Romain Grosjean knows that it takes to tame the mean streets of Monaco, but will be looking to put a scrappy 2013 race weekend firmly in the rear view mirror when he rocks up in the Principality next weekend.
The Frenchman showed blinding speed on occasion during both practice and qualifying for last season's Monaco showpiece, but his potential was blunted by two crashes in the opening three sessions and another, when he rear-ended Daniel Ricciardo, in the race itself.
“There are the unique challenges of such a special circuit and, as a driver, you have to stay calm and relaxed on a track that doesn't allow for any mistakes,” he acknowledged, “I've been super quick in the past, but also hit the walls!
“When you finish a lap and you know it's quick because you've given everything and you're so close to the walls at every corner, it is something special. Finding the balance between pushing too hard and not enough makes a huge difference in Monaco….”
Grosjean heads to this year's Monaco Grand Prix on something of a minor high, having finally put some points in his pocket following an eighth-place finish in Spain and, while the reward was small change compared to some of the results he achieved in 2013, he hopes that it will be the start of regular top ten appearances as Lotus turns its year around.
“It's great for all the team and they certainly deserved it,” he said, “They've been working very hard at Enstone and at the track and, if you look at where we were in Australia and where we are now, it's a massive step forward, so I'm proud of them all and happy with what we're doing. It was a good reward for all of us.”
Post-race testing in Barcelona also suggested that Lotus is moving itself away from the back of the field, with Pastor Maldonado topping the times on day two. Although the E22 is not necessarily the perfect car for the Principality, Grosjean can find reasons to hope for another decent result.
“The emphasis at Monaco is on low speed corners, which is not our greatest strength, but the team worked with Monaco in mind during the Barcelona test,” he revealed, “Bumpy straights and a low grip surface are the other main Monaco characteristics and how well you adapt to them can make or break your weekend. We'll do our best with set-up and, of course, Monaco is less engine dependent than most circuits, which is better for us. It was nice not only to score points in Barcelona, but also to be fifth on the grid in qualifying - if we can do that again in Monaco, it'll be very good for us...
Next weekend will, of course, be the first opportunity to try the new generation of F1 cars on the tight confines of Monaco's streets but, despite concerns over grip and power levels, Grosjean is confident that they can be tamed.
“It will be a challenge - there will be less grip than in the past, so we will have to be careful with the right foot,” he confirmed, “In terms of mapping, torque, energy and fuel saving, I actually think it will be easier than most tracks because the race distance is shorter, so we shouldn't have to worry too much. Of course, we'll need the best drivability possible around the tricky sections, but the most important thing in Monaco is to trust your car and have confidence in it.”
After a slow start to 2014, and with a lot riding on the year, Grosjean is well aware that a strong result is important for the team.
“It's a crazy week with all the focus and attention, but everyone loves Monaco,” he concluded, “It's kind of the unofficial French Grand Prix, and it was great to see so much French support last year, with all the flags and banners, but I will try to find some time for myself in my room and keep focusing on what I have to do. It's a home grand prix for the sponsors, so it's very important for them and for us.”