Sir Lewis Hamilton has emphasised the significance of qualifying well in Monaco as he looks ahead to what could be a wet race on Sunday.
The new technical regulations have made the cars bigger, heavier and wider than before, meaning that wrangling the cars around the iconic streets of Monaco – as if it were not difficult enough before – has now become even more challenging.
There is also a much greater chance of even the slightest of errors putting the drivers in the wall so, if rain also becomes a factor, Monaco is an entirely different ball game.
“The approach to a race always changes when it rains,” Hamilton said, quoted by france24.com.
“It’s more of a lottery, but there is also a lot more opportunity. The potential for failure is even greater – so it makes it even more nerve-wracking.”
Overtaking in the Principality is set to be near impossible now given how wide the cars are compared to previous years, while crashing is made easier by the lack of visibility caused by the bigger tyres and the deflectors over the top of them.
For this reason, the seven-time champion puts a lot of weight on a strong qualifying performance.
“Our cars are bigger than ever before, wider than ever before and the track is the same width that it has been forever, and we’re faster than ever!” added Hamilton.
“The percentage chance of overtaking is minuscule. The percentage chances of crashing are massive — so qualifying position is everything.”
Hamilton has won three times in Monaco, the first of which arrived in 2008, a year after he had narrowly lost out to McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso.
The victory came in wet conditions, and he recovered from a puncture after whacking the barrier at Tubac, so to come back from that and take the win was a special feeling.
“Winning there in 2008, I felt like I was at the top of the highest mountain of the world,” he affirmed.
“So many different things need to come together for that to happen, but it’s a track where you just can’t leave anything on the table.”
The Briton’s second win also arrived in wet conditions in 2016 after a botched Red Bull pit stop for Daniel Ricciardo, and he won again in 2019 after holding off Max Verstappen.
So much intense focus has to be put into the entire weekend that the seven-time world champion divulges he always needs a few days to clear his head after the race in Monaco.
“Usually after the race, you are mentally destroyed for a good couple of days,” stated the Mercedes driver.
“Other tracks require a mix of physical and mental strength, but in Monaco, the focus is much more on the mental side, due to the levels of concentration needed to lap the circuit.
“It’s a circuit that probably requires the highest in concentration and mental focus.
“The street circuit nature, the fact it is quite short and there are not very long straights. It’s not a massively physical circuit because we are not doing really high speeds, but your mind is having to work so much faster.”
Hamilton has claimed just two pole positions in Monaco, with the first arriving in 2015, exemplifying how difficult it is to put the perfect lap together there.
“Mastering a lap in Monaco… well, you’ve got to have a light and nimble car, great downforce, the right power to weight ratio, the right track position, clean air in front of you and commitment and be willing to touch the barriers,” said the 37-year-old.
Mercedes head into this weekend aiming to continue their upwards trajectory after an improved performance in Spain last weekend.