March 13 2014 Latest news:
Michael Bailey , Formula One correspondent
Friday, May 25, 2012
Monaco is a brilliant weekend for everyone associated with Formula One – you cannot beat it. Singapore was set up with a similar iconic vision in mind, while the likes of Silverstone and Monza are also pearls in the F1 crown. But simply put, Monte Carlo is the key. The crown jewel.
• GW – Paul di Resta: Mercedes have admitted they are keeping tabs on the Scot’s progress with Force India; HRT: The doors to their new HQ in Madrid are now officially open.
• BW – Jenson Button: So where has McLaren’s pace gone? The Brit wants an answer; Bruno Senna: The second Brazilian to find the pressure on after a poor 2012 start.
For that very reason, I made sure last year’s holiday to the south of France included taking my go-kart of a car along part of the track. I think the traffic jam topped 5mph, but that didn’t really matter.
So the weekend will be special, as it always is in Monaco – possibly more so given the season we are witnessing.
And for Hingham’s Caterham, it could also be more important than ever.
As we know – and as I have touched on already this season – the Norfolk marque currently sits a rather unusual 11th in the constructors’ championship.
"For me this step is a mark of the greatest possible trust, which I will do everything in my power to justify"
This is the first season Tony Fernandes’ team has failed to top their fellow 2010 new boys in the opening race – a grand prix that tends to throw up retirements and therefore, strange race classifications.
Marussia bagged a best of 14th in Melbourne, which is what sees them sitting ahead of Caterham. The following three races have offered up little chance of getting close to that for the three teams at the back.
And this is Caterham’s problem. In the past two seasons, 13th places have earned the coveted 10th finish in the constructors’ championship – and the millions that come with it.
Caterham’s 2010 and 2011 finishes mean the pressure isn’t fierce for this year – the money is dished out based on finishes in two of every three years.
However, for a team wanting to catch the sport’s established constructors, to be overtaken by the teams behind them would be a hard one to take.
The truth is, only a handful of tracks offer the possibility of a high finish – where the rate of retirements, prangs and mistakes mean the likes of Caterham can get into the top 13.
Australia is one. Monza and Canada will offer further chances later in the season. Monaco completes the list.
There is more than a second’s gap from Caterham to Marussia, with HRT even further behind. Hingham’s reliability has been good too, with two cars classified in all four races since Australia.
No doubt, if the opportunity does arise around the tight streets of Monte Carlo, the Norfolk marque should have the ability and pace to seize it.
Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen said: “Last year I finished 14th, one of our higher finishes of the season, so hopefully we can improve on that this year.
“We have Kers this year and a car that has good race pace, and as our car is slightly easier on the tyres than some of the teams ahead, maybe that will help us achieve a high finish.”
Most years the Monaco Grand Prix is a tough one to call. On Sunday, this season’s race will feel that, more than ever – which is a great thing.
But for Caterham, they know there is pressure this weekend to delivery whatever – and mainly because – of what may happen up ahead.
• It’s inevitable, but also more than frustrating, that some want to complain about arguably the best ever start to an F1 season.
First we have Michael Schumacher – a driver I really wanted to see deliver this season, and one I backed to do so too.
The struggling Mercedes man has taken one or two swipes at this year’s Pirelli tyres and the fact the racing in 2012 is too unpredictable. The argued influence of rubber ahead of technical nous and driver competence was also backed by Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz – probably not much of a surprise given their mix and match start.
We’ve even had Sir Jackie Stewart complaining about the dangers of marbles left off the racing line by the erratically degrading rubber – not the most pressing safety concern, you would think.
This is all plainly ridiculous. Marbles on the track is nothing new. Unpredictable racing that rewards consistency, and a bit of cute set-up work and understanding, was what we have all been asking for – and I bet it would be a struggle to find many fans who would want an immediate return to the old days.
Therefore, it was good to hear Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery stand up for his team’s hard and impressive work.
“The vast majority of feedback we get is that people are enjoying the races,” Hembery told Autosport.
“At the start of the year, if we had said five different winners and five different cars then everyone would have suggested you had been smoking something – but we have got it.
“Over a season, you will still find the best drivers, cars and designers will win. There are 20 races, so that will happen.
“But just look at the championship. It has absolutely closed up, people have been asking for it for years. We have got it, and some people still are not happy.”
Hembery’s doing a great job of speaking for a lot of people there.
However, the final remarks of his interview also made interesting reading.
“In time the engineers will master what they are doing and, give it a few more races, things will settle down,” added Hembery.
“We had some indications in Spain that three or four teams had made some progress. We felt that was borne out with some of the results we saw.”
It won’t be long before the teams with the understanding prove to be the teams with the points – providing those cars and drivers also manage to perform as they should.
And as we, Jackie, Michael and Dietrich all know, that doesn’t always happen.