2006 Monte Carlo Grand Prix - Race 7/18

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Montoya offered a 1 year expension at McLaren

Although Michael Schumacher revealed at the Spanish Grand Prix that the decision on his Formula one future could be as late as the end of the season, causing many critics to claim that the reason behind the wait is to see the outcome of the 2006 season, if he is champion he will retire, if not, he will stay for another season. However, that is not really the case because even though he CAN wait until the end of the year, it doesn’t mean he will.

What it does mean is that the pressure is now off and there is no need for constant questions on the matter. However, it is thought that reading between the lines of Jean Todt’s announcement that they would more than likely make an announcement at the Italian GP in September it looks as if the splendid Ferrari-era of Schumacher, Todt and Brawn could be coming to an end.

According to our spies in Spain, Schumacher’s statement was also unofficial confirmation that Kimi Raikkonen will be racing for Ferrari from 2007 onwards and now even McLaren is realizing this so they have set a date for Kimi to tell them if he is planning on driving for them in 2007 or not. This deadline is set for the Monte Carlo weekend, hence the reason why Ron Dennis stated that an announcement was imminent.

It was also revealled that Juan Pablo Montoya was offered a new one year deal with the Woking based squad, however the Colombian racer has yet to give the team a response. If he fails to re-sign, Ron Dennis still has other very viable options for a teammate for Fernando Alonso, such as highly the talented Gary Paffett and Lewis Hamilton as well as Pedro de la Rosa, so they certainly won’t be without a strong line-up, regardless of what happens. As for Montoya, he has a few options, one of which is Renault, but the worse his performances become, the less chance he has of securing a good seat somewhere else.
 
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Alonso's no Monaco fan


Championship leader Fernando Alonso is not a big fan of the Monaco GP.

The Renault driver said that the tight street circuit, albeit unquestionably the sport's glamour event, makes it hard to get the most out of a F1 car.

''From the point of view of getting maximum performance from a formula one car,'' Spaniard Alonso, 24, added on Monday, ''this is not my favourite circuit.'
 
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Flav names five candidates for '07 seat

Flavio Briatore has named five potential replacements for Renault's departing champion, Fernando Alonso.

The team principal backed up recent speculation by mentioning Michael Schumacher and Kimi Räikkönen, but Briatore added that incumbent Giancarlo Fisichella has also 'shown (that) he can win races with us'.

McLaren-bound Alonso, 24, will be a 'big loss' to the French owned team, the Italian chief confessed in a Monaco preview on Monday.

But he also threw youngsters Heikki Kovalainen, Renault tester, and McLaren protégé Lewis Hamilton into the hat, conceding that the pair 'could possibly win championships'.

Briatore commented: 'To attract those drivers, we need to be quicker than the opposition and at the moment, we are delivering.'
 
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Monaco tech file

Monaco is a unique circuit in the Formula 1 season. It is often talked about as THE race of the year, and the tight, twisting street circuit needs a special approach to get the best from the R26.

Ride heights: Monaco is not only a very twisty circuit, but it is also extremely bumpy, sharply cambered and slippery, particularly early in the weekend when little rubber has been put down on the racing line. We therefore raise ride heights by between 5 and 7 mm relative to normal in order to cope with the surface variations on the circuit.

Suspension: In order to obtain the best possible level of grip, we use soft suspension settings, which also help the car ride the bumps and cope with the sharp cambers. The bumpy surface means the wheels must be able to move independently to ride the bumps, and we soften the anti-roll bars to achieve this. Camber angles are also a focus of special attention, and we run them fairly high – but not so much as to make the car unstable in the bumpy, high-speed braking zones.

Aerodynamics: Monaco sees us run the highest downforce level of the year, and the cars often sprout extra appendages for this race to claw back even more aerodynamic advantage. The downforce brings benefits not just in the corners, but under braking and acceleration. Straight-line speed is of little importance at this circuit, and we sometimes runs higher drag levels than normal in order to get more downforce.

Steering angle: The Grand Hotel hairpin is the tightest of the season, and demands the highest steering angle of the year. It is, for example, two times more than anything required at the last race in Barcelona. We also calibrate the traction control system and differential to help the car turn on the throttle.

Engine Performance: Monaco does not initially seem a demanding engine circuit, as the drivers spend just 50% of the lap at full throttle – the lowest value of the year. However, that is something of an urban myth, and numerous challenges must be tackled to get the maximum from the RS26. The bumpy surface means there is a real risk of over-revving. In terms of performance, it is important to have a driveable engine with good torque, even from very low revs, in order to launch out of the slow corners.

