May 22, 2013, 12:18 PM EDT
At 2.075 miles long the Monte-Carlo circuit in Monaco is by far the shortest track on the Formula One calendar.
But much of its length is bordered on both sides by unyielding barriers. F1 drivers notice a stark difference between it and modern circuits built to the FIA’s exacting standards, with flat curbs and vast expanses of tarmac run-off.
They key to lapping quickly at Monaco has always been to maximize what little space is available by running right up to those daunting barriers, as two-times world champion Emerson Fittipaldi (pictured) noted recently:
“Because it’s so narrow, and because its walls are so close, you have to be prepared to brush the Armco very gently on almost every exit.
“I always used to say that you knew when you’d driven a quick qualifying lap at Monaco because your tires’ sidewalls would be scuffed white all the way around, indicating that you’d brushed the walls frequently but consistently on almost all the turns.”
What was true for Fittipaldi four decades ago remains true for F1 drivers today, as Felipe Massa’s race engineer Rob Smedley explains:
“We always ask the drivers to brush the barriers as much as possible, because that’s where the lap time comes from.
“Once, me and a colleague went to watch a race in one of the junior formulae from the entrance to the Swimming Pool section: well, when we saw how close they got to the barriers at over 200 kph [124mph], we said to ourselves that maybe we ought to have a bit more respect for the drivers.”
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