Thursday, May 22, 2008

Monaco GP - preview

For nearly 80 years, the Monaco Grand Prix has challenged drivers to tame the tight and twisty streets of a race track which winds its way through the second smallest nation on earth.

At just two square kilometres, and with the highest national population density in Europe, Monaco is unique on the Formula 1 calendar. That 350km/h race cars still do battle on its treacherous turns in the 21st century is testament to the enduring fascination of the Monaco Grand Prix.

For most in Formula 1, Monaco is in equal parts a trial and a joy; with the tight confines challenging everyone in the paddock but the history, glamour and unrivalled atmosphere stoking the flames of passion in all motorsport enthusiasts.

With unforgiving walls just centimetres away, drivers are given no margin for error, which makes Monaco one of the most mentally demanding races of the year. In terms of the cars, it may be tempting, logical even, to assume the slowest race on the calendar is the least demanding, but that could not be further from the truth. Monaco is not only a unique challenge for a driver; it places very special demands on a Formula 1 car as well.

The Principality of Monaco is the heady and glamorous location for round six of the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship. The 20 cars and drivers will compete around the 3.34km street circuit, racing between the Princes's Palace and the Mediterranean sea covered in some of the World's most lavish yachts.

The focus for the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen, will be on adding to the illustrious history of the team at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Since the start of the McLaren and Mercedes-Benz era, the team has won the race on five occasions. Mika Hakkinen in 1998, David Coulthard in 2000 and 2002, Kimi Raikkonen took the spoils in 2005 with Fernando Alonso claiming victory just ahead of then team-mate Lewis last year.

The connection to the race stretches back to the 60s, with Bruce McLaren taking the M2B to the track to make the marque's Formula 1 debut. In that time, the team has won a record 14 out of the 65 of Grands Prix staged in the Principality. This began with Alain Prost in 1984, kicking off a winning streak that stretched until 1993, with the exception of 1987. Five of these were at the hands of Ayrton Senna.

As part of the team's ongoing relationship with Steinmetz, creators of the world's finest diamonds, Lewis and Heikki will wear special diamond encrusted Monaco helmets for the race. Each helmet has the signature of the driver pav├ęd with a line of hundreds of Steinmetz's handcrafted diamonds. This also marks the first time that the Steinmetz logo - or any other sponsor's logo in Formula 1 history - has been incorporated into the design of the helmets through the application of diamonds.

Preview text and photos used with permission from Toyota and, no reuse for any reason.

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