Gearbox: We use closely-spaced gear ratios at this circuit in order to optimise acceleration, and get the most from the engine at slow speeds.

Cooling: The absence of significant straights makes cooling the engine difficult, especially as the short gear ratios mean the engine is often running at high revs even though the car is moving relatively slowly through the air. This presents a challenge for cooling the car effectively, and we sometimes have to open up the bodywork to ensure the engine does not overheat. However, with aerodynamic efficiency less of a priority here than elsewhere, this does bring its usual lap-time penalty, should it be required.
 
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Toyota to unleash new TF106B car at Monaco

Toyota will debut its new B-spec TF106 at next weekend's Monaco Grand Prix. The Cologne-based team has given the car a thorough four-day test at Paul Ricard this week, at which it proved itself to be reliable and ready to race.

"We have completed a lot of miles with the new car," says Toyota's senior general manager, chassis, Pascal Vasselon. "It is an improvement in many areas, particularly at the front of the car and in the way it uses the Bridgestone tyres, and it will be used in Monaco by both Jarno and Ralf."

The introduction of the new car comes on the back of a promising weekend at last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.

Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli qualified sixth and seventh (above), their best joint qualifying performance of the year, and, although neither car finished in the points, the team was encouraged by the showing.

"We really surprised ourselves in qualifying," says Schumacher, "because we didn't even know what to expect. We didn't run new tyres on Saturday morning and were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves comfortably inside the top 10. With the new car we can hope for even better things."

The TF106B had its first shakedown at Paul Ricard prior to the European Grand Prix three weeks ago. Both Schumacher and Trulli drove the car and commented on its improved stability, and their comments have now been echoed by test drivers Olivier Panis and Ricardo Zonta this week.

Toyota is expected to have three B-spec cars available for Monaco, but it will also take a standard TF106 as its second reserve chassis.
 
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Rossi to Red Bull?

According to the latest rumours, Valentino Rossi will no longer be joining Ferrari next season but rather Red Bull.

Rossi has long been linked to a switch from MotoGP to Ferrari at the end of this season, as the Italian has not only tested for the Scuderia but he has also received plenty from various team members.

However, according to Spanish newspaper Marca, that move is off and instead it's Red Bull, who use Ferrari engines, who are interested in signing the reigning MotoGP World Champion.

As for who is expected to race for Ferrari next season; the newspaper claims it will be Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen.
 
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Monaco Preview: McLaren

The 2006 Monaco Grand Prix marks the 40th anniversary of McLaren, with the team making its Formula 1 race debut at the event in 1966 with founder Bruce McLaren at the wheel of the M2B. Bruce, who had previously won the event in 1962, became the youngest ever Formula 1 Driver / Constructor to enter a race, at the age of 29.

Since this time McLaren has won the prestigious race on 13 occasions, which is more than any other Formula 1 team. McLaren’s first Monaco Grand Prix victory occurred in 1984 with Alain Prost and the team went on to win every single year, apart from 1987, until 1993. Ayrton Senna won the event a record six times, for which five of those victories he was driving for McLaren. Since the partnership with Mercedes-Benz began, Team McLaren Mercedes has won the Grand Prix on four separate occasions. Mika Hakkinen in 1998 and David Coulthard in 2000 and 2002. Last year Kimi Raikkonen won the race with a dominant victory from pole position. As Juan Pablo Montoya took victory in 2003 (with BMW Williams), Team McLaren Mercedes is the only current team that has two drivers who have won the legendary race.

The Grand Prix round the streets of Monte Carlo, which is being run for the 64th time this year, is widely regarded as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ on the Formula 1 calendar. From 25th – 28th May, the glamorous Principality is taken over by the sport for a race, which is, considered to be among the most demanding for both drivers and teams.

Kimi Raikkonen: "Monte Carlo is a completely different challenge to the Barcelona track we will be pushing hard for victory. To lay the foundation for a good result you have to perform well in qualifying. In Monaco overtaking is almost impossible as the track is so twisty and narrow. Because of this, I am sure we will see some interesting strategies from all the teams. Also Monaco is all about the car being responsive, particularly the front end. You are less aggressive under braking here into the corners because the barriers are so close and you need to be precise, and a responsive front end means the car is better in the mid corner and exit performance, allowing you to get on the throttle without having to wait for the car to turn the corner. At Monaco this is where you can find time, so the handling of the car and the mechanical grip are more important than other areas, such as aero efficiency."

