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Button proud to be Monaco favourite
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Button proud to be Monaco favourite
Posted By:   |  18 May 2009   |  7:45 pm GMT  |  33 comments

For the first time in his career, Jenson Button goes to Monaco as the favourite to win the race.
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“To go to Monaco with the lead in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’
Championships is fantastic but we saw in Barcelona that the performance
margins at the front are extremely close. There will be a lot of
competitive cars fighting it out this weekend, ” he said.

He has won four of the first five races and even though there have been signs lately that the Red Bull car is more than a match for the Brawn, at a tight circuit like Monaco the Brawn should have the edge. It is better mechanically than the RBR car and very nimble.

All eyes will be on Red Bull to see if Adrian Newey’s team has been able to rush out the new floor with the double diffuser in time for the race. That has certainly been their plan. The extra downforce could make quite a difference to them.

Jenson has had some great days in Monaco, the most exciting was definitely the 2004 race where, driving the BAR Honda he was narrowly beaten by pole sitter Jarno Trulli in the Renault.

It is, to date, his only Monaco podium.

He’s had some bad times there, too. In 2003 he was unable to take the start after a horrible shunt in practice, where he slammed the barriers at the chicane and in 2005 he was forced to miss the race because BAR were banned for two races for fuel tank irregularities.

I remember that weekend well, because Martin Brundle and I persuaded him to commentate on the race with us on ITV and he was really terrific at it.

Button’s task will be made a lot easier this weekend if he can qualify at the front, but I will be fascinated to see whether Sebastian Vettel can maintain his record of qualifying in the top three at every race.

Button knows that being aggressive on Saturday will be crucial,
“My usual driving style is very smooth but I will have to change that a little bit to get the best out of the car here,” he said in the pre race preview today. “You have to be aggressive around Monaco and not let the barriers intimidate you whilst obviously paying them due respect.”

It will be Rubens Barrichello’s 17th Monaco. He’s never won it either, although like Button he has finished second. The one I remember best was 1997 when he followed Michael Schumacher home in the rain, not in a Ferrari but in a Stewart-Ford.

I remember interviewing Jackie Stewart for TV at the end of that race and he was in floods of tears, he totally lost it. That clip appeared on a few highlights rolls over the years! The less nice memory was that I took my firesuit off after the race and packed it away in its bag and soon forgot that it was soaking wet…until I opened it again at the next race in Spain and it had mildew on it! Eeugh!

I love Monaco. I used to hate it, years ago when it was much harder to get around. But it is the only F1 race that lives up to the hype and the only venue which does more for the sport than the other way around.

This is my 19th Monaco (I missed the 1994 race) and I am as excited about it as I was before the first time I went.

I’ve got a few ideas for content this weekend and don’t forget to look out for the twitter feed, with a live reading of what’s really going on in qualifying and the race.

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33 Comments
  1. Alexis says:

    “I remember that weekend well, because Martin Brundle and I persuaded him to commentate on the race with us on ITV and he was really terrific at it.”

    Proves 3 in the commentary box works. Put David Croft and Anthony Davidson in the box with Martin Brundle. Anything to get rid of woeful Legard (save for James coming back).

  2. Dominic J says:

    Rubens and Jenson have both had some good, but never great runs at Monaco. How about a word about Webber’s good performance for Williams, in a car that couldn’t manage anything through the rest of the season (2005, was it?)

  3. Moog says:

    Although I see the importance of Monaco, as an armchair viewer, I really detest it.

    The race is often a precession, and unless there is rain, a large portion of the event is typically uneventful.

    Also, a friend of mine chose Monaco as the only F1 race to watch due to the hype, of course the race turned out to be pretty boring and it put him off watching another.

    This is why I don’t want to see a ‘London’ or a ‘Paris’ race. Singapore is bad enough, I appreciate that the atmosphere and the environment are magical, but watching on TV it just looked like a train of cars driving around a car park.

    So although I’ll endure the race, and I appreciate it’s heritage and status, for me, it’s one of the races I like least.

  4. PaulL says:

    I’m surprised both McLaren and Ferrari are running KERS at Monaco. I could of course be wrong, but I would have thought the weight distribution would be an advantage at a circuit which requires good handling.

  5. Matthew Dawson says:

    Although it can throw up some interesting results at time, the Monaco GP can be very dull a lot of the time. I just can’t really stand the fact that it’s a playground for famous people to show off, yet they know absolutely nothing about the sport.

    That said, it’s part of motorsport heritage and I can see why it’s on the calender.

  6. Snail says:

    I’m sorry James. I could not disagree more. It most certainly does not live up to the hype. The only time you get racing is if it is wet, which is race. The rest of the time you may as well just have a procession of cars.

    Silverstone, Spa, Suzuka, all great races, Monaco doesn’t get close to comparing. Folks can actually fight each other at those tracks.

    Monaco should go the way of Hungary and be dropped. Hungary like Monaco only provides a good race in the wet.

