Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton are poised to battle it out for the biggest prize on the Formula One calendar this weekend after running strongly in practice ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix. But both drivers know they will need to have lady-luck onside if they are to triumph in the casino lottery that is race day at the Principality.
Fighting at the front will not be new to Button after four wins out of five put him comfortably out in front in the title race, but doing so around the torturous streets of Monte Carlo will be. In Monaco comes Button’s first test as championship leader.
Prudence, level-headedness and conservatism must be allowed to intervene when required, however much this one may mean to him. The tiniest of errors, a momentarily lapse in concentration and its game over; the 14 point lead that he has incrementally built up over the past five races reduced to nothing, the championship blown wide open.
That is the challenge of Monaco, one that Button was quickly reminded of in practice today after a brush with the armco.
“Jenson had a little unscheduled work in the garage this afternoon,” quipped Ross Brawn, team principal and mastermind of Button’s success this season, “It’s a frequent hazard here in Monaco, and we made some precautionary changes to the steering components.”
The incident didnt stop Button going on to confirm the pace of the Brawn GP car though. He ended the afternoon session fifth quickest behind teammate Rubens Barrichello, despite his problems.
“We are going in the right direction following this afternoon’s practice session however this morning proved quite challenging for me,” he reflected afterwards. “I had rear locking in the low speed corners and understeer in the high speed corners and didn’t feel quite comfortable in the car.”
“However we were able to make some good set-up changes this afternoon and my last runs on the softer tyres were much better. Achieving a good balance is very important here so we are going in the right direction.
“If we can keep making improvements then it should be a good weekend to come.”
Lewis Hamilton meanwhile is targeting a return to the sharp end of the grid after running strongly in second practice, the aerodynamic problems on his McLaren car less of an issue around the twisty street circuit.
“I m optimistic about shooting for the top five I hope we can get there,” said the defending world champion.
Mercedes Benz boss Norbert Haug confirmed: “The car so far just looks better on this track and our mechanical and aerodynamic improvements seem to help here around as well as our KERS hybrid.
A good opportunity for the Brits to shine then here in Monaco. Button will undoubtedly have the edge in performance come race day, but Hamilton has the Monaco know-how after scything his way through rain-hit chaos to win last year.
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