|Heikki Kovalainen drives during practice for 2011 Monaco GP © Caterham|
Heikki Kovalainen: “Monaco’s the race everyone in F1 wants to win, and it’s not just a famous F1 race, it’s one of the biggest annual events in the world. For drivers it’s a pretty hardcore race, in and out of the cars, but it’s a challenge I really enjoy and racing around the streets is one of the real highlights of being an F1 driver.
“On track it’s one of the races where the pack bunches up a bit and that might give us a chance to do something special. Last year I finished 14th, one of our higher finishes of the season, so hopefully we can improve on that this year. We have KERS this year and a car that has good race pace, and as our car is slightly easier on the tyres than some of the teams ahead, maybe that will help us achieve a high race finish.”
Vitaly Petrov: “I’ve raced a lot in Monaco, not just in Formula One. I had a podium there in GP2 when I finished second in 2009, which was good. In F1 I’ve raced there twice. The first time wasn’t so great but last year was pretty good, right up until the point I crashed! That was so disappointing, but I couldn’t avoid it. We had a good strategy and I’d had a good race up to that point, but that’s how racing goes sometimes. Monaco is an unbelievable place though. Normally, between Barcelona and Monaco we have just one week and I’d leave Barcelona on Sunday night and drive to Monaco, because on the Tuesday of the race week we have the football match for the F1 drivers, which is always great.
“The track itself is always a little bit dirty at the start of the weekend and it’s quite difficult to get tyre temperatures up during the lap. It’s tricky because the walls are so close. If you make one mistake or have a little bit of oversteer, you don’t even get a chance to correct it – you’re in the wall. It takes quite a bit of mental preparation and you need to be totally focused for every single lap of every session. The race itself? The atmosphere in the race is incredible. It’s just an amazing place to drive a racing car and I really love it.”
Mark Smith, Caterham F1 Team Technical Director: “Monaco is a unique challenge, for the drivers and the teams. The fact we are in very different garage conditions to normal, and in a cramped paddock, makes it a tough race for the truckies, the mechanics and the engineers, but it is a race we all look forward to and one that everyone wants to do well at.
“The short length of the lap and the limited high-speed sections means there is much less difference in lap times than at somewhere like Barcelona. We all use high downforce settings, and we have a specific aero configuration we will use in Monaco and probably Hungary, but the days of cars sprouting all sorts of special wings just for Monaco are behind us. The cars may not look hugely different to how they appeared in Spain, but we do have as much downforce as we can find for the whole weekend in Monte Carlo.
“The other challenges are managing the brake cooling and tyre wear. Even though it’s a stop – start lap, the brakes are not put under huge strain as the speeds never get as high as a normal track, but there is a real emphasis on making sure we cool the brakes as efficiently as possible, and that is something we worked on at the Mugello test, so we are happy we have a good solution for that.
“For the tyre wear we have planned as well as we can, but we have seen so far this season that until we are actually out on track it’s almost impossible to know which teams will be hard on the tyres and which teams will be able to manage the degradation levels well. We have the soft and the supersoft compounds in Monaco, and if the wear rates on the softs are anything like we saw in Spain, strategy will be critical.”
Tony Fernandes, Team Principal, Caterham F1 Team: “Before looking ahead to Monaco I want to talk about what happened after the race in Spain. We performed well in the race itself – both cars ran faultlessly and Heikki and Vitaly put in strong drives, managing their tyres well and getting as much performance as they could from the cars that afternoon.
“After the race I was absolutely delighted for Sir Frank and the whole Williams F1 Team that they won their first race in eight years. Williams is one of the cornerstones of F1 today and Sir Frank and Patrick have served as mentors for me in F1 so I owe them a great deal. When I saw what then happened in their garage I was obviously concerned for the safety of my team and all the people from teams up and down the grid who showed incredible bravery, putting themselves in the middle of a very dangerous situation to help a fellow team.
“Since the team returned to base I have received a very gracious communication from Jean Todt, thanking our boys for helping put the fire out on Sunday. The actions of the Williams team, people from our team and everyone else who helped out, stopped the situation escalating and it makes me incredibly proud to be part of a sport that shows such bravery and spirit. For us, teams like Williams set the standards we must reach on track, but we showed on Sunday that when faced we adversity we behave like a championship winning team. That spirit is at the heart of our team and it is what we will call on to keep progressing and keep fighting to emulate the teams ahead.”
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