- Exclusive Nico Hulkenberg interview
- Grosjean: Traffic the cause of Q2 elimination
- Webber quietly confident for race prospects
- Crash damage leaves Massa a spectator
- Alonso struggling in Monaco with low track temperatures and setup
- A look at the leading ladies ahead of the French Open
- A look at the leading Mens seeds at the French Open
- Laverty: “BSB unbelievably close to MotoGP”
- Who’ll hit the jackpot in Monaco?
- Challenges facing a MotoGP rookie
NicoHulkenberg: Mixed emotions. On the one end it was a crazy qualifying session with the conditions but we have a good starting position just outside the points with a free choice of tyres. On the other hand it was a missed opportunity as there was more in there. As a team we didn’t quite make the right call as to when make the change to slicks. We only got one lap whereas everyone else got two laps so we missed the entry for Q3. The lap was good but it was six tenths short of Q3 and I’m sure another lap would have been quicker. In these damp conditions one lap more is quite an advantage. The track was pretty challenging and tricky, especially in Q1 with the inters.
SE: Are points the target for tomorrow?
NH: Points are what we are going to try. We aren’t far away from them and we will try and make a good start and survive the first corner with no damage. That’s the first priority. If you damage the front wing and have to pit straight away you’re race is over. Overtaking is difficult and you can’t really gain an advantage anywhere else. The race is 78 laps and there are plenty of opportunities to make a mistake and finish your race. It is one of the races with the hightest level of concentration for everybody.
SE: Does the concentration factor make Monaco more exciting for a driver?
NH: I think that it is thrilling enough to go through such narrows walls and to be on the limit. It’s quite easy to make a mistake and misjudge it one time and don’t hit a bump the wrong way and that will send you off the wrong way.
A lot of drivers have talked about the bump into turn one, how bad are the bumps on track?
There is a bump at turn one but it is not so bad for me. There is on between turn four and turn five that for me is worse from Casino down.
SE: How are you adapting to Sauber?
NH: It is going well, it’s a different team and a different culture.
How different is it to be here rather than at a British team?
It’s alright. It’s different to be sure, not in a negative or positive way, and you work with it and try to do the best job that you can with the team.
SE: What are your expectations for the rest of the season?
NH: Given how we started and not starting the season as strong as we would like we are finding ourselves in a situation that we don’t like. We are not competitive enough.
SE: What areas are you struggling with?
NH: As always it’s the aerodynamic side and maybe some of the interaction with the Pirelli tyres. There is something there that can make the car tricky to drive sometimes and for now the target is to fix that step by step and get more competitive and in the long term will get us better results.
SE: Is it frustrating to see Force India stronger than you this year?
NH: It’s good for them and they have put a decent race car together. I’m not with them anymore and a long time back when I made the decision things were different. You never have guarantees in life, and for sure not in Formula 1, but in life that is how things go.
SE: How will the 2014 regulations change the competitive order?
NH: Next year we enter a completely new era with a new page and a new book. Any team could get a lucky punch like Brawn in 2009. It’s completely open.
SE: About the tyres how do you find them in qualifying and the race?
NH: In qualifying they are fine, the one lap performance is fine. In the race they are challenging. They require management and as a racing driver sometimes it is more than we would like but it is what it is. It makes racing very interesting for fans and for us drivers it allows overtaking. It creates some circulation in the races and they are not as boring as they used to be. We have to adapt to the tyres and it’s not in my hands to change it so it is not worth me stressing about it too much.
Romain Grosjean has had a difficult weekend with two crashes but the Frenchman has also flashed signs of speed during the Monaco Grand Prix.
The Lotus driver however was a Q2 casualty but when asked afterwards with reporters, including Crash.net, about the cause of his failure to make the final shoot out he answered definitively that the issue was traffic on his final run in Q2. With the session having started wet the drivers all changed to slicks in the closing stages but Grosjean felt that he was held up on both laps by the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo:
“I caught Riciardo on the first flying lap of the option,” said Grosjean. “I thought that he would let me go at the Swimming Pool but he didn’t. The lap after I was on his gearbox and that was the lap that everyone improved.”
With two crashes having punctuated his weekend Grosjean explained that a combination of a bumpy track surface and a difficult setup was the cause of his incidents:
“It was a bit on the edge to start with but through the weekend we have improved,” said the Frenchman. “It’s not always easy to understand what is going on [with the car] as Monaco is extremely bumpy and unpredictable and I got caught a few times. It didn’t help the confidence in Q1 as you saw.”
When asked if he was distracted by Lewis Hamilton exiting the pits in his morning crash Grosjean told reporters:
“It disturbed me a little bit but I braked earlier than my normal braking point. But it was my ninth lap on those tyres and I just got caught with the rear tyres, it was a small oversteer but it was very bumpy there.”
