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Mark Webber column

Mark Webber
By Mark Webber
Red Bull F1 driver

The next stop on the calendar is this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix - it's amazing that we can still race there and drive so quickly in such an enclosed environment.

It is a fantastically challenging circuit for the drivers and the respect for the place is massive because it's such a ferocious bit of track.

The Casino section of the Monaco Grand Prix
Casino Square is one of the Monaco Grand Prix's iconic landmarks

What's special about Monaco is that every session the track changes by one or two seconds; and in our world that's a lot.

The goalposts are constantly moving and you have to be so adaptable to the venue.

Any small mistake in Monaco is punished immediately. At a track like Bahrain or Turkey, drivers can run off the track and just come back on again - in Monaco you just can't do that.

But for us to be able to test the cars to the limit through the streets of Monaco is so exciting and makes you realise what a phenomenal job we have.

You know you are in Monaco straight away when you come out of the pits and go up the hill on the approach to Massenet and into the Casino sequence of corners - it's just exhilarating.

You think "bloody hell" because you're threading a needle.

There are slight kinks on the way up the hill, a few manhole covers and it's very, very narrow.

Then you get to the top of the hill and you go over a crest at full throttle - that makes braking for the left-hander at Massenet a bit touch-and-go because you need to start slowing down as soon as the car has settled.

I remember when I was driving for Williams, I had quite a sizeable moment there. I went into the corner deep, deeper than I ever have.

Everything was silent, and so was my breath because I thought I was going into the barriers - but I managed to pull it off!

The car is right on the edge and the photographers are standing about half a metre away from our left rear tyre

This section of the Monaco track through Massenet and into Casino Square is one of the greatest in the world.

The interesting thing about Massenet is the barrier on the inside is not a nice, smooth curve - it pops out and goes back in repeatedly through the corner.

The first part of the apex - or middle of the corner - is clipped reasonably early but then you have to drift back out a little bit away from the barrier, to find the grip and get a better trajectory as you come into Casino.

And on the exit of the Casino, the car is all over the place because the track is uneven and there are two humps on the exit.

The first hump is really challenging on the throttle, the car is right on the edge and the photographers are standing about half a metre away from our left rear tyre. There's a lot going on.

Monaco is full of great corners like that - Tabac and the Swimming Pool are fantastic sections that really come alive on the Saturday and Sunday.

The crowd looms large at the crest of the casino
Monaco's characteristics make it a unique challenge for the F1 drivers
But every corner in Formula One is a tightrope, because we are always trying to balance and get a bit more out of the car.

An F1 driver has to keep the car on the limit and make sure it gets through the corners as fast as possible.

The entry is vital - it's about 80% of the corner for us. So we need to make sure we are confident with the car's braking.

We need to have the car totally on the edge of its tyre performance from the moment we hit the brakes. And that means braking incredibly hard.

The first time we hit the brake pedal we use a force equivalent to lifting a 75kg weight, creating a pressure of up to 90 bar. That produces deceleration forces of about 5G.

What happens in the cockpit after that depends on the driver, but with all of us one thing is the same - the car is slightly sliding all the time and we are adjusting and manipulating it constantly to keep it in line.

606: DEBATE
There are micro moments in each corner - but you just have to make sure there are no big ones.

Drivers skin the cat differently. Some guys want to turn into the corner early because they think there is more time to be gained by going in shallower, while other drivers will turn in later and harder.

Whatever the approach, our job is to keep the car in line to make sure it is not experiencing too much lock or slide. It's a balance.

We adjust the attitude of the car using the brakes as much as the steering - that's the way we shift the weight to adjust the bite of the tyres.

At the same time, you can feel the rear of the car moving, so you have to calm that down with the throttle.

There are even rare cases when you don't turn the steering wheel that much because you can balance the car with the brakes.

When you get to the apex it's all about getting off the corner, which is about 20-25% of the work.

We have the whole car under our right foot at that stage - you need to be very smooth with feeding the throttle in, making sure we keep the car in line, because huge amounts of opposite lock are slow.

Lewis Hamilton at Massenet at last year's Monaco Grand Prix
Massenet is one of Monaco's toughest corners

We try to use all the road on the exit, the car is still on the limit and it's about getting out as quickly as possible.

As a Formula One driver you know when you are on your game when you are getting the best out of your car in your own environment.

It's all about getting into the flow and rhythm where you are knocking out consistent times.

You have a good feeling for the car and the track, you're knocking out the laps and it becomes second nature.

You are 100% concentrating on the next part of the track and you arrive there, you deliver, you leave - boom, boom, boom.

It becomes operational, but it's just brilliant when you get into that rhythm.

All Formula One drivers are talented but the really great ones have an incredible feel for what they need to do, how to have the car on the limit.

Michael Schumacher had a lot of crashes and shunts but he explored the limit more often than any other world champion - and he has won most championships too.

It's not something you can visibly see but it's that 1-2% difference.

Monaco is a bit like that, too, and from Thursday through to Sunday it's a special place to be and a fantastic sporting spectacle.

Mark Webber was talking to Andrew Benson


see also
Rain is a pain for wary Hamilton
23 May 08 |  Formula One
Hamilton heads up Monaco practice
22 May 08 |  Formula One
Berger backing under-fire Mosley
22 May 08 |  Formula One
Webber opens Red Bull deal talks
10 May 08 |  Motorsport
Hamilton cautious on Monaco hopes
13 May 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
28 Apr 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
25 Mar 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
12 Mar 08 |  Formula One


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