Juan Pablo Montoya: "Everything about the Monaco Grand Prix is great, it is such an historic track and this creates a fantastic atmosphere. It is a unique challenge to race at because of its short, tight layout and other factors such as the gutters and manhole covers, the camber as the road crowns and all the white lines. Despite all this, the ride height isn't massively high, instead we run with suspension that has more compliance than normal. It isn't very comfy for the drivers, as you really feel all the bumps, but you don't notice it because you are there to race. Also the corner loadings and pressures on straights are much less so it is not too tough physically. Cooling is another issue at Monaco, because there are no real straights. As a result we run with the maximum cooling package of the season and we spent time at Paul Ricard last week focusing on the Monaco spec for cooling. We covered over 3,000km in total at the test and in addition to work for Monaco, we also looked at specific components and set-ups for the much faster Canadian Grand Prix."

Martin Whitmarsh: "The Monaco Grand Prix is the most prestigious event of the year, this is partly the location but also the heritage. The race holds particular significance for the team, as McLaren made its Formula 1 debut at Monte Carlo 40 years ago. Whilst we are pushing hard to develop the performance of the MP4-21, we are aware we have a challenge ahead on the streets of Monte Carlo if we are to build on this record. Because there is such low grip we will run the softest Michelin tyres of the year. Team McLaren Mercedes conducted a four day test at the Paul Ricard track last week, where our work with Michelin focused on tyre selection for Monaco. The track was in a configuration to mimic as much as possible the street circuit and we were able to get some positive feedback with Michelin and other areas of the test programme such as the bodywork modifications for the race. Monaco will also see us use the maximum downforce configuration, good front end grip for exact turning into the tight corners, an engine with good torque and an efficient traction control."

Norbert Haug: "Traditionally this Grand Prix is the highlight of the Formula One season, because the street circuit of Monaco today is as unique a venue for a Formula One race as during its premiere 77 years ago. Everything is different from all other permanent race tracks. The challenge for the drivers regarding concentration and precision is even bigger and therefore winning in the principality is most prestigious. Driving at the limit through the canal between the barriers it can happen easily that a driver hits the guard rails; this happened already to World Champions when they were in the lead without pressure. The new qualifying format with all competing cars on the track will cause a thriller we haven’t seen before this season and in the last couple of years. To find a clear lap in these conditions won’t be easy and we can therefore expect a mixed grid with some surprising positions. With 260 kilometres the race is the shortest of the season; not concerning the driving time, however, and when it rains it might happen that the Grand Prix will last for the maximum time of two hours. The team has good memories of Monaco. Including last year’s race Team McLaren Mercedes have won there on four occasions since 1998."
 
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Monaco Preview: Bridgestone

The last time the Monaco Grand Prix was won by a Bridgestone shod driver was in 2001 by Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's Michael Schumacher. After an absence of four years, Bridgestone is particularly eager to see a Bridgestone runner on the top step of the podium again and in an effort to regain this recently elusive honour, Bridgestone has been putting its new soft range of compounds through thorough testing with its teams. Monaco's unique street circuit features one of the smoothest track surfaces on the calendar and its coastal location can make it prone to unstable weather conditions. Overtaking opportunities are rare and therefore qualifying performances will be key to the fate of Bridgestone's teams next weekend. It is a big challenge for teams and tyre manufacturers alike but it is a challenge Bridgestone is relishing.

Hiroshi Yasukawa, Director of Motorsport: "Looking at the competitive performances of several of the Bridgestone teams over the past six races, there are a number of Bridgestone drivers who are capable of making it onto the podium next week. The Monaco GP is a very prestigious race so we are keen to see our teams do well there."

Tyres for Monaco

The 2006 tyre regulations permit each driver seven sets of dry tyres, four sets of wet weather tyres and three sets of extreme wet weather tyres. Combined with the increased number of teams running with Bridgestone in 2006, approximately 1,200 Bridgestone Potenza Formula One tyres are being sent from the Technical Centre in Kodaira City, Tokyo, to Monaco.

