Lewis Hamilton hopes tyre science pays off for Mercedes in Monaco

The teams practice in Monte Carlo today

Monaco

Lewis Hamilton has never made any secret of his infatuation with the Monaco Grand Prix. Whereas Jenson Button suggested that, though winning it evoked special feelings there were "plenty of other special races", Hamilton was unequivocal.

"Monaco is spectacular," he said. "Personally, I don't think it's like any other race. It's unique and special in its own way, and winning here gives you the most incredible feelings."

Whether he can repeat this weekend his 2008 success in a Mercedes that is blisteringly quick in qualifying – yielding three pole positions for the team in the last three races – yet falls prey to harsher tyre wear than most of its rivals is a moot point.

The memory of his lowly 12th-place finish from second on the grid in Spain 11 days ago is too raw. But Mercedes' technicians have been flat out trying to figure out what they need to do to keep Pirelli's made-to-degrade rubber alive in races. "A huge amount of work has gone into understanding where we are," Hamilton said. "It's real science, and all these scientists are trying to understand our situation. I don't think we will be as bad here as we were in Spain, and I definitely think we'll have a better weekend."

Grid position in Monaco is always crucial. If you can start from the front, then you have the best chance of staying there. "It's so difficult to pass here," Hamilton added. "Last year Mark [Webber] controlled the race from the front, in a very competitive car. If you can start from the front and are able to get the set-up right so that you are able to manage the tyres, you can control the race and win."

Besides a driver who can shave walls and barriers without actually hitting them hard, Monaco demands a car with excellent mechanical grip and traction out of the tight corners.

One good thing that Hamilton and his team-mate Nico Rosberg – who has been giving him a harder time than many pundits expected in races – bring with them from the Spanish Grand Prix is the knowledge that in the tighter sections of the Circuit de Catalunya their car was three- to four-tenths of a second faster than the Red Bull. The latter car is generally reckoned to be the machine with the most aerodynamic downforce.

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