    Sure, if you think the race is all about the glitz, the glamour, the yachts, the over-priced lifestyles, the too shallow views on life (look at my expensive this-that-the other), all the the things that are ancillary, but non-essential to racing, then yes it lives up to the hype.

    But none of those things are what racing is about, its about competing and having the chance to challenge, and possibly overtake, which as we all saw years ago with an back of the pack Arrows and a top class McLaren driven by DC, you can’t do that at Monaco.

    Monaco does give you spectacular crashes and pretty girls in bikinis on boats most of us would like to own. But racing? Not a chance.

    Good luck to the wealthy folk. No problem with that. Just wish they didn’t get a GP weekend at a rubbish race track.

    And of course FOM give Monaco a free pass while screwing governments and track promoters worldwide for the rights to host anywhere (while giving a better race to boot!).

    Yours, disgruntled, from Tunbridge Wells.

    Now back to reading about Gerald Kaufman’s £8896 TV at the taxpayer’s expense.

  7. Sam says:

    Can Felipe Massa Win James, or get a podium??

  8. Jim says:

    I’m from Warminster and I am glad Jenson’s got the car he deserves. Go Jenson Go!!

  9. VonSpeeX says:

    Did i read that right, james is on the blog at half 4 in the morning? well he’s either wet the bed like i did,or he’s as excited as i am…..come on guys don’t be jealous of all the dudes with yachts ferraris and the best looking birds in the world……Go and do 78 laps on the pace without hitting the barrier once(u can graze it) on the ps3…..even fighting for 15th place to get promoted to a new team(in the game)….ok, there’s not much overtaking,so what?(don’t bother replying to that). i’ve watched every one since about 1979, and never been(on the race weekend:() This is my weekend of the year!!!!

  10. Suzy says:

    I think Monaco is more about the glamour and the hype that surrounds the race than the track and the race itself, which in itself is not more interesting than the Hungarian GP or – if you want walls – the Canadian GP.

    It’s interesting that when Michael Schumacher was asked which track he would drop from the calendar, he said Monaco. He admitted it was kind of paradox because he has always been good in Monaco and actually technical tracks always suited him, but he didn’t think F1 racing belonged to the narrow streets of Monte-Carlo.

  11. It’s good to see F1 focus back on the racing rather than the politicking.
    Best of British to Button in Monaco…

  12. Kamran Tunio says:

    I think Rubens needs to win this weekend, otherwise I can see the teams harmony breaking down which will be counter productive.

    F1 needs Monaco, despite the boring race.

  13. Steve Evans says:

    Hi James, do you think KERS will be of any use around Monaco or would the cars be better off without the weight penalty?

  14. lower-case david says:

    if you fancy making it interesting – recalling the barcelona sector3 times, lewis at 20-1 for the win looks like an exciting outside bet. 6-1 for a podium seems like value. even going down to top6 gets you 2.4

    (whaddya’ll reckon. just a question of how much the lack of efficient aero can be hidden by mechanical grip, and how ineffective kers will be: if the kers boys can somehow find a coupla bits of non-traction limited track, then they have 78laps worth of 6.6seconds, most kers output of anywhere.
    will it be enough to get past anyone, surely the tunnel/chicane?)

    … much better than the stingy 3 and a bit you’ll get for vettel to upset the brawns.
    surprisingly, webber is way, waaay out at 15-1, that might tempt Dominic J (above). 15 what’s that all about? i might even have a chunk of that for myself come to think of it.

    weather forecast is all dry and sunny … so far

  15. PaulS says:

    If you want to know who will do well at Monaco, look at people who can think up a good strategy. Immediately thought comes to Ross Brawn, so advantage must go to Barrichello or Button. But Toyota is on form as well, and Trulli has won here before, so he must surely also rank as a favourite.

    The others have to be outside favourites…

    On the subject of KERS, it is really designed to overtake, not to set up good lap times, and since Monaco is…look, Monaco is no track for KERS. Period!

  16. Adrian says:

    Monaco’s undoubtedly going to suit the Brawn – nimble, well-balanced, exceptional low speed grip and traction, powerful and tractable engine. Button’s has had some good outings at Monaco (second in ?2004; and he was very quick in ?2003 before his massive accident after the tunnel); he missed 2005 because of the BAR fuel tank suspension; 2006-8 so far as I remember he was stuck around the midfield. Barrichello’s quick enough around Monaco as well.

    Everything suggests that Lewis has some winning chances – he is quick around Monaco (he would have you believe that he’s the reincarnation of Senna at Monaco) and the McLaren’s main weakness (high-speed grip) will not really come into play. But I’d be wholly unsurprised if Lewis stuffed it in the wall or into another car. There seems to be some desperation showing through at the moment in his driving.

    Who else? I’d be interested in Trulli – the Toyota too has very good rear-end grip and traction with its well-developed double diffuser and Trulli is something of a Monaco specialist. I expect to see Trulli on the front row. Rosberg too for similar reasons (2nd at Singapore 2008 – street circuit, and I dimly remember him showing well in Monaco – at least in free practice…).

  17. Mon Pen says:

    There are some quite negative posts here about Monaco.