Hisao Suganuma Bridgestone Motorsport Technical Manager: "As the only real street circuit on the F1 calendar, the Monaco Grand Prix is extremely special. The cars need to have precise handling as they run so close to the sides. From a tyre point of view, the tyre manufacturer needs to provide tyres which give the drivers good handling characteristics. Being a street circuit with very tight corners, the tyres also need to provide good acceleration out of the slow corners. The tarmac on Monaco's street surface is another factor taken into consideration by the tyre manufacturers. The surface is very smooth and therefore compounds are from the softer end of the scale to ensure enough grip. With tyre changes now permitted and our recent developments progressing well, Bridgestone is taking a combination of both raced and previously unraced very soft compound tyres. The new compound tyres are actually softer than those used in 2004 [prior to the single tyre rule]. The Bridgestone wet weather tyres will also feature a soft compound. In terms of strategy, I expect the majority of teams will stop twice in the race – although a one-stop strategy is possible due to the shorter length of race distance. However, race strategies will ultimately be tied into a qualifying strategy and at Monaco, qualifying as far up the grid as possible is essential as overtaking is extremely difficult. All in all, I'm looking forward to seeing our teams perform at Monaco. We have made significant efforts to give them the necessary tyres which will perform well not only on the smooth surface but also in qualifying, the race and in potentially unstable weather conditions. It's going to be an interesting weekend!"
 
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Monaco Preview: Toyota

In terms of logistics it can be an awkward place for teams to work. It is certainly an awkward place for drivers to manoeuvre Formula 1 cars at 200km/h. But Monaco remains the big draw of the world championship calendar, 77 years after the first grand prix around its twisting streets. Some call it an anachronism, others a throwback to motor sport's glittering heyday. But anyone lucky enough to have sampled the atmosphere around this cluttered principality on race weekend agrees that it is special. At this year's race Panasonic Toyota Racing's new TF106B car will make its race debut in the hands of Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli as the team looks to make up ground after the difficult race in Spain.

Ralf Schumacher: "From a driving point of view it's great to drive at Monaco and a challenge to be quicker than everyone else round the narrow streets. The barriers are closer than anywhere so you need to adapt your approach slightly. But that is something we have all got used to down the years. The first challenge is to secure a good place on the grid and then to try and finish the race without mishap. Still, I have always been quick there and I've taken pole position and a podium in the past. Last year I made the points and we will hope for more this weekend. Tyre choice is always tricky because the track changes so much during the weekend. But if you have a driveable car here it's fun so I'll be looking forward to trying out our new TF106B."

Jarno Trulli: "Monaco is one of my favourite tracks and it's a great event with a fantastic atmosphere. It's also a circuit where things have always gone well for me, above all when I won the race from pole position in 2004. Qualifying is critical for the race because of the notorious difficulty in overtaking and Saturday should be extremely eventful. This year's qualifying rules mean that we can expect a lot of traffic during the sessions. They are likely to be chaotic, with cars getting in each other's way and the fight for grid positions could turn into something of a lottery. It's hard enough putting a lap together around the streets when they are clear, but it is all but impossible to pass even a much slower car. Nonetheless I am looking forward to returning to action on this classic circuit and hoping for a good result."

Pascal Vasselon - Senior General Manager Chassis: "At Monaco you are so close to the track that you can feel how fast an F1 car really is. So it is a special place and it will be even more special this year because we will run our TF106B for the first time. The car is a long-planned mechanical evolution of the TF106 that we have raced so far this year, featuring a development of the new front suspension concept introduced on the TF105B at the end of the 2005 season. Our policy is constant evolution and the TF106B gives us an excellent mechanical base for continued aerodynamic development during the season. At Monaco we always run a different aerodynamic configuration anyway to achieve maximum downforce around the twisty streets, but it's a place that tyres and driver are more important than anywhere else. We have made good progress in partnership with Bridgestone and we have two drivers who always perform well at Monaco so we are looking forward to it."
 
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Monaco Preview: Midland F1

Following two weeks of intensive preparation at its Silverstone headquarters, MF1 Racing heads to the Principality of Monaco for Round 7 of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

Since becoming a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar in 1955, the Monaco Grand Prix has grown in prestige to become arguably one of the most famous and glamorous sporting events in the world.

Over the years, drivers have compared the Monaco Grand Prix to 'flying through their living room in a helicopter'. The incredibly tight and twisty track demands total concentration from those who challenge it. There is very little overtaking, however, as the streets are so narrow and the barriers so close that even the smallest mistake could spell the end of a race.

