“Truth is, I’ve never been particularly lucky racing at Monaco in the junior formulas. I’ve always had a crazy time there, like there’s a black cat on my case. So I hope it’s going to change this year, as it’s a track I really like.
“In qualifying, it really is the most exciting place of the year, because to drive at 300 per hour, ten centimetres off the walls all the way round, while chasing performance, as you keep pushing a little bit more and a little bit more is really something. No errors are permitted, because if you brake one metre later, you go one metre too deep or wide and straight away, that’s you in the wall. It’s really exciting.
“While I’ve always loved qualifying at Monaco, the races have been a bit of a pain, because it’s very difficult to overtake, so everything depends on strategy and you have to maintain full concentration all the way to the end. Even when you think nothing will change, someone can make a mistake in the closing stages and there could be an opportunity, so you have to be ready to take it. It’s a very long race and it can be a bit frustrating because overtaking a car that’s quite a bit slower than you is still not easy, if the driver in front is doing a good job of defending his position, so it’s very complicated. They say the driver makes the difference here, but with the nature of the track and the bumps, it’s still important to have a good car, although it is also true that a good driver can go and find those last couple of tenths of a second that matter most. You have to be careful as the track evolves over the weekend, so you mustn’t rush at it, but build up gradually, until you are at your fastest for Saturday afternoon. It is a crazy track, with some parts where you go at 300 km/h and on the Monday after the race, people in their cars aren’t even doing 50. So the streets are normally not made for the sort of speeds we travel at, but I love that, it gets the adrenaline going.
“There’s a lot going on apart from the racing, but I’m able to switch off from all that and I adore the Monaco party atmosphere with the crowds, the yachts in the harbour and it’s great fun for everyone. For us drivers, it’s even more fun if we have a good result on Sunday. For many years now, this has been considered the home race for us French drivers, but this year, with Ricard on the calendar, Monaco will be like a second home race.”
Brendon Hartley (Car 28):
“I’ve lived in Monaco for coming up for three and a half years. I actually live on the race circuit and can see the track from my apartment. Monaco is one of the highlights of the calendar and living here, there were times when I asked myself if I’d ever see the day that I’d actually get to race it again. New Zealand is definitely my home but I’ve made a home for myself together with Sarah and a great group of friends in Monaco, so this week is going to feel a little bit like a home race. It will be nice to wake up in my own bed and have all those routines of being at home. It’s a track I love. I’ve raced there a couple of times before in World Series by Renault. I had a third and fourth there. I think when I was third, Daniel (Ricciardo) won the race. I had a pretty strong race one year coming from P8 to P4, making a few good overtakes on the way. I love racing on street tracks so it’s something I’m looking forward to, I’d like to say I know the track pretty well, having been there a couple of times before and it being in my back yard, so to speak.
“The track in Monaco is completely unique. I think it would be hard for them to design a track like that today. It’s got so much history and we all love it. It’s the slowest track on the calendar but I can assure you that in a Formula 1 car it feels anything but slow. It is a huge adrenaline rush. Clipping those kerbs, millimetres from the wall. It’s a huge rush and it’s massively satisfying to get a good lap around there. The track is evolving the whole weekend, starting with a completely dirty track. It’s one of those races that evolves every single lap. Come qualifying, when the grip’s going up, that’s a real thrill. It’s definitely a track you need to build up to. To navigate around there, millimetres from the wall on the limit, requires a great deal of confidence behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car and it’s what a lot of us drivers look forward to and thrive off.
“It’s definitely a great atmosphere in Monaco. I’ve been on the Energy Station the last couple of years, watching and having a good time. I think this year will be an even better time being behind the wheel and, as a driver, you don’t have too much time to get caught up with all the glitz and glam, but still you’re aware it’s all going on in the background.”