Racing a Formula 1 car around Monaco’s sinuous circuit is a big challenge at the best of times but Sunday’s grand prix could be even more demanding – and spectacular – for teams and drivers.
Some, such as Brazilian veteran Felipe Massa, say the glamour highlight could also turn out to be the toughest race of the season.
The new V6 turbo hybrid power units which have replaced the old V8 engines are less thirsty but have made the cars heavier, while reduced downforce and more engine torque makes them more of a handful.
On a circuit like Monaco, where cars skim the unforgiving barriers lining the track as they climb up through Casino square and down through the tunnel before blasting past the moored yachts along the harbourside, any error carries a heavy price.
“I think it’s going to be more challenging this weekend, the cars are heavier so braking distances are a little bit different,” said championship leader Lewis Hamilton, winner of the last four races for Mercedes.
“The new braking system we have – the brake by wire – is more efficient and we have more power so it’s a different beast which we’re trying to throw around,” the 2008 race winner told reporters. “I don’t know how it’s going to play out but I do anticipate it’s going to be harder.”
Massa, who will be starting his 12th Monaco Grand Prix and was twice on the podium for Ferrari in the principality, expected to be kept busy.
“The torque we have from the engine is maybe double what we had last year, and the grip from the tyre is not very high, so Monaco will be a very easy race to crash,” he told reporters last week. “I think it will be the toughest race of the season.”
Mexican Sergio Perez, who had a heavy crash during Qualifying in 2011 and missed that year’s race, was also expecting a different challenge.
“It will be difficult. It will be very interesting for everyone, the fans, the media and the drivers. It will be just a new Monaco,” said the Force India driver.
McLaren’s Jenson Button, a winner in the principality with Brawn in 2009, said new asphalt laid through the tunnel could also be tricky while wet conditions would make it hard to get heat into the tyres.
However, Red Bull’s quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, who has not won since the end of last year, sounded a lot less concerned, “I think it doesn’t really make a difference, we will just end up going slower than in past years.”(Reuters)
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