Tiago Monteiro: "Monaco is very different from any other circuit we race on all year: different track, different strategies, different atmosphere. It's a race unto itself, really, where anything can happen, so I'm curious to see what will happen there this year - especially during qualifying. I had a good race in Monaco last year, and I'm looking forward to another one. I tend to prefer street circuits, actually, because it's a very different feeling for the driver, with so much more adrenaline! We raced on a lot of street circuits when I competed in Champ Car in 2003 - maybe 6 or 7 of them - so I'm quite accustomed to this type of track."

Christijan Albers: "The Monaco Grand Prix is always something special. The glitter and glamour, the street course, the big boats, it's what Monaco is all about. The track is very exciting for a driver, as there is no room for errors. The underdog stands a bigger chance here because top speed isn't such a factor. It's the type of track where a good driver can make a difference by taking risks, so I'm really going to go for it. With all the updates to the car - the new chassis, suspension set ups and new engines - we hope to put on a great performance this weekend."

Giorgio Mondini: "Monte Carlo is the only completely urban street circuit of the year, so in that regard, it's very special. (Montreal and Melbourne are only partial street circuits). I've raced there three times previously, in cars that lapped around 6 seconds slower than F1 cars, so it won't be too much of a difference. It was good training, actually. It's important to be familiar with every inch of this circuit, because there is no room to make mistakes here - one wrong move and you're into the barriers. Monaco is a very vibrant city and the surroundings are beautiful - the swimming pool corner, for instance, is gorgeous - but once you're in the car, you have to block out all that scenery. This track demands your total concentration. It might not be particularly fast, but it's one of the most challenging."

Colin Kolles, Managing Director: "The team has been busy working on various upgrades for the cars, so hopefully we will be able to demonstrate these improvements in Monaco. It's a very special track, and one that is definitely better suited for us than Barcelona. I think our drivers will be ready for the challenge and I am hoping to see good results from them."

James Key, Technical Director: "Monaco is very much a unique case that requires the car to be set up completely differently. Typically, it is possible to run very inefficient downforce, so we will be running at maximum downforce with the addition of some new aero components. The bumpy surface and tight corners require a soft mechanical setup and maybe a shift in weight distribution. As well, the soft tyres run at Monaco tend toward an understeer balance, so we will be looking at ways of overcoming that while still looking after the rear tyres. We have some suspension modifications which will be introduced for Monaco, some of which will be carrying through as permanent development. Toyota is continuing its good development rate and has provided us with another step on the engine. Monaco is always an event where anything could happen. We have had a couple of setbacks this year, but by and large our reliability record is still very good. Provided we take a sensible approach to the race and maintain our good reliability, there could be points for the taking at the end."

Johnny Herbert, Sporting Relations Manager: "They say that anything can happen at this circuit, and believe me, it's true: I ended up on the podium here in 1996, in one of the strangest finishes ever - I was last of only three cars still running! Now, those were wet conditions, but it really underscores the importance of being reliable. In Monaco, you have to run a smart race and stay within your abilities if you are to have any chance of scoring points. It's a tight, difficult course with precious little room to overtake, but with the right strategy and a few fortunate breaks, who knows? This could be a good weekend for us."
 
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Monaco Preview: Super Aguri

The Grand Prix of Monaco, round seven of the FIA Formula One World Championship, is considered to be the jewel in the Formula One crown. The race ranks among the top sporting and social events in the world, attracting an abundance of celebrities and top marques to the Principality.

The 3.34 kilometres long Circuit de Monaco comprises the city streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine. It is perhaps the most demanding track in Formula One and the heavily Armco-lined, narrow streets make it near-impossible for overtaking manoeuvres. The circuit provides an invigorating challenge for even the most experienced F1 drivers as it offers a low-grip surface, several elevation changes, extremely tight corners and very little in the way of run-off areas.

Takuma Sato: This is a very special and unique race as it is driven on the streets of Monaco. The cars require high mechanical grip as the average speed around the circuit is very low and the road surface is undulating. The whole circuit itself features a lot of elevations which can be seen clearly when you watch the race on television. After turn one you climb up the very steep, blind hill and onto the challenging Casino Corner. A steep drive down to Mirabeau then leads to the Loews Hairpin, which is probably the tightest turn in F1. You exit the tunnel at 285 km/h, which is an amazing speed considering I normally drive through there at 50 km/h in my road car! The rest of the circuit is flat but still with the high speed corners of Tabac and the Swimming Pool complex. As I missed the race last year, I am very excited and looking forward to returning to the Grand Prix in an F1 car.

