A Formula 1 Crew Member Explains the Challenges of the Monaco Grand Prix
Fielding an F1 car is tough. Doing it in the cramped confines of Monaco is close to impossible. So how do the crews get the job done?
This weekend is the biggest on the Formula 1 calendar, with the Monaco Grand Prix staging its annual fixture on the Mediteranean.
First run in 1929, the race has become iconic thanks to its uniquely tight and twisty street layout, glamorous location, and the guaranteed presence of a few dozen celebrities in the paddock.
Though Monaco can sometimes be a processional contest, it remains the race that drivers covet the most. It's no exaggeration to suggest that a win in the Principality can set someone up for their whole career. Win there multiple times and legend status awaits.
But what about the guys and girls who work on the cars? We spoke to Sahara Force India pit crew member Curtis Stones about the unique challenges and rewards that the race presents.
"Monaco's not your standard circuit and it's not a purpose-built facility for racing – it's a small set of garages on the side of a harbour," explained Curtis, who was speaking to VICE Sports as part of the Farah menswear Race Ready series.
"The challenge is limited space – there's really not as much room as you have at other races and that makes it difficult in terms of logistics. We can't bring as much kit or as many spares and working is quite tight, so we've got to help each other out.
"Generally things are slower here, too," he continued. "We're space limited. At a standard race circuit you'd have your equipment in your garage or right out the back. Here it's spread from the garages to right across the harbour. Things like that can make our work a little slow sometimes."
So it's not just the drivers who operate in cramped conditions at Monaco – the crew in the garages face a similar challenge, albeit without the risk of hitting a barrier at 150mph.
So does Monaco ever become a bit of a drag to work at?
"I wouldn't say so," Curtis quickly responded. "The magic of it is that it's not your standard place. You're very close to the fans, to the atmosphere."
As well as working as a mechanic on Sergio Perez's car, Curtis is also involved with the team's pit stops. Refuelling is no longer permitted in F1, meaning most stops are solely focussed on changing the car's tyres. But while that may sound simple enough, the job actually requires military precision from a large crew.
"I'm the left-rear corner of the car – I put the wheel on," said Curtis. "You have three guys per corner: one with the wheel gun, one guy taking the wheel off and one putting it on."
"Ideally you need to be in shape," he continued. "It's more about preventing injuries than being fit. These are short bursts of physical activity and you can injure yourself quite easily lifting large wheels. People do get injured, and being fitter helps you with that.
"The pit crew have fitness trainers and between each event we'll have sessions. We're split into groups depending on what we do at the pit stop and we train for our specific roles.
"During race weekends we have constant attention from our trainer, making sure everyone's hydrated, making sure everyone's healthy, if there's any injuries. We've got guys looking after us 24/7, looking after our general fitness as well as our training."
Last year Monaco was a highlight of Force India's campaign. Something of a specialist at the track, Perez produced one of the drives of the season to secure third place in the Principality, a result that helped the team to finish a best-ever fourth in the constructors championship.
"If there's one podium you want to get, it's Monaco," said Curtis when asked about the result. "We couldn't really believe it when it happened but the race just went so well and the feeling of elation at the end was fantastic. The whole crew was in high spirits – it was almost like we'd won it.
"We've had a really strong start to this season: we're picking up points and we seem to improve at each race so hopefully we can do that again. Sergio is really good at street circuits so we'll do our job and hope for the best."
Curtis Stones of Sahara Force India is part of the Farah menswear Race Ready series. To shop the collection, visit Farah.co.uk #RaceReady