Sorry I’m a day late with this, but “life” got in the way! I suppose this is a sort of home race for me, as I am resident here in the Principality. But it is not in the same league as Brazil in terms of pressure from the media and support from the fans, although this year, I will notice the noisy support from all the Italian fans who make the short trip from Italy to support the Scuderia.
Do I like this race? To be honest, this is not a track where I can claim to like everything about it. It is good from the spectacle point of view, but in terms of delivering driving pleasure, I would say I much prefer tracks like Spa, Turkey or Suzuka. Here your concentration must be absolute with 78 laps of the track where you spend your time within millimetres of the barrier and so concentration is very important. It is very tough to get to the finish, because there are always a lot of accidents in this race and so you have to keep out of trouble if you want to see the chequered flag.
Technically I think we are very well prepared after last week’s testing. We have different suspension geometry here especially suited for this track and I am confident and optimistic. Qualifying will be crazy with all these cars on track so it will be easy to get stuck in traffic and there will be an element of luck involved so I hope I get lucky, as starting near the front in Monte Carlo is always important. The rest of the weekend really does depend on qualifying. We are concentrating a lot on qualifying, but we also need to use tyres that can run a race stint at a good pace. Last year we saw several cars have problems at the end of the race with tyres, but that won’t be the case this time, as tyre changing is allowed. This means we can adopt a more aggressive tyre strategy right from qualifying.
The big news story today was Valentino Rossi’s announcement that he plans to stick with MotoGP, rather than switch from two wheels to four, plus a steering wheel too. Many of the press expected me to say how relieved I was at this news, as there were stories that he could drive for Ferrari. But to be honest, I had not given it much thought. The important thing for me is to continue getting good results in the hope of staying with Ferrari for several years. From what I saw of Valentino, is that when you consider he is a motorcycle racer I think he did a very good job in a Formula 1 car. But I think that being a driver for a Formula 1 team, but not just any team, for Ferrari, is a very big step and he preferred to stay in his world. Honestly for me, it would have seemed like a very big step for him. To be honest, the spectre of Valentino never haunted me, despite what lots of people were saying. Personally, I never believed he would come to Ferrari. It changes nothing for me. I will just get on with my work as usual.
At the last few races, we have seen that from now on it could be between Ferrari and Renault. It’s true that Renault has usually gone well here, but we have several changes on the car compared with the last race, including set up changes that improve our traction. We have tested tyres that we think will work very well here and so we are optimistic. But please come back and see what I have to say after the race to see if I was right or not! Then we will know! But today, here and now I think we have a car with which we can beat Renault.
So, now I can enjoy the benefits of being at home, which means I have not had to pack a suitcase for this race and I don’t have to check in to a hotel. That is worth a lot.