Franck Montagny: It has been good to have a ten-day break after the Spanish Grand Prix. I have been able to relax, visit the factory to see the guys and prepare for the race next week. I am very pleased to be going to my first Monaco Grand Prix with the Super Aguri team and I would like to thank Aguri for having the confidence in me to do it. It will be a hard race for sure, but I am very much looking forward to the most famous race of the season and I am very glad to be taking part.

Aguri Suzuki, Team Principal: Mechanical problems have hindered our progress and prevented Franck from finishing the last race in Barcelona. I had hoped that we would have a two-car finish in Spain, however if both Super Aguri team cars cross the line at the end of the Monaco Grand Prix I will be happy. We need to keep learning from the problems we experience and never give up on the challenges that we face. I am looking forward to returning to Monaco next week as it is one of my favorite races on the F1 calendar.
 
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Monaco Preview: Honda

The Honda Racing F1 Team heads to the tiny principality of Monaco next week for one of the most traditional and exciting events on the F1 calendar. The Monaco Grand Prix, round seven of the 2006 FIA World Championship, is the one race which all drivers want to win at some time in their career. The narrow, twisty and bumpy street circuit presents a unique challenge, with a good qualifying position being crucial as over-taking is extremely difficult and the armco-lined streets leave no margin for error.

Monaco is a home Grand Prix for the team's race drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, both of whom live in Monte Carlo. It is also a race where both drivers have done particularly well in the past, with Rubens finishing on the podium at Monaco four times during his career and Jenson securing an excellent second position in 2004.

Following a two-car points finish at the Spanish Grand Prix last weekend, the team has been hard at work on the test track in Vallelunga this week to fine-tune the set-up of the RA106 race car and its Michelin tyres for the Monaco race.

Rubens Barrichello: "Like most drivers, Monaco is one of my favourite races and it's always a bonus to be based at home. I particularly enjoy qualifying at Monaco, it's one of the biggest challenges of the year and so important to get right. Overtaking is very difficult around the street circuit so you have to qualify well and get a good grid position. We had a positive test at Vallelunga working on chassis set-up and tyres specifically for this race. We know that the potential is there for the car to qualify well so I'm looking forward to a good weekend."

Jenson Button: "I'm really looking forward to this year's Monaco Grand Prix. I had a good race there in 2004, finishing second after a really exciting battle. It's a crazy place to be racing, the circuit is very tight and twisty and you can really feel the speed of the car when the barriers are so close to you. It's a different race than any other on the calendar, with so much history, and it means even more to me as I live in Monaco so it's one of my home races. You need good mechanical grip from the car and this is also a circuit where the driver can make even more of a difference to the race outcome. We've been really strong in qualifying all this year and that will be very important for the race as it's almost impossible to overtake except in the pit stops. It's also a fantastic race for the fans who can get so close to the action."

Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: "Monaco is unique in many ways and it certainly has a special place in F1 history. For the teams, cars and drivers, it also represents a tough challenge. The nature of the tight and twisty circuit emphasises different performance areas on the car than at other tracks. In preparation for the event, we tested a configuration of the Vallelunga circuit that most closely replicated the layout that we will encounter next weekend. During the test, we evaluated aerodynamic, mechanical and tyre specifications specially designed for the streets of Monaco. All the preparation is done - our drivers enjoy the track - let the weekend begin!"

Shuhei Nakamoto, Management Board Member - Honda Racing F1 Team, Engineering Director - Honda Racing Development: "Monaco presents its own special challenges for the engine, and we have been working hard on improving its performance. We had a positive test around a specially-adapted circuit at Vallelunga, so we are feeling positive for this special weekend in the calendar."
 
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Monaco Preview: BMW

It's that time of year again. On 28th May the Formula One teams will line up on the grid for the Monaco Grand Prix. The race on the Côte d'Azur is the most glamorous and prestigious date on the F1 calendar and attracts the most attention worldwide. Nowhere else do the fans get as close to the action or see more of it: with the track the shortest and tightest of any grand prix venue, the cars cover more laps than anywhere else.

Overtaking on the streets of the principality is the exception rather than the rule, yet the race usually provides its fair share of entertainment. One reason for the frequent thrills and spills is the narrow and twisty nature of the circuit, which means mistakes tend to be punished.

