Sunday is the single greatest day of the year to be a racing fan. If you live in the Eastern Time Zone of North America, you can get up at 8:00 AM for the Monaco Grand Prix, fill your afternoon with the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race and finish with the Coca-Cola 600. It’s almost 15 straight hours of racing action.
It all starts with the most prestigious race in the world. The Monaco Grand Prix is the crown jewel of the top motorsports series in the world. The only downside is that passing is virtually impossible. As such, qualifying is going to be vitally important to success this weekend.
#1 Fernando Alonso (Last Race #3)
The Ferrari isn’t bad on qualifying pace. It’s just that the Mercedes and Red Bulls are faster over a single-lap. So why do I still have Alonso on top of the power rankings for this week? He is consistently the fastest driver on the grid. Raikkonen might have marginally better race pace but he just can’t hustle that Lotus during qualifying. All things being equal, Alonso wins every race. The problem is that nothing in racing is ever equal.
#2 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #2)
The Iceman knows that this race comes down to qualifying: “We have to focus on qualifying. It’s a difficult place to race as it’s so narrow and – as I said before – passing is nearly impossible. I was stuck behind Rubens in 2009 and we had KERS then, but you just couldn’t get past. We’ll have to see how the tyres perform and if there are any good strategies to be made, but the most important thing is to qualify well.”
#3 Sebastian Vettel (LR #1)
Get ready for NASCAR-style action this weekend. Seb expects someone to hit the barrier this weekend: “Monaco is one of my favourite tracks and driving it is an absolute challenge. You can’t even make the smallest mistake; if you do, you’re lucky if it’s just that your lap time is bad. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll end up in the barrier.”
#4 Lewis Hamilton (LR #4)
Lewis wants to work on race pace but that probably won’t matter on Sunday: “Perhaps more than at many other tracks, qualifying and getting the best possible track position is crucial in Monaco, but we have to keep our focus on Sunday as well and keep working to improve our race pace. Everyone is working really hard and I know we can get there.”
#5 Mark Webber (LR #6)
I think @AussieGrit is sandbagging RBR PR. Here’s the whole of his PR quotage for this week:
“Describe the Monaco Grand Prix weekend in three words.
Dramatic, glitz and busy.
If you were a fan where would you watch the race from?
I’d watch the left-right combination at the entry to the swimming pool, after Tabac.
What’s your best memory of the Monaco GP?
My first win in 2010 – it’s right up there with my best memories of all time.”
#6 Felipe Massa (LR #5)
Pirelli Motorsport boss Paul Hembery is unapologetic for his tyres spicing up the racing: “The last race in Spain was won from lower down on the grid than it has ever been won before, so it will be interesting to see if this pattern can repeat itself in Monaco: a track that is renowned for being difficult to overtake on. Because of this, strategy will become even more important than usual, with teams trying to use tactics to improve on their starting positions.”
#7 Nico Rosberg (LR #9)
Britney is excited for this race because he can sleep in his own bed this weekend: “Monaco is always a fantastic weekend and it’s great to race in the city where I live. Knowing that all my family and friends are watching makes it very special and I love being able to drive from home into the paddock on a scooter!”
#8 Romain Grosjean (LR #7)
Grosjean sounds like he lacks confidence heading into this race: “Monaco is quite a specialist track and it is very difficult to say if a car will be suited to it or not. It’s bumpy on the straights and it’s a very low grip surface. All these things mean that you never know what to expect. On a more normal racetrack you know more what you are going to get.”
#9 Paul di Resta (LR #8)
Party at Dario’s cousin’s place! “It’s really interesting to see how busy the place gets when the race is in town and the atmosphere builds up throughout the week. Racing close to home is really nice because I can go back to my place every night… It’s also a chance for my family and friends to come and stay with me, and when the weather is nice, there’s nowhere better.”
#10 Sergio Perez (LR #10)
Checo, can you please get a solid finish so people stop questioning your hiring? “But it’s not just the track that makes Monaco special; it’s the atmosphere as well. The grandstands are closer to the track here than anywhere else on the calendar and that gives us a very close connection to the spectators. The huge grandstand between Tabac and the Swimming Pool can get pretty noisy when it’s full, which is great.”
#11 Jenson Button (LR #11)
Jenson explains what makes Monaco seem easy but drive difficultly: “The average speed around Monaco is the slowest of the year, but it feels very quick. The track’s quite narrow in places and there are some fast sections. The run up the hill from Ste Devote to Casino Square involves some quick changes of direction, as does the Swimming Pool, and the Tunnel is fast, loud and dark.”
#12 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #14)
#13 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #12)
Is it just me or does all of the quotage seem very generic this week: “he circuit along with the backdrop of the principality are just fantastic, and the atmosphere is one of the best in the season. The track is one of a kind with extremely narrow streets that will punish every little mistake. This is a great challenge between me, the car and the track, and I always have a lot of fun driving there.”
#14 Adrian Sutil (LR #13)
Sutil really likes how the VJM06 drives: “Wherever we have gone so far the car has looked competitive – and that includes some very different tracks. It’s a good sign for the rest of the season. Of course, Monaco will be the first real street circuit, but I think we will be quick there. The car is very strong in the front with a very neutral balance so it’s very driveable.”
#15 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #15)
#16 Esteban Gutierrez (LR #18)
Steve actually tells us what tyre management needs to be done: ” It’s one of my favourite tracks. I’ve driven there in GP2 twice and competing there in a Formula 1 car will be even more challenging and interesting. It’s a high down force track with a lot of slow corners, and management of the rear tyres will be crucial.”
#17 Pastor Maldonado (LR #17)
Pastor has high hopes. High probably being the operative word: “I have always been very competitive at Monaco, doing well there in GP2, so I always look forward to this race as I feel very comfortable driving the circuit…We are working hard at the factory to see where we can make improvements and hopefully we can continue improving the set-up of the FW35 and have a better result this weekend.”
#18 Valtteri Bottas (LR #16)
Val mentions that Pirelli is bringing the soft tyres this weekend: “In the past tyre wear in Monaco has been quite minimal, but with Pirelli bringing the softs and supersofts to this race the tyre degradation may be more of a factor, although less than we saw in Bahrain and Barcelona.”
#19 Charles Pic (LR #20)
#20 Jules Bianchi (LR #19)
We need more drivers like Jules. He’s just so damn excited to be running Monaco: “When I was nine or ten years old and used to go to watch the Monaco Grand Prix, I could never have imagined that one day I would be racing here myself. So much of this season is a dream come true but next weekend is certainly one of the highlights for me. It’s a unique race, a fantastic experience on and off the track and the atmosphere is very special.”
#21 Max Chilton (LR #21)
Chilton admits that this track is very tight and very difficult. Sure doesn’t look that hard on TV but I’m glad I don’t have to drive it: “It’s a fascinating track and everything can turn on a knife-edge because of factors like the close proximity of the barriers and the importance of qualifying ahead of our immediate competitors. Although this is a very different challenge to Spain, I hope we can carry through some of the benefits we saw from the new developments last time out and have a better showing in Monaco.”
#22 Geido van der Garde (LR #22)