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article details
Author floundericiousMI
Categories Honda F1, Race Reports
Create Date May 19, 2002 17:52
Last Update June 06, 2002 16:40
HF1's Monaco Grand Prixview

VTEC.NET's HF1 Prixview - Monaco

Well fans, we're in for a treat this coming weekend! Monte Carlo, undoubtedly the most prestigious race of the season, is the next race on the schedule for the F1 circus. What with the spectacular locale looking out over the harbor and the narrow racing line reminiscent of city streets races of days gone by, Monte Carlo brings up fond memories for many of the drivers on the grid.

For the four current Honda drivers Monaco has proven to be a challenge, with several retirements. However, between the three experienced drivers there are two podiums (Fisichella 1998(2) and 2000(3)), one win (Panis won in 1996), and a grand total of 31 points. Only Takuma Sato is a newcomer to F1 at Monte Carlo. Honda's 3rd generation F1 effort has only scored 3 points at Monaco thus far, with Jacques Villeneuve "breaking the duck" last year with a charging drive landing him in a solid 4th place at the end.

Villeneuve - Monaco 2001

Last year's race was a difficult one for the Honda teams, with Trulli, Frentzen, and Panis retiring. The only bright spot was Villeneuve's inspiring drive, which reminded us all of some of his past amazing performances! Panis was forced to hang it up around lap 15 with steering system troubles, a definite DNF cause on the twisty Monaco track. Trulli retired on lap 32 with an apparent engine failure, spewing flames and oil. Frentzen had a terrifying crash on lap 46, understeering wide into the barriers inside the tunnel and sliding almost all the way down to the chicane at the start of the harbor side of the track! He was up and walking but, after the race, seemed dazed and rattled for a long time following the severe smash.

For his part last year, Jacques Villeneuve was able to come to grips with the BAR 003's balance (finally) and took advantage of the opportunity to show his obvious skills and talents in threading the needle that is Monaco. Had he been given a better starting position or a few more laps of racing, he might have been able to pressure Eddie Irvine (finished 3rd) into a mistake and taken another podium! As it was, the 2001 Monaco GP was a superb race for the French-Canadian.

Fisichella - Austria 2002

Let's fast forward now to 2002. Up until the Austrian GP, the 2002 season had been a complete disappointment for the Honda F1 teams. In a season packed with a multitude of new points-scorers, the BAR and Jordan Honda teams were the only ones not to score until Giancarlo Fisichella took 5th place at Spielberg, Austria. This leaves BAR as the only team not to register a points scoring finish this year heading into Monaco.

Before the start of this season, Honda and the teams knew that the first third of the season was going to be very difficult. The first several races have all been run with an engine that had inherent design weaknesses that prevented it from spinning high revs reliably. Honda has introduced a few minor improvements here and there along the way to raise this redline, but nothing very major (maybe a few horses, but probably just reliability and drivability improvements as the main focus).

Last Year's Engine - RA001E

That being said, the current spec is certainly no slouch. See the last race, at Austria. Generally considered to be a power-circuit, the Honda drivers showed competitive pace with the rest of the field.

The "real" RA002E engine should debut in Canada, as reported by the teams and, back in March, by the previous editor of HF1. Monaco doesn't require the hp improvement that should come in Canada. This race will be entirely on the shoulders of BAR and Jordan.

Looking back to Austria one week ago, for BAR, Jacques Villeneuve put in a bonzer race, passing every car in sight! Had it not been for his brush with the two Arrows cars and his subsequent drive-through penalty, he might have finished well into the points! As it was, he retired on the last lap from eighth place with engine problems. Not to be outdone by his teammate Olivier Panis lit up the pit straight with an impressive engine failure that turned the back half of his 004 into a flame-thrower! He did a great job of controlling the 004's rear-differential-locked slide from 190mph to zero.

For Jordan Honda, it was a mixed race fraught with joy and terror! On the downside was Takuma Sato's terrifying accident with the cruise missile that was Nick Heidfeld's out of control Sauber! Nick lost control of his car on cold tires and brakes, subsequently spinning at triple-digit speeds along the grass heading into the third corner. He speared into Takuma's monocoque at right angles. From the images/video, it is evident that the gearbox of the C21 Sauber hit the sidepod/engine cover/cockpit of the EJ12 dead on! Takuma was trapped in the car with an injured leg and crushed chassis until the FIA's superb race doctor, Sid Watkins, and marshals were able to extract him. They put up the large tarps to block the view of trackside photographers, causing everyone's hearts to drop into their shoes. Many fans probably immediately thought of Alex Zanardi at last year's German CART race at the Lausitzring! Thankfully, a few moments later, we could see Eddie Jordan walking back from the medical car looking immensely relieved. Taku was battered and dazed, but with only light injuries! On the upside, Giancarlo finished in 5th place after a solid, smooth drive. He was able to stay with and, later, hold at bay the McLaren of David Coulthard.


Author's Predictions

Well, I'm really not expecting very much at Monaco this year. With the difficulties seen by Jordan and BAR (avoiding DNFs and finding speed, respectively), this could be a painful race to watch. On the upside, it seems BAR have begun to get used to the 004's mechanical quirks and Jordan have found solutions to help their drivers actually finish races!

Olivier Panis has had a dreadfully painful season to watch. It floors me that he still hasn't finished a race in 2002! A bloody shame, as he's a very talented driver and a great addition to BAR. Look for him to finish this race and run well all weekend!

Villeneuve - Austria 2002

Jacques will probably, as is usually the case this year, have setup trouble for most of Friday and Saturday. Working with his engineers and Olivier's data, he should be able to sort the 004 out for the race. Look for him to be a serious thorn in the side of anyone in front of him (again, assuming he gets the BAR car setup correctly).

Giancarlo Fisichella was finally able to show everyone just how well he can drive this past weekend, at Austria! Give him a car with a little grip and good balance and he'll do well at Monaco. Assuming the EJ12 makes it to the finish, he'll show well for Jordan. Takuma Sato is the big question mark for Jordan. After surviving the spectacular smash-up with Heidfeld's C21 at Austria, one could forgive him for being a little nervous racing again. However, this, combined with his ragged-edge style, makes me worry about how well he'll acquit himself at Monaco. I'm hopeful that this accident will make him ease up just a little bit for Monaco and try to drive smoother. If he gets ragged on the streets of Monte Carlo, that EJ12 will bow out early!

The big trick this weekend for the teams will be to get good, balanced setups for their drivers that will allow them to aggressively attack the corners of Monaco. A good qualifying may be helpful in encroaching on the points paying positions, but reliability and balance are the true keys to success at Monaco. Aside from that, it will be the responsibility of the drivers to give good, consistent, smooth (TAKU! TAKE NOTES!) laps every time around. I'm looking for Jordan to be ahead of BAR overall on pace, but for a BAR driver to make it into the points by the end.










Copyright 2002, Temple of VTEC

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