I am a big fan of Monaco and it is one of my favourite circuits, along with Spa-Francorchamps. It's a great circuit and a great challenge. There is really nothing like it and the driver probably makes more difference around Monaco than on any other track which always suits me. The atmosphere as well at Monaco is special because we are racing in the city so the fans are really close and you can feel the excitement. It is very enjoyable, although I must say I don't get many chances to experience the glamour of Monaco because it is a race weekend after all so there is lots of work to do.
What makes Monaco such a challenge?
The barriers are so close in Monaco you have absolutely no room for even the smallest error. At other tracks you can maybe run a little wide and not suffer, but in Monaco if you do that you are in the barriers so you need total concentration. Also, even though it is the slowest track we race on, it feels like one of the fastest because the barriers fly past you so quickly. You have to be completely focused to do a perfect lap and in the race it's quite challenging to stay so concentrated for the full distance, all the time knowing the smallest error will finish your race. I love this challenge and it really motivates me.
What do you need from the car to be successful in Monaco?
It is particularly important at this track to have a good feeling from the car so you feel confident it will respond exactly as you expect and there will be no surprises. With the barriers so nearby, there is no margin for error so you need a consistent and stable car, otherwise it is very difficult to push to the limit. I have a good feeling from our car this season so that shouldn't be a problem.
How about qualifying, is that more important in Monaco than anywhere else?
Qualifying is important at every track but Monaco, like Hungary, is a track where you simply must qualify at the front if you are to have a successful race. It is a true street circuit so it is far too narrow to attempt any real overtaking manoeuvres unless the car in front is a huge amount slower. This means track position is everything, which makes qualifying really important. But it's not just qualifying at the front that's important; you have to at least keep your position into the first corner otherwise all your effort in qualifying has been thrown away.
Can you explain what it's like to win the Monaco Grand Prix?
It's an amazing feeling and I have some wonderful memories of my victory there in 2004. To win from pole position in one of the toughest races in the world is a highlight of my career and I'll always remember that weekend with happiness. Of course, as a driver you want to win every race but Monaco more so than anywhere else.
Do you have a day off on Friday?
Friday at Monaco is certainly quieter than Friday at any other race but there are still things I need to do. There are a few PR things on my schedule and I will go to the track to discuss Thursday practice data with my engineers, but compared with a normal race weekend it's more relaxed, with a little free time to myself.
What are your predictions for this weekend?
It's always impossible to predict what will happen in Monaco. At this track anything is possible and you never know what will happen; that is why it's such a great event. It can be a very chaotic race and for sure it is not a normal race weekend. So far, Toyota has been competitive this season so we want to fight for the podium again, but you never know what to expect in Monaco.