger difference than on others. The atmosphere is great and, of course, it is the Grand Prix every driver wants to win in his career.”
#16 Jaime Alguersuari (LR #15)
The Toro Rosso pilot is the only driver from a team that has scored Constructors’ Championship points to have not scored points himself. Basically, other than the Williams duo and the new teams’ drivers, he’s the only one with a goose egg in the points tally. And Red Bull desperately wants Daniel Ricciardo to get some race time this season. Jaime desperately needs to get going soon if he doesn’t want to be the one replaced mid-season.
#17 Rubens Barrichello (LR #16)
Rubens on safety at Monaco: “Monaco is a second home for me so I really enjoy this race weekend, especially qualifying. We need to wait and see how we can use DRS. While the FIA is conscious of that fact that it is notoriously difficult to overtake around Monaco, they want to try and make it possible without making it dangerous. I am open-minded to whatever they decide. We are keen to keep on fighting as we want to score some points as soon as possible.”
#18 Pastor Maldonado (LR #18)
A top ten starting spot does not earn you an improvement in the Power Rankings if you can’t back it up in the race. Maldonado started the Spanish GP in 9th but plummeted down to 15th by race’s end. However, that is his best finish of the season and moves him up one spot to 21st in the World Drivers’ Championship. On the plus side, Will Buxton says that Pastor flies around Monaco so maybe there’s a chance for some points this weekend.
#19 Heikki Kovalainen (LR #19)
He had a little help but full marks to Heikki Kovalainen on being the first driver from the three new teams to make Q2 without help from the weather. Nick Heidfeld’s car caught fire in Free Practice 3 and couldn’t take part in qualifying. Sure he only had to beat one established team driver to get into Q2 but it was on a dry track where everyone had plenty of testing time. It was as level a playing field as you can get in F1 and Kovalainen and Lotus rose to the occasion. Next up: Points.
#20 Jarno Trulli (LR #20)
#21 Timo Glock (LR #21)
#22 Jerome d’Ambrosio (LR #22)
#23 Tonio Liuzzi (LR #23)
#24 Narain Karthikeyan (LR #24)
Did you know that Narain’s best career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race finish in 11th? So even if you took his best NASCAR finish and translated it directly to F1, he still wouldn’t finish in the points. It’s kinda like his entire F1 career with the exception of the 2005 US Grand Prix where only six cars started so he was guaranteed points as long as he finished the race.