The track has been resurfaced in places but for the Lotus driver it is still far from ideal with the bump into Sainte Devote and Mirabau especially troublesome.
Mark Webber will line up fourth on the grid for the Monaco Grand Prix and with the biggest question mark about tomorrow’s race being the ability of Mercedes to maintain their tyre life the Australian sounded quietly confident when speaking this afternoon:
“I dont know how Mercedes will go,” said Webber. “We’ll see what happens with strategy but we’ve got to be there to capitalise on any mistakes that might occur. There’s been a bit of a form card evolving that they are strong on Saturday’s and not quickest on Sunday’s. They might be able to pull it off tomorrow but we’re in a good position to capitalise.“
With Mercedes once again locking out the front row the tight confines of the Monaco circuit means that this is the perfect opportunity for the team to utilise a “rear gunner” strategy that would see one driver hold up the pack. The pace setters have however shown promising long run pace this weekend, especially with Nico Rosberg at the wheel, and Webber admitted that they seem to have made progress.
“It [their long run pace] was a lot better on Thursday than their Barcelona performance which Ross touched on,” said Webber. “They’ve got a few things in their favour; we all know that. They’ve got a clear track but there’s still 78 laps to go. I’ve been at the front here and it’s not easy to control the race.”
With Red Bull having been off the pace in the opening practice sessions it seemed as though the team might struggle this weekend but as the track has evolved the performance has improved. Webber commented that this is not unique to 2013 and that it has been a “Red Bull trait” to be slow on Thursday before improving on Saturday and Sunday.
“We’ve never been super strong on Thursday’s in the past and this year was no different,” said the Australian. “Today is important and tomorrow’s the most important. Traditionally we haven’t been as good on a green circuit, and this is probably the greenest track we go to. It’s not like Barcelona with a lot of categories running here. It’s been a Red Bull trait that we are not as strong in those conditions.”
Felipe Massa’s heavy FP3 accident kept the Brazilian from taking part in qualifying in Monaco and speaking this afternoon the Brazilian was still at a loss to explain how the accident occured.
“I braked and locked up both fronts which is not an easy thing to happen, usually you lock up one,” said Massa. “But it happened and I hit the guardrail on the left and was just waiting for the wall to arrive which is not a nice feeling. When I braked it was even a little bit earlier than my [previous] lap so maybe it was a problem with the bump. It was a bit strange but it happens.”
Massa was not the only driver to crash during the practice session with Romain Grosjean and Adrian Sutil damaging their cars. Both however were able to take part in qualifying. Massa’s extensive damage however made it impossible for the team to fix the car in time:
“The car was pretty damaged and I knew it was going to be very difficult to fix the car but we tried everything. Grosjean had a much lighter crash than mine and he only managed to make it out at the end of Q1 so you can see that it was not easy for us to fix it.”
The Brazilian also commented that he had some shoulder and back pain after the crash but that “it shouldn’t be a problem for tomorrow.”
With his Ferrari teammate, Fernando Alonso, qualifying in sixth it will be a difficult race for the team with Massa feeling that the lower track temperatures of Saturday having played a factor in the under performance.
“I saw most of the cars going out this morning they were going one second quicker than before but we didn’t improve anything in our laptimes,” said Massa. “If you see my Thursday laptime I think it was a 16.2 and today I did a 16.1 and it was similar for Fernando. We need to prepare the car with the best configuration possible for the tyres and everything for tomorrow.”
Fernando Alonso qualified a disappointing sixth, just under one second off the pace, for tomorrow’s Manaco Grand Prix.
Having won the previous round of the championship the Spaniard had high hopes for a successful weekend but a combination of lower track temperatures and the evolution of the track has clearly hurt the team.
Speaking after qualifying the double world champion said:
“We are not very happy with our performance in qualifying,” said Alonso before speaking about his chances of winning the 78 lap race. “Nothing is impossible but it will be very unlikely. If we make a good start and then we see the race. There are safety car possibilities here on any lap so there are many factors; same as today. It was a difficult qualifying to decide which tyres to put on [in Q2].”
Alonso was more competitive on Thursday but after a setup change in this mornings practice session did not have the desired results he reverted to his earlier setup before qualifying. With rain having fallen early in the session it was a difficult session with teams and drivers having to make quick decisions as to what type of tyre to use:
“On Thursday we were not the fastest but we were not as bad as today. We lost some ground [today] and maybe the temperature [played a role]. This morning we had a different setup but to have no doubts we went back to our Thursday setup for qualifying. It’s a unique track with different ride heights, suspension geometry, steering. Everything changes in the car for Monaco.”