x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Differing views about a day off in Monte Carlo

The chance of a rare day off in the Formula One paddock did not sit completely well with the drivers.

MONTE CARLO // It is a slogan adopted by movies, musicians and an American restaurant chain, but today it is particularly fitting in Monte Carlo: Thank God It's Friday.

Traditionally, the Monaco Grand Prix would be held on the weekend of l'Ascension - a religious holiday marking the day Christians believe Jesus rose to heaven following his resurrection.

The day is celebrated by way of a public holiday in the Principality of Monaco and when the Formula One fraternity first rolled into town in 1929, they were told no cars would be allowed to compete on the Ascension Friday.

Although the race is no longer unfailingly held on the weekend of l'Ascension, the tradition of Friday at the annual Monaco Grand Prix being a rest day for the drivers - rather than the first day of free practice - has remained.

Thus, today, while the feeder GP2 series gets under way with its first of two races and the Emirati Khaled al Qubaisi competes in the Porsche Supercup, the Formula One teams and drivers, in theory, will rest and recuperate.

"I'll have a quick engineer meeting, but then straight to the pool with friends, have a good time and relax," said Nico Rosberg, the Mercedes GP driver who resides in the principality.

Vitaly Petrov plans to go to the beach before parading at the Amber Lounge fashion show.

Of course, with F1 renowned for being a rich man's sport and Monaco being an unrivalled oasis of opulence, the drivers are invariably loaded with promotional commitments.

"People think you must have nothing to do, so they ask you to do this and do that, go here and go there," said Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing's world champion. "It makes the weekend a little bit longer but doesn't really make it any easier."

Jarno Trulli, Team Lotus's veteran driver whose sole grand prix win came on the Circuit de Monaco in 2004, said his plans for relaxation are also likely to be hindered by corporate sponsors.

"It's the longest weekend of the season and I don't think any of us enjoy it because, logistically, Monaco is difficult. We all know that," Trulli said.

"We spend one more day in such a chaotic situation, a day that most of the time is spent doing PR and media.

"I hope I can get a ride on my bike and then lay down by the pool, but I'm sure I will have to come [to the paddock] and do some work."

Jenson Button, the McLaren-Mercedes driver, called for Monaco to revert to a regular race weekend, and described today as "an extra day of work", while Nick Heidfeld said he is "just looking forward to the next day; you want to get into the car and get on with it".

Rosberg's teammate Michael Schumacher, who has won in Monte Carlo five times, said he has a couple of sponsor events he has to look out for and added he would prefer to "have Thursday and Friday [off] to run around and have some more fun".

But Rubens Barrichello, Williams's Brazilian driver, who has raced at Monaco for the past 18 years, said he would be pleased to eradicate the Friday rest day from the schedule.

"I live here and I enjoy being here, going around Monte Carlo and having fun with the cars," he said.

"But I'd prefer to drive on Friday and have Thursday off. It's kind of a boring Friday really: you cannot sleep as it's more noisy because other people are driving on the track. I would rather have the weekend as a normal one: start Friday and keep going."