Ralf Schumacher heads to Monaco fresh from his fourth place in Barcelona, a best result of the season that moved him up into a share of fourth in the drivers' championship.

Buoyed by that result - after a drive which Toyota team-mate Jarno Trulli reckoned deserved a spot on the podium - the German is ready for the mental challenge of 78 laps of skimming Monaco's unforgiving barriers, the complete antithesis of Barcelona['s wide-open spaces.

"I've always had good results around the principality, so I like driving there, but it requires a special approach, not least because of the proximity of the barriers," Schumacher reveals, "That makes the Monaco Grand Prix tough - both physically and mentally - because any lapse in concentration is certain to be punished by retirement from the race.

"It's a bumpy circuit, and a strong performance depends heavily on the tyres that you get. And, because it is so difficult to overtake, qualifying becomes especially important. To predict how Toyota will perform, let's go there first and see how we look in Thursday's practice sessions. As a street circuit, the track is particularly dusty on the opening day so selecting the right Michelin compound will be tricky. But if our car works as well there as it did in Barcelona then we have a good chance of another strong result."

Monaco not only presents a unique challenge for the drivers, but also for the engineers who have to build cars to last through the long, punishing afternoon.

"It's difficult to prepare for Monaco because there is no other circuit like it," chief race engineer Dieter Gass explains, "We can only really use the data gathered from previous races there.

"We put in some work at Paul Ricard last week to test [ideas to combat the] very slow corners and to work on the maximum steering lock of the car for the Loews hairpin, the tightest corner on the calendar. We also have to ensure the suspension is strong enough to survive when a driver brushes the barriers, and, due to Monaco's nature, we take a second spare car - one for each of the race drivers.

"Monaco is very narrow, which makes overtaking virtually impossible but, while qualifying is very important, you still need a car that can perform for all 78 laps of the race. Consistency is the key, and we won't compromise our race pace by being tempted to reduce the fuel load for qualifying. Some cars might do only one pit-stop and, if you are stuck behind a slower car, it can ruin your race."

 

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