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Renault will be strong in Monaco  
29 May 2003 Volume 5 - Issue 8   

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Apart from Michael�s fire in the pits and Barrichello�s long first pit stop the Austrian Grand Prix all went Ferrari�s way.

They were obviously the fastest package on the track although McLaren were not far behind.

It is a pity that Montoya�s car failed because I thought that he was particularly fast in the Williams. Williams seem to be overcoming their problems and getting the chassis to work for them.

Jaguar are definitely overcoming their reliability problems. Mark Webber was very impressive. Working his way into the points from a pit lane start is good driving, add the penalty stop and it is spectacular.

The Renault was never going to be great on the Austrian circuit but they were much faster than I expected them to be. Alonso was making great progress up to the time his engine failed and Trulli was unlucky that he became trapped behind slower cars after his spin on a wet track.

I suspect that Renault increased engine power by just a tad too much. The Renault motor obviously still needs a lot of attention.

BAR were surprisingly fast. Maybe they are finally getting it right.

Monaco is one of the oldest Grand Prix circuits still in use. By modern standards, it is totally unsuitable for Formula One racing. Because it wanders through a venue that has changed little since the days of horse drawn vehicles, the circuit layout cannot be changed without disfigurement of this grand old city.

There is no run off areas. There is very little space for marshals and safety equipment. The pits are crowded and barely offer enough space for the teams to deploy the essential race day equipment. The event is so well organised that most of the failings are not noticed and any mishap is rectified in remarkably short time.

The start is very close to the first right turn which exits into the only bit of straight road on the circuit (275km/H or 170mph) (and even that has a kink in it) before braking for the big S-bend that ends going around the Casino (125km/H or 77mph). A short squirt on the accelerator and it is down to 75km/H (46mph) for Mirabeau, which leads into the famous Grand Hotel hairpin that is negotiated at almost walking pace. Portier, the right turn that leads into the tunnel is not much faster but then they get a chance to blow the cobwebs out of the engines accelerating to near to 300km/H (186mph) along a gentle curve to the Nouvelle chicane just before the left turn (90km/H or 56mph) at Tabac.

After that the cars never get above 200km/H or 124mph through the twisting section to the start of the pit straight (which is actually not a straight but a gentle right curve).

There are no overtaking opportunities on the circuit.

Monaco does not lend itself to even the smallest mistake. A small slide or misjudged corner will end in a touch with the very unforgiving barrier and almost always result in retirement. Where other circuits have run off areas Monaco has steel Armcos. Where other circuits have grass on the other side of curbs, in Monaco it is a concrete wall.

Renault may have the package to win this race. Their car is very nimble and the fact that they are still down on power will not affect their performance in Monaco as there is virtually nowhere where full power can be used. Their cars should be more reliable as they do not need to stress the engines.

Alonso is likely to be faster than Trulli but is less experienced. If he manages to stay out of trouble (in other words the Armcos) he will finish ahead of Trulli.

I do not know how Ferrari will shape. I suspect that they are more suited to Monaco than either Williams or McLaren but so far this season, we have not seen their new car on a track that requires good mechanical grip so they could be slower than the Renaults.

Michael Schumacher is fast on this circuit. His awesome ability to keep his concentration level up and his very precise driving skills will make him very hard to beat. Strategy and luck is needed and I guess he has both. Last year Barrichello made a mess of this race so he will be eager to do better.

I do not think that Williams have the chassis to compete for the lead. Power is their strong suite and here it is worth very little. Montoya was on pole last year but I do not think he will do that well this year. Ralf is unlikely to be as fast as Montoya.

Although BAR showed some speed in Austria I do not think that they will shape in Monaco. That chassis is far from being sorted out.

Jordan may do better and if it rains Fisichella could do well but they are unlikely to get near the front.

If Sauber can overcome their reliability problem this is one of the few races that they can do well in.

Jaguar seem to be on the way up. Mark Webber is fast and could do well if his car lasts. Pizzonia does not seem as fast and is not impressive. One wonders if this is because the car is hard to drive?

Toyota has too many teething problems to expect a miraculous improvement. They are faster but unlikely to perform well.

Minardi will probably be last in the field again.

Although Monaco is unlikely to be hard on tyres (or brakes for that matter) I feel that they will play a bigger role. Bridgestone may be the better tyre for Monaco. New Bridgestones grip far better than new Michelins and wear should be so low that the Bridgestones will maintain their grip far longer.

The contrast between the tyres is fascinating. Bridgestone make tyres that grip well when they are new but do not seem to be able to last. Michelins last well but are awful when new. It has been like that for months and they just do not seem to be able to change or fix it.

Does anyone know why?

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