MAY 28, 2003
MONACO GP - PREVIEW
The Monaco Grand Prix will take place this year on a rather different Monaco circuit than in previous years with important changes having been to the race track. The pitlane has been altered to keep slow-moving cars out of the way of the fast in the first corner and this has meant that barriers which previously went across the road at Ste Devote have disappeared and drivers are now aiming for a kerb. This may still launch them across the road and into the opposition barrier but it will be a much more open corner than before, particularly at the start of the first lap. The track has been resurfaced all the way from Portiers, the corner before the tunnel, round to the Rascasse Corner and the Swimming Poll section has been substantially altered with the reclamation of a large area of the harbour. This has meant that there is now a run-off area at the second Swimming School corner, which has become in effect a chicane. The road then takes a completely different route to Rascasse, across where once there was water and as a result of this arrives at Rascasse at a very different angle. This will make the track quicker and may also offer some more overtaking possibilities.
The big question at Monaco this year is strategy because with the new qualifying regulations teams can if they choose to do so, run lighter cars in the hope of being able to stay ahead in the races.
But when all is said and done the man who wins at Monaco is usually the man who makes the fewest mistakes and the behavior of the car is secondary to the verve of the man holding the wheel. A good car will still be quick but the human element is much more important and it would be a fool who bets against Michael Schumacher is the circumstances although over the years Michael has made his share of mistakes at Monaco and walloped a few walls. David Coulthard has shown himself to be a good Monaco runner over the years and with two wins and bags of experience he should not be discounted. The big question is how well the Renaults and Williams-BMWs are going to go. The Renaults seem made for the circuit with great grip and plenty of low-rev grunt from the otherwise outclassed Renault V10 engines. And in Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli they have two good drivers. BMW Williams will be strong too but Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya have been a little accident-prone on occasion this year and Monaco is not a good place to be doing that.
The rest will be a bundle of tenths and hundredths apart with most of the midfield pretty closely matched.
Whatever else it is going to be this year, Monaco will be fascinating...