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Thursday, June 27, 2002
Monaco a love-hate relationship

Monaco is unique in the Grand Prix calendar and although not everyone sings its praises -- one driver likened driving there to riding a bike in your living room -- no one in the Grand Prix circus is ever indifferent about the track.

Monaco Grand Prix
At 2.094 miles, the Monte Carlo circuit is the shortest of the F1 calendar. The 78-lap Monaco Grand Prix gets under way at 9 a.m. ET on Sunday. A total race distance of 163 miles will be covered on this unique street circuit, where Mika Hakkinen holds the lap record of 1m21.571s (McLaren Mercedes-- 2000). The 2000 race winner was his teammate, David Coulthard.

Frank Williams loves it, even though it has not been the kindest track to his cars with just two wins out of the 47 races held there. Although it has the reputation of being one of the most difficult tracks for overtaking, in the 1998 Formula 3000 race, Juan Pablo Montoya managed to pass a handful of cars -- something almost unheard of. Ralf Schumacher qualified a very creditable sixth at his first visit to the track in '97. As a high proportion of the Grand Prix drivers have homes there -- including Juan Pablo and Ralf Schumacher until recently -- for many it is another 'home' race.

Below are remarks from Williams BMW team members entering the weekend's festivities:

Ralf Schumacher
"For drivers Monaco is a big challenge, especially as it is very easy to make a mistake there and have an accident. Having said this, it is one of the highlights of the season. My only worry there is the circuit doesn't match up to the current high safety standards demanded in Formula One. We should be well prepared, especially after the work done in Valencia. The main question mark is how the tyres will work, but I know Marc Gené has been doing a lot of work with Michelin and so am sure they will have come up with some good compounds."

Juan Pablo Montoya
"I am pretty familiar with the Monaco circuit as I spend quite a lot of time in the Principality so I drive on these streets regularly. Last time I raced there was in '98, in a F3000 car and I had quite an exciting race, finishing sixth. In Valencia we have been testing a few new components for Monte Carlo and I think that it should be an interesting race for us. I don't really feel the special atmosphere of Monaco because -- besides spending quite a lot of time there -- at the end of the day when you are concentrating on your job that is the most important thing."

Frank Williams
"The best way I can describe my feelings for Monaco are by saying, I love it. Having said that, it is the most stressful race for many participants, but the most exciting Grand Prix of the year. Whatever it is that is so special -- the endless noise, the amazing proximity of the cars, the ability to watch such skilled racing drivers driving real racing cars as they power 800 horsepower through Rascasse - it is just a great privilege to be so close and watch it all happening right in front of you, or from great overhead vantage points. Unfortunately this only happens once a year and that is at Monaco."

Gerhard Berger (BMW Motorsport Director)
"Monaco is the classic race that the whole world watches. This race is the main event of the F1 season for both the fans and those involved in the sport at the top level. The teams and the drivers are under extra pressure as everybody wants to do particularly well. There is a kind of love-hate relationship; a good performance in Monaco stays for long in everybody's memory but achieving that is massively difficult.

"The track isn't forgiving; there's so little room that every false step can end with an accident or a crash into the barriers. In Monte Carlo the drivers' performances play a big role. The quality of the whole package is particularly significant. A lot of engine power is needed on the long uphill slopes and the tunnel straight, but even more important is the aerodynamic downforce on the rest of the track. A well functioning traction control is also needed. The surface of the streets is a sensitive matter for tyre constructors. Michelin enters an unknown territory here and it's difficult to say where we will be with tyres.

"Anyway, we have set our aims high, especially for qualifying as a good grid position here is more important than at any other track. Overtaking is possible only when another driver makes a mistake or a pit stop."