Monaco GP - Renault - Preview
Renault heads to Monte Carlo this coming weekend with a healthy 19 point advantage in the constructors’ championship. Fernando Alonso
leads the drivers’ championship over Michael Schumacher
by 15 points. Giancarlo Fisichella
is fourth in the
Ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, Alonso and Fisichella talk of the challenge the street circuit presents and their hopes and expectations for the weekend.
Fernando, Monaco is often called the ultimate drivers' circuit. Is it your favourite track of the year?
“Monaco is different to anywhere else, completely different. First of all, we run a special set-up to cope with the bumps and tight corners, so the car feels very different and is quite hard to drive. The circuit is so tight, that it is hard to get the car and tyres to the maximum, or to use maximum power on this track. At the end of the day, from the point of view of getting maximum performance from a Formula 1 car, this is not my favourite circuit.”
So what do you enjoy about the race weekend in Monte-Carlo?
”For me, Monaco is a show for the people. As drivers, I think we have to help make that show we provide, enjoy it and try to be as spectacular as possible for the fans.”
You mentioned a special set-up on the car.
How easy is it to find the sweet spot of the handling in Monaco?
”It is nearly impossible and in Monaco, sometimes you have to guess a little bit with set-up, and make changes thinking about qualifying and the race, not the immediate moment. The circuit starts the weekend very dirty and cleans up with every lap, getting better and better all the time. So you have to have some guesses, and put a set-up on the car, then work from there.”
People often say that the only important thing is to qualify well in Monaco, because overtaking is so hard. Do you agree?
”For sure, we set-up the car for qualifying, and work all weekend to get that perfect lap. If you are on the front row, then if you finish the race, it is almost 100% certain you will be on the podium. If you are not in the top five in qualifying, then you can forget the podium. So qualifying is where you need to take a lot of risks, but necessary risks. It is the key to the race.”
A lot of people have expressed worries about how the 2006 qualifying format will work at such a tight circuit. What do you think?
”I think everybody will be a little bit worried about qualifying. Already in Monaco, you normally have a lot of traffic in every session, and this year qualifying will be very tough. I think the first 15 minutes will be hardest because one yellow flag, or if the guy in front has problems, then you could be out. So we need to be careful, and for sure we will have a different strategy to make sure we get into the top ten.”
You won the last race in Barcelona, a circuit that shows the quality of the overall package. What are the chances for the R26 in Monaco?
”I think the car will be quick there. You need good traction at this circuit, and that has been a strong point for the R26 all the way through the season so far. Michelin did a fantastic job in Spain, and they have always been very strong in Monaco, so they should be there as well. This has been a good Renault track in the past but more than ever, we will need a perfect, mistake-free weekend to fight for the win. That will be what we are focusing on.”
Giancarlo, you have always been known as something of a Monaco specialist. What do you enjoy about driving in the Principality?
”It has always been a great circuit for me, and I have always been quick there. It is a very difficult circuit, but I have always enjoyed it and, more importantly, felt very comfortable driving there. I think that the race is going to be very tough physically and mentally, but I am really looking forward to it.”
What does it feel like on Thursday when you do the first laps?
”It is really unusual! The feeling is very different compared to the first laps of the weekend at a normal circuit. You know, you go round the first few times and you're telling yourself that it's impossible to drive on the limit at this track. Then, after ten or fifteen laps, you get more confidence, you feel more comfortable, you start braking later, and you find the limit.”
How important is it to have a driveable car there?
”You have to feel comfortable with everything. The R26 is a really easy car to drive – you can trust it when you are on the limit. As we build up the speed during the weekend, we will be getting closer and closer to the kerbs and the barriers, as we push to go flat out for qualifying. You need a car that is going to react how you want, and I think the Renault will do that.”
So you are feeling confident for the performance in Monaco?
”I am sure the R26 will be quick there, yes. The last race in Barcelona was good for me: after some difficult times, I had a weekend without problems and got to the podium, so I was pleased with that. We know that the battle is very tough at the moment, and a lot will depend on the Michelin tyres this weekend. The test team worked hard to find the right choices last week at Paul Ricard, so I think we can be optimistic. I am very confident I can have a very good weekend in Monaco.”