Tension rises ahead of Monaco GP
MONTE CARLO - Agence France-Presse
Girls sit and stand on a boat deck in the harbour near the Circuit de Monaco on May 25, 2012 in Monte Carlo. AFP PHOTO / BORIS HORVATControlled explosions by security forces, train strikes, overbearing officials and unpredictable tyres have created a tense atmosphere here ahead of the annual showpiece event, the Monaco Grand Prix, on May 27.
Following the exploding of a small white plastic box outside the paddock entrance on May 24, when many paddock regulars and thousands of spectators were squashed underground waiting for a train to arrive, some Formula One fans could be excused if they chose to avoid the Mediterranean principality and watch proceedings on television.
But, inside the unreal bubble that is the F1 paddock, where the annual round of talks on contract renewals for sponsors and drivers traditionally begins in Monaco, the calm and the comfort signalled nothing less than business as usual. Two weeks on from the fire that engulfed the Williams garage in Spain, where Pastor Maldonado became the first Venezuelan to win a Grand Prix, and a month after the controversial fiasco that was the Bahrain Grand Prix, the biggest challenge facing the future of the sport remains - its future.
As the commercial ringmaster Briton Bernie Ecclestone attempts to put together a deal that will see a reconstruction of the business, amid fears that Mercedes is poised to drive away into the sunset, few dare hazard any forecasts of what lies ahead.
Guessing at the future for F1 is no easier than predicting who could win the race on May 27.
The opening free practice sessions on May 24, run in variable conditions, saw Briton Jenson Button end up fastest in his McLaren ahead of the Lotus of the French driver Romain Grosjean. Yet, for many, it is their teammates who are favored to triumph - Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen respectively.
Hamilton, the 2008 champion, is the bookmakers choice to win again for the first time this year - stretching the number of different winners to six in six races. If the 2007 champion Raikkonen wins, it will create the same scenario.
“This is just such a fantastic race to win, as we have the last couple of years,” said Red Bull chief Christian Horner. “But this time it is so difficult to predict. Nobody knows.”