F1 2015 Monaco Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton battles for pole position
- Credit: Mercedes-Benz
Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton battles for pole position around the streets of Monte Carlo today (Saturday) in qualifying for the 2015 Monaco Grand Prix.
The 30-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas racer from Hertfordshire currently leads the F1 World Drivers’ Championship by 20 points from Silver Arrows colleague Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton battles for pole position in qualifying for the sport’s most prestigious race at lunchtime today, having gone fastest around the Circuit de Monaco in first and second practice on Thursday.
Of the Monaco GP, Hamilton said: “It’s the biggest challenge of the year for a driver and, when you get it right, that feeling is hard to beat.
“Building a rhythm right from the beginning of practice is so important, as you really need to feel your way into the circuit.
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“You have to be inch perfect at every point, as the slightest slip can ruin your weekend.
“It’s about pure driving skill and pure bravery behind the wheel, which for me is what makes it so special.”
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Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe said: “We’ve had a good car at Monaco in the past two seasons and this year’s model remains strong in low-speed corners.
“It’s a real driver’s circuit and we should be set for an exciting intra-team battle throughout the weekend. Overtaking is extremely difficult, so nailing a good lap in qualifying will be crucial.”
Monaco is unlike any other venue in Formula One.
It’s the shortest and slowest circuit on the calendar, but it’s also one of the most challenging, owing to the narrowness of the Principality’s streets and the proximity of the barriers.
The 3.340km/2.075-mile layout has remained largely unchanged since it first hosted a World Championship grand prix in 1950.
There have been minor alterations over the years in the name of safety, such as the easing of Rascasse and the introduction of TecPro barriers, but the original challenge and character of the circuit remain intact.
Technically, the circuit is very demanding. There are many short bursts of acceleration from low speed, all of which put an emphasis on traction, and the bumps in the road force teams to run their cars with much softer suspension than at a conventional racetrack.
The steering angle of the front wheels has to be increased as well, in order to make it round the Loews Hairpin.
With overtaking difficult around the tight and twisty circuit, a good grid position is vital in Monaco.
During the final qualifying sessions a driver will realistically have just one, possibly two clear laps to make an impression and it’s not uncommon to see a surprise name caught out during Q1.
A combination of yellow and sometimes red flags, coupled with traffic, makes it very easy to be caught at the wrong time on the wrong part of the track.
Approaching Monaco requires significantly more diligence towards mitigating risk than at any other circuit.
On nailing a flying hot lap around the barrier-lined street circuit, Hamilton said: “Monaco is just incredible. As a kid you dream about racing through the tunnel and it’s such a fantastic feeling to actually experience it first-hand.
“I won here in F3, GP2 and finally in Formula One in 2008. It’s a real driver’s circuit, a second home race for me after Silverstone, and I’m excited about the prospect of another good weekend here.
“Driving round the Monte Carlo circuit is a seriously hair-raising experience: it’s like the most hardcore rollercoaster you can possibly imagine!
“Starting with Turn One, finding your braking point is quite tough and there are quite a few bumps on the way in which make it even more challenging.
“You’re hard on the brakes on entry then hard on the power on exit: heading up the hill into Turns Two and Three.
“This is a really intense section of the track as you can’t see the corners coming, so you really have to know your lines and get it spot on.”
The Stevenage-born reigning world champion continued: “You’re then into Turn Four, Casino, which is really tight and again you have to pinpoint your markers so accurately to get it right.
“You can very easily brush the barrier through here and we see it happen almost every year at some point in the weekend.
“From there you jink right before heading down through Mirabeau and into the tight, twisting section of Turns Five, Six, Seven and Eight: all very low-speed.
“Next up it’s the tunnel, which is a seriously exciting and unique bit of track. It’s flat out into the darkness and you really can’t see where you’re going: you just have to hope you’ve positioned your car in the right place to get a good run back out into the bright sunlight on the other side.
“From there you’ve got the tight chicane of Turns 10 and 11, the tricky Tabac corner at 12, then the Swimming Pool at 13 and 14 which is taken almost flat out.
“The next chicane at 15 and 16 is much tighter before you get hard on the brakes again into Rascasse.
“Both this and the final corner, Antony Noghès, have really low grip levels and it’s so easy to make a mistake on exit with all the power available from these cars.”
Hamilton added: “An interesting feature of the circuit is that, because of the enclosed nature of the track with all the buildings surrounding you, there’s really no wind effect. It’s just you, the car and the tarmac!”