In the week following the Spanish Grand Prix, the BMW Sauber F1 Team – with drivers Nick Heidfeld, Jacques Villeneuve and Robert Kubica – completed three days of testing at the Paul Ricard circuit in France.

Nick Heidfeld: The race in Monaco is without doubt one of the highlights of the season. Driving through the streets with the apartment blocks and buildings on either side is an extraordinary feeling. I finished second last year, but even if I hadn't got such a great result the race would still have been a lot of fun. Qualifying will be much trickier than in recent years, with a lot more cars out on the track at the same time.

I have a strong connection with the principality, having lived there for several years before moving to Switzerland. When Formula One comes to Monte Carlo the whole place goes crazy. The bay is full of yachts and the streets are buzzing. I would recommend anybody to experience the Monaco Grand Prix weekend at least once. The atmosphere is totally unique. As a fan, you can get closer to the cars than at any other race – normally you're sitting hundreds of metres away. In Monaco you have a real sense of the speed and sound of the F1 cars. Away from Formula One, on the other hand, I prefer life to be rather quieter and feel very much at home in Switzerland.

Jacques Villeneuve: Monaco is a very exciting track to drive on and that is probably the track where we were the most competitive last year with Sauber. It is hard on the tyres because we go with very soft compounds. However, the car is normally quite easy on tyres. This GP is a race where anything can happen; you can start last and still get on the podium. There was a year when only four cars finished. There's always a lot of excitement around Monaco and I think we can probably do quite well there.

Robert Kubica: Monaco will be something special for me because this is my first time on a street circuit with a Formula One car. I like street circuits, though, and in the past I have performed really well in places like Monaco and Macau. I think I've raced on six or seven street tracks. But my race performance isn't an issue this year: I just need to do a proper job on Thursday. This will not be easy as the track will have very little grip, but I hope I'll be able to help my two team-mates a bit.

I raced at Monaco in the World Series last year, but unfortunately only finished fifth. It is a really difficult track and there is no space for any mistakes. But it is the same for everybody.

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: The eyes of the world are on Monaco for the Grand Prix. The race in the principality constitutes the crown jewels of Formula One, although the track has absolutely nothing in common with a modern race circuit. Whether you like the glamour of it all is a matter of taste, but it is all part of the image of Formula One. The closeness of the fans to the track and the paddock creates an atmosphere unlike any other grand prix.

Raw power doesn't get you very far on this tight and twisty course. Instead, it's good engine driveability that makes the difference. The hairpin at the Grand Hotel is the only corner all year when engine speeds dip below 5,000 rpm. The nigh-on 200 bhp performance gap between the 3.0-litre V10 engines in 2005 and this year's 2.4-litre V8 will be less visible at Monaco than anywhere else. Qualifying in Barcelona was the first time a car had set a faster lap time than last year. Similarly, I wouldn't be surprised to see a new lap record this year in Monaco.

Nick will line up with a new engine in Monaco after his previous unit completed its two-race stint, while this will be the second GP for Jacques' engine. Monte Carlo will also see the cars set the lowest top speeds of any circuit on the calendar and operate flat out for the shortest amount of time. On the other side of the coin, the engines get less cooling air, and that can push oil and water temperatures to the limit.

Willy Rampf, Technical Director Chassis: Monaco sees the lowest average speeds of the whole season, which means that heavy downforce is more important here than aerodynamic efficiency. Good traction is also critical when you're accelerating out of the many slow corners. As the circuit is opened again to public traffic between the practice sessions, the drivers have to contend with big fluctuations in grip – and that makes it extremely tricky getting the set-up right. The car has to work with absolute precision here, as the smallest error can mean crashing out of the race.

Since overtaking is more or less out of the question in Monaco, striking the right compromise between a good grid position and the optimum race strategy will be critical. I'll be interested to see what happens in qualifying, especially the first session when there will be 22 cars out on the track. The drivers will need a bit of luck on their side to avoid getting caught up in traffic. Whatever happens, excitement is pretty much guaranteed. After our solid showing in Barcelona, I can see our drivers putting in a good performance once again in Monaco.
 
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Sato calls for big push from Super Aguri

Takuma Sato believes his Super Aguri team cannot afford to simply sit back and wait for their new car to come on track at the French Grand Prix in the hope for improved results.

In a rallying call to his new outfit, Sato thinks it is vital that his team make a big push now to improve their structure and operational abilities so that they are ready to make the most of the step-forward in machinery from the SA06.

