Mercedes Grand Prix is to revert back to its original shorter-wheelbase MGP W01 for this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix – and whilst they acknowledge that they are not quite on the leading pace just yet in F1 2010, still the defending double world champions remain quietly confident of a strong weekend in the glamorous Principality.
Mercedes rolled out a longer-wheelbase version of its car for the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona last weekend, and it certainly seemed to suit Michael Schumacher, who got the better of his young team-mate and compatriot Nico Rosberg for the first time this season, both in qualifying and in the race, in which the German legend finished a strong fourth at the end of a staunch defence against the faster McLaren-Mercedes of Jenson Button.
The machine that began the campaign, however, will re-appear in Monte Carlo – albeit kitted out with all of the team's latest aerodynamic improvements – as it is better-suited to the street circuit's tight, tortuous nature, with Mercedes CEO Nick Fry telling German broadcaster RTL
that he is 'very optimistic we will be more competitive than in Barcelona'. His drivers tend to agree.
“I have always liked to drive in Monaco,” enthused record-breaking multiple world champion Schumacher, who finally and belatedly kick-started his F1 comeback into gear in Spain courtesy of the revamped car, “and that's why I am really looking forward to competing there this weekend. The Monaco Grand Prix certainly adds something very special to the Formula 1 calendar, and driving through the streets of Monte Carlo is undoubtedly unique.
“We go there and hope that the characteristics of the street circuit suit our car better than in Spain last weekend. On the other hand, we should be careful not to expect too much this time, as we saw in Barcelona that there is still a lot of work ahead of us. Other than having achieved my best result so far this season, I have taken with me a lot of motivation to work even harder with our engineers to improve the car further.”
“The Monaco Grand Prix is my home race and it's always an enjoyable weekend,” echoed Rosberg, who achieved a brace of podium finishes with the shorter-wheelbase machine during the opening four grands prix. “Formula 1 brings a real atmosphere to my home town, and it's very special to have all of my family and friends there to support me over the weekend. Living so close to the track is helpful too!
“After a rewarding first four races, Barcelona was disappointing, so we hope to see an improvement for Monaco and we will work hard to understand our issues from last weekend. Monaco is a completely different circuit with its own unique challenges and characteristics, so it will be interesting to see how the car goes there. I had a good race last year, qualifying and finishing in sixth place, so it would be nice to go a few places better this time.”
Mercedes engines have powered seven of the last twelve winning cars in Monaco – and consistently since 2007 – and including customer teams, the Stuttgart manufacturer has achieved 13 rostrum finishes there and seven pole positions from 16 starts. Those records, agree both the Brackley-based outfit's team principal Ross Brawn and Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug, offer something to aspire to in the forthcoming edition of the veritable jewel in f1's glittering crown.
“The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most challenging race weekends of the year,” acknowledged Brawn, “but everyone revels in the special atmosphere, and as engineers we love the unique demands and the extra pressure that the street circuit generates. In addition to a car which is strong mechanically, you need good power and drivability – provided by our Mercedes-Benz engine – for the low-speed corners. Monaco requires a particular set-up, and therefore whilst we will run our new aero package, we will revert to our previous specification suspension system to allow for the steering lock required around this unique circuit.