    I say – go there, then criticise. It’s the best opportunity in the season to get really close to the action and to the personnel after the race. I got jostled by Adrian Newey in 2007, nearly bumped him into the harbour. :lol: And met Max in 2006, not sure I’d shake his hand (eeewwwww) if I met him again.

    It’s clean and accessible (hello Silverstone, hello Donnington).

    It’s historical (hello Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Korea, India).

    It’s cramped but extremely well organised and because you are in the centre of town you’re never far from a decent bar or cafe – and not as expensive as you’d think.

  18. Jon says:

    Rubens 17th Monaco! Wow.

  19. Jon says:

    Forget to mention, can’t wait for Monaco! I love it whether there is overtaking or not. Every lap and every onboard is like F1 pure bliss. Every corner is holy ground! Here’s to a great Monaco weekend.

  20. Gord says:

    Was Stewart overcomed with tears of joy in 1997 when Barrichello came in second ?

  21. Daniel Hoyes says:

    That’s a good point. There’s enough people to choose from – and yeah James or David Croft would definitely be better. I’ve started listenning to the 5live commentry from the red button in the race.

    I’ve always thought you need a tactical expert too though as the third person – someone who can read the lap chart and strategy inside out. It’s for those times when the two people miss something, or fail to realise the signicance of the part of the race they really needed to be building up. So a commentator, ex-driver and technician…

  22. PaulL says:

    Legard’s doing a fine job.

    David Croft brings the exciting action well but comes across as biased in my opinion. He is “particular” about what he’s excited about.

  23. monktonnik says:

    +2 (on james returning)

    I love Monaco, and nothing will give me greater pleasure than to see JB clinch it. I think to be considered an F1 great you have to have won this race, probably twice. Which means that Vettel probably also deserves to open his Monaco account this weekend as well!

  24. Snail says:

    I’ve started listenning to the 5live commentry from the red button in the race.

    Where I live I get really poor FreeView reception. But even if I did get decent reception I’m loathe to go Radio 5 because I like listening to Martin.

    Is it really worth losing MB just to get rid of Leggard?

    Maybe I should get an engineer out to fix my aerial problem?

  25. *Paul_W* says:

    Crofty and Davidson are great togeather, best commentary team for F1 coverage since Murray and James Hunt (practice commentary is so much better than qually or the race to the point where I listen to red button commentary). Add in Brundle and you have the perfect mix. I was never a fan of James commentary (although I love his blog I always both found he and ITV in general far far too Lewis-centric) and Legard just seems to make basic errors time and time again. In general the BBC coverage is excellent and the minor irritations of Jordan and Legard are tolerable given the overall quality of coverage.

  26. LMW says:

    Agree with the comments about the Croft/Davidson partnership, simply brilliant, much better than Brundle/Legard.

    Don’t get me wrong, Martin’s Grid Walks and other items are worth watching, but he sometimes comes across as a bit arrogant and totally unenthusiastic, almost to the point of sounding bored sometimes.

    Croft/Davidson, as James did, show a great deal of enthusiasm and technical knowledge.

  27. Carlos says:

    I don’t feel the same way about Monaco. It certainly isn’t in the top half of races if you’re looking for overtaking and excitement, but it’s usually not among the few worst races either. It’s actually been a few years since Monaco was boring. Even in 2006, when most of the changes were due to retirements, I remember at least one panic-braking pass at the swimming pool.

    A dry Spanish GP or Hungarian GP often don’t even have that. From what we saw last year, the Mediterranean GP also has the potential to be worse than Monaco. Some years, the Monaco GP beats out a couple of others, too.

    If it were truly and consistently processional then sure, it would be worth reconsidering it. But a) it isn’t consistently boring, and b) there are other tracks that have all the bad things, but none of the good things that Monaco has. They should be reconsidered first.

  28. James Allen says:

    Yes I think he can get a podium, a win possibly, you never know at Monaco. They’ll have to get the strategy right, though

  29. monktonnik says:

    Snail, I agree with James on this one.

    There is no other race that gives me more excitement (well apart from the 1st of this year!) to watch on television. The atmosphere really comes across well, an there are other races that are nearly as processional without that added bonus. You also sense that many of the drivers love this race, as I guess it is the home GP of quite a few of the drivers.

    There is just something about racing cars and that part of the world. I once watched a classic car race in a town not too far away from there on the Grand Prix weekend (we tried to get to Monaco for the race but were unable) and the combination of the lovely people fantastic weather and loud cars was intoxicating. I admit that I probably saw more overtaking though!

  30. guy says:

    Snail, re your sixth paragraph, is it the boats or the pretty girls in bikinis that you wanted to own?!!

  31. Kirk says:

    And get enough fuel on board this time. :-)

  32. Prancer says:

    Any thoughts on how Jarno will go this year James? Only I was thinking of heading to the bookies. I realise everything has to be perfect for Jarno – so I won’t be putting an MP’s second-home-allowance-type-amount on him obviously. But do you more technically minded types think Monaco will suit the Toyota?

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