In an exclusive interview with autosport.com this week, Sato believes that his team are not yet where they need to be if they are to extract the maximum from the new chassis.

"What we need to do is to be prepared ourselves," he said about the future arrival of the car. "It is not only about the car, but also the team. If we have a competitive car here now today then the question is, can we perform to what the car has got? The answer is probably not yet.

"So we have to build up to a whole new environment to ensure we are ready for when we get a competitive car, so we can perform. That is in a good way the building up, because we did not have much preparation time.

"It is a shame we had to do it during the season but even the mechanics, the boys, are learning step by step. So by the time we get a competitive car we should be able to match the speed of the rest of the paddock towards the end of the season."

Although Super Aguri do not have the resources of many of their rivals, Sato is confident that the SA06 will be a big leap forward compared to the updated 2002 Arrows A23 that they are using at the moment.

"Well, I hope it is a big step," he said. "Because otherwise, we are stuck again and we don't want that. We are really desperate to have it and we are expecting to have a big jump. Certainly we should be able to have a head-to-head battle with Midland and also Toro Rosso."
 
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Telecom Italia to sponsor Ferrari

The Ferrari team have reached a sponsorship agreement with the Telecom Italia Group, which will sponsor the Italian squad through their Alice brand.

The deal will come into effect as from 1st January 2007 and will last for three years.

No financial details were revealed.

"We are happy to embark on a partnership with a group as prestigious as Telecom Italia, which is a major industrial player," said team boss Jean Todt.

"Innovation, the pursuit of excellence, speed and a spirit of competition are just some of the values we share with Telecom Italia and they will form the basis of a close and productive collaboration."
 
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Engine makers confident of compromise

Formula One's leading manufacturers are confident that a compromise deal can be reached with the FIA over future engine regulations this weekend, despite recent disagreement over plans for power-unit homologation.

A majority of teams in a recent Sporting Working Group meeting voted against plans for an engine freeze in the sport from 2008, but the FIA responded by insisting that they would not back down in plans for the cost-cutting measure.

The FIA made it clear that the teams had already committed to a series that featured engine homologation.

That move appeared to leave the manufacturers and the sport's governing body further apart than ever in their future plans for the sport, just days after the five members of the Grand Prix Manufacturers' Association had committed their future.

However, following recent talks between themselves about engine rules, the carmakers are hopeful that a fresh proposal that is planned to be put to the FIA this weekend will pave the way for an agreement that will end the recent arguments.

Crucially, it appears to have the backing of Ferrari, who voted against the idea of dropping the engine freeze at the SWG meeting.

Speaking to this week's Autosport, BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen said he believes plans for part-homologation, part engine number cap would be accepted by the FIA.

"I think we are not far from each other," he said. "All the manufacturers are discussing a reduced-cost engine formula which includes homologation of components of various periods of time.

"It is a well-balanced proposal that should achieve the cost-cutting targets by freezing some areas. We are about to finalise this concept and we hope to present a proposal to the FIA at the Monaco weekend.

"The important thing is that it is a proposal of all the engine manufacturers including Ferrari and Cosworth. I think it would achieve the FIA's targets without sacrificing the technology too much."

Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug backed Theissen's optimism about the fresh deal.

"Collectively the manufacturers have a better idea, which is better for the sport and saves more money," he said.

The teams only have until June 30 to agree the regulations for 2008, with Renault boss Flavio Briatore making it clear earlier this week that time was running for them to frame rules that would deliver much needed cost cuts.
 
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FOM joins forces with Kangaroo TV

Grand Prix spectators at events will have the chance to get closer to the action than ever before thanks to a new deal penned by Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management company on Wednesday.

Ecclestone has agreed a six-year deal with Canadian company Kangaroo Media to provide F1 coverage on their unique Kangaroo TV hand-held device at future events - with the service due to start at this year's United States Grand Prix.

The Kangaroo device, which features a colour LCD screen, allows viewers to choose between various live video feeds, radio coverage telemetry data and timing screens.

Ecclestone said: "This is as good as it gets to catch all of the action. Kangaroo TV is a perfect fit with F1 as both are about technology and performance. This will provide a truly enhanced at-race experience."

Kangaroo TV was first launched at Champ Car events in 2003 and has been a success in NASCAR this year.

The move should allow fans in the grandstands and on spectator banks to follow Formula One races much closer than they have ever done before.
 
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