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David Coulthard

 

Monaco has very special memories for me as a driver with my wins in 2000 and 2002.The first of my two Monaco wins was a great follow-up to victory at Silverstone back in round four, and came only two races after my plane crash. I qualified third and moved up to second behind Michael when he had a broken suspension, and other drivers retired too, so of the two I feel this win was the luckier.

My second win in Monaco came two years later and, in my eyes, is a far superior victory. It felt a much more mature win, Montoya grabbed pole in his Williams, but I blasted past him from second on the grid and took the lead at the first corner, a position I never relinquished. I knew when to push and when to back off. I had problems with graining and a transfer valve that threatened to retire me, but I held on for victory, despite the best efforts of Montoya who was all over the back of my McLaren (before an engine blow-out retired him) and Schumacher, who’d already won five of the first six races of the year. Remarkably, the transfer valve was repaired by my engineers remotely, after they used electronic telemetry to cure the problem without me even having to pit.

Oddly, and this is absolutely true, before the race I had put my kilt out on the bed because I was so certain I was going to win. I didn’t have a premonition as such, but I just thought I was going to win the grand prix. I haven’t put it out at any other race in my entire career.

Monaco is rightly seen as one of the most prestigious races on the calendar – it’s the one that all the CEOs go to, all the manufacturers’ board members, film stars, rock singers and so on. The people who write the enormous cheques and provide these vast sponsorships want to go because it puts real glamour into the F1 season. Girls, cars, casinos and yachts, all that stuff. Plus it’s got the history – they’ve raced there since 1929, albeit not a grand prix. The names who’ve won there read like a list of the F1 greats, with multiple winners including the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart (all twice) and six-time winner, Ayrton Senna, so I can’t help but feel very proud to have notched up a brace of wins there.

Specifically, Monaco is a unique racing experience. By contrast, somewhere like Silverstone is a big open track, you do your corner then you sit and wait for the next corner for what seems like an eternity. On the straights, you can’t do anything to make you stand out from your peers; you just have to wait for that next corner.

There’s no time for reading the advertising in Monaco. There are more difficult corners and more challenges, so there is much more of an opportunity for a driver to come through and set himself apart from the rest of the grid. Monaco puts your racing senses on high alert: the sense of precision, the sense of speed, the sense of total focus and concentration. You see nothing else when you are driving around Monaco. At Silverstone, when you are on the Hangar straight, you see the bridge, you see marshals moving around, you see flags waving and it's like a Sunday drive in the country; at Monaco, you don't see anything but the track in front of you: it has your total attention - it has to, if you waver for a second, the impact can be be pretty severe, and in a couple of cases, in the old days, two drivers actually ended up in the harbour!

The sports psychologists might say you were 'in the zone' and you certainly have to be to get around Monaco quickly. It is a very selfish moment in your life, driving around that circuit - what I mean by that is that you cannot think about anyone or anything else, not your loved ones, not your family, your home, other people and issues, you can only focus on that corner, that straight, and so on. I think the most rewarding things that we do in our lives are when we are in the zone like that, professionally at least. And if you don't apply that absolute focus, the track will beat you. So Monaco enables you to be selfish without enduring the guilt of being selfish.

Spa is my favourite circuit, but Monaco is the place where I really feel like a grand prix driver. And what is a grand prix driver? Fast cars, danger, glamour, money, blah de blah? No, if you think of all the clichés that could go with being a grand prix driver, for me it's about sitting in that car and hurtling around a track which has you constantly thinking, for every single second of the best part of nearly two hours, 'Christ, this is a challenge.'

Monaco is particularly physically exhausting too, because it has such a tiny margin of error, you have to be completely focused for every second you are out there. The road sides are extremely close and disaster is inches away at such huge speeds, and yet the funny thing is, I feel very comfortable with that, I feel comfortable knowing that is where the limit is. It is a finite parameter and I know I have to work within that, otherwise it is all over, I tend to struggle with not knowing where the defined limit is, because then I have to keep searching for the limit, so I think I perform in tightly controlled environments better. I think that extends to my private life too, the way I like everything neat and tidy, because that way my environment is controlled and I feel more comfortable and, by definition, more at home. I like having things organised so that I know where everything is. It works well with my type of mind. In Monaco, the track conditions tend to remain the same for the entire race, I know my limits then, whereas at other circuits someone might drag some dust or grass on the track from the gravel pits or the edges, and that makes the racing environment slightly different. I'm not so comfortable with that.

Winning Monaco is nice because I live there, it's a small principality and I'm part of the society in that I own a business there and I've lived there for years, so I'm one of the local boys getting a result (my home is less than a mile from where the paddock is situated). The only way it could be better for them was if I was Monégasque and winning it, as opposed to a Brit.

Monaco is special to me because it has become my home since I left Scotland. Irrespective of what people may or may not think of me as a driver, no one can take a Monaco win away from you, because you don't win that race by accident and you certainly don't win it twice by good fortune. I've been on that special podium four times now, I'm good round there, end of story and nobody could argue otherwise. I'm very proud of that fact.

David Coulthard

David is a supporter of Replay Motorsport and has shared this memory in support of the project. Follow David on Twitter @therealdcF1

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On the top step of the podium at MonacoOn the top step of the podium at Monaco