Eurosport - Tue, 11 May 14:02:00 2010
The F1 circus heads to Monaco with the annual dash through the Principality's tortuous streets a unique test of man and machine performed with the glamorous backdrop of the harbour.
Driving a Formula One car around Monaco is a crazy experience because it's so narrow, but it's also a fantastic challenge. You have to decide everything on the corner entries and there's no space for error if you get it wrong. As a result, you need to build up your rhythm because you need to learn how much you can slide the car.
To take you around the lap: there's a surprising amount of grip away from the start line, given that it's a temporary racetrack. There's then a very short run down to Sainte Devote, where the trick is not to out-brake yourself and to let the car roll in, touching the inside kerb a little bit. You then accelerate up the hill towards the Casino.
The car gets very light over the hill at Massanet and just as it lands, you start to brake. To be quick through here, you don't want to destabilise the car by being too harsh with the brakes; you want to let it glide in, which takes a lot of confidence.
The right-hander through the Casino is third gear and it will be tough getting back on the power without traction control. Mirabeau comes next and the track drops away in the braking area, so you have to be patient.
The front end goes very light initially, then when it grips, you can floor the throttle. The Fairmont Hairpin is very tight, but you can get through it with one turn of the wheel. As you accelerate out, you quickly select second gear to limit wheelspin before turning into the next right-hander. This leads into Portier, from where it's very important to make a good exit because you carry that speed through the tunnel.
The tunnel isn't that challenging with the V8 engines, but it's still very fast. The cars are doing about 300kph at the exit, which feels pretty quick, and you only brake for the harbour chicane at the 100-metre board. The braking area is downhill and a bit bumpy, so it's easy to lock up a wheel. Next is the left-hander at Tabac, which is a pretty amazing corner.
You can enter faster than you think and the apex is a barrier, so you have to be inch-perfect with your line to ensure you don't clip it. There's a lot of grip at the exit, so you can enter very fast and wait for the front tyres to grip.
There is only a short straight before the Swimming Pool, which is taken almost flat-out. The car bounces over the kerbs and you get a bit of oversteer on entry, which makes it pretty exhilarating. The next chicane is fairly routine, but there are still walls to hit if you get it wrong.
Then you're into Rascasse, which isn't as extreme as it used to be, and then you have to be careful not to enter the last corner too quickly because you need a clean exit from which to accelerate on to the start-finish straight.