He might be on the verge of the eleventh Monaco Grand Prix of his F1 career, but Lotus Renault GP star Nick Heidfeld reveals that competing around the narrow, tortuous streets of the glamorous Principality never fails to excite him – and he is confident that, this weekend, he will be right up at the sharp end of proceedings.
Heidfeld was one of the undisputed standout performers of last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, making full use of an excellent three-stop strategy and a plentiful supply of fresh tyres following his qualifying woes to storm his way up through the order from plum last on the grid to eighth at the chequered flag. Just one more lap, and the experienced German would assuredly have been sixth.
“I was satisfied with finishing eighth after starting last,” he reflected. “I had to be determined and fight through the field with a number of overtaking manoeuvres, so it was good fun for me behind the wheel – I enjoyed the race a lot. Similarly to Turkey, with one or two laps more I could have gained a couple of positions from the two Mercedes cars, but it was still a good result and gives me lots of confidence going into Monaco.”
Heidfeld's best result in Monte Carlo to-date was the runner-up spoils with Williams back in 2005, with three further points finishes to his name in 2004, 2006 and 2007 – and it is a circuit around which he invariably shines. Absent from the grid there last season, he is palpably fired-up to return in style twelve months on – and optimistic that the Lotus Renault GP R31 will allow him to do precisely that.
“Monaco is one of my favourite circuits, and it is usually a really fun race,” the 34-year-old enthused. “The schedule is unique, and even though I have competed here many times, it does feel different to the other races and a little strange when you are used to the normal race schedule. You have to remember Monaco is its own race – it is and will always remain unique.
“If I had to recommend a race for spectators to go to, I would tell them to go to Monaco – it is such a special event. The location is fantastic, and there is such an amazing atmosphere all around us – it's a really crazy race. It is not the easiest circuit for the team to work at, as it's such a small location, but it is an essential part of F1 and a great spectacle for everyone involved.
“Monaco is a very different track from the Circuit de Catalunya. The circuit is not a dedicated racetrack, which means it is used by public vehicles. It is bumpier than a racetrack but the surface is actually very smooth, meaning it is very slippery. We will be using Pirelli's softest tyres for this race, and this will be a key factor.
“Over the course of the weekend, the track surface has historically improved more than any other circuit on the F1 calendar. This time around, it will be interesting to see by how much and in what way it improves, because these Pirelli tyres work very differently from the Bridgestone tyres we used previously. I expect tyres will be a key factor in Monaco, as they have been at the other races, too. It will be interesting to see how we can compete there, but in the past the [Renault] car has been well-suited to the circuit, and I'm confident it will be the same this year.”