Lewis Hamilton says driving around street circuit at Monaco is a unique experience
Lewis Hamilton describes a lap at Monaco as “unique”, although not quite the existential experience as encountered by hero Ayrton Senna.
It was during qualifying for the 1988 race around the principality that Senna conjured what many believe to be the greatest single lap in Formula One history.
Already ahead of then-McLaren teammate Alain Prost by half a second, Senna produced the drive of his life to finish 1.427 seconds clear of the Frenchman.
Describing the perfect lap at the time, akin to an almost out-of-body experience, Senna said: “I was driving by instinct.
“I was in a different dimension, like in a tunnel, way beyond my conscious understanding. Some moments when I am driving detach me completely from anything else.”
For current championship leader Hamilton, despite the fact he is fourth on the all-time standings with 35 poles to his name, not one of those has been around Monaco.
What Hamilton would not give to clinch pole No 36 on Saturday, nevermind experience what Senna felt all those years ago.
“Every lap I do in qualifying is all done on instinct – the braking zones are done on instinct, the turning points are done on instinct,” Hamilton said. “There is not one race where it’s more than another, and that’s what has got me the pole positions I have.
“Driving here is different, because you have no room for error, even though you are on the limit, so it’s a very unique experience.”
Assessing what it takes at Monaco, where the slightest mistake can pitch a driver into a barrier, Hamilton said: “A lap here never comes easily, and there are different types of laps you can do.
“When I was at McLaren and I had a car that wasn’t the fastest, you were pushing beyond the limit. The chances of crashing were higher. That’s opposed to having a car where you don’t have to go way beyond the limit to be one of the quickest.
“It’s a different position to be in, so you can be smoother, more accurate, and in actual fact, sometimes faster.
“But to get a lap here, it’s all focus, utilising all the braking zones, a combination of getting brakes and tyres up to temperature, and being on it from the first moment.
“Having the confidence to attack that first corner, the feeling when you go into Turn 1, not knowing if you are going to make it, it’s amazing.”
* Press Association
Published: May 21, 2014 04:00 AM