For the first time in his career, Jenson Button goes to Monaco as the favourite to win the race.
“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.