Monte Carlo, Monaco (Sports Network) - Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, May 29. Race: Monaco Grand Prix. Site: Circuit de Monaco. Track: 3.340 km (2.075 miles) 18-turn temporary street course. Start Time: 8:00 a.m. (et). Laps: 78. Miles: 161.887 (260.520 km). 2010 Winner: Mark Webber. Television: SPEED.
Just days after running the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, Formula One teams are quickly preparing for the most prestigious race of the season - the Monaco Grand Prix.
Opening practice sessions on the streets in world-famous Monte Carlo begin Thursday.
The 2.075-mile (3.34-kilometer), 18-turn circuit winds its way through the narrow streets, starting with the first corner from Ste-Devote, then moves uphill to the steep hill of Beau Rivage and plunges back down to the Mirabeau Hotel before heading into the tunnel and chicane, located along the illustrious harbor side. It wraps up at the tricky Loews hairpin.
Defending F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel is the heavy favorite to win this year's Monaco GP. Vettel has won four of the first five grand prix this year. He holds a 41-point lead over McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, who finished second in Barcelona.
"It's remarkable to drive an F1 car around Monaco; it's a completely unique track and a unique challenge for the driver," Vettel said. "Grid position is very important and can determine your race, as traditionally overtaking in Monaco is very tricky.
"Managing the traffic during qualifying in Monaco is also a big challenge. As an event, it's one of the highlights of the year. We did well there last year, and I hope we can be very strong again."
Vettel finished a close second to his Red Bull Racing teammate Mark Webber in the 2010 Monaco GP. Webber led all 78 laps, but had to fend off Vettel on four restarts following the deployment of the safety car for various accidents.
Webber crossed the finish line just 0.4 seconds ahead of Vettel to become the first Australian driver to win the Monaco GP since Jack Brabham in 1959.
"We know this is one of the most prestigious races of the year," Webber said. "There are a lot of question marks going into this year's race in terms of how the tires will be and the strategy could be the most complicated of the year.
"It's a track that I've always seemed to do reasonably well at, and I have some of my best memories as a racing driver there. It's clearly a demanding street circuit, which requires incredible concentration and composure for the drivers throughout the weekend, starting with Thursday's practice sessions."
Monte Carlo has been one of the most difficult circuits, where overtaking is virtually impossible. But that might not be the case this year, thanks in part to KERS (Kinetic Energy Reduction System), the drag reduction system (moveable rear wing) and the new Pirelli tire.
"After such a strong showing in Spain, I'm really looking forward to Monaco this year, because I think we'll see a different race from previous years," said Hamilton, who won the Monaco GP in 2008. "I think a combination of DRS, KERS Hybrid and the tires will really make the racing come alive, and I'd love to see some overtaking action and some hard racing this year."
Despite KERS, DRS and the tires, track position for the Monaco GP remains critical. The pole-sitter for this race has won it in five of the last six years.
05/25 16:52:38 ET