MONACO (Reuters) - Insane, ridiculous, terrifying, incredible - a lap of the Monaco Grand Prix circuit is all that and more for Lewis Hamilton and he cannot get enough of it.
The Formula One championship leader is an old hand at mastering the most glamorous and historic street circuit in motorsport but he still finds it as awesome, and stomach-churning, as when he first arrived as a rookie in 2007.
Asked ahead of Sunday’s race which part of the layout most made his hair stand on end, the Mercedes driver - a winner in the Mediterranean principality on his way to the 2008 title with McLaren - smiled.
”There’s not a single part that doesn’t,“ replied the Briton, who will be chasing his fifth successive win of the season. ”It’s the whole track.
”I wish you could feel what we feel when we go round,“ he added. ”It’s like when you go on the scariest roller coaster ride, and when they drop off the cliff and you go down and that first bit...
“That fear factor, the initial part that lasts for just a split second - here it’s the whole lap. It’s scary but it’s cool. It’s all these different emotions in one. It’s just the most incredible roller coaster ride.”
Three rookies will be racing a Formula One car around Monaco for the first time, with Toro Rosso’s Russian Daniil Kvyat standing out as the only one never to have competed there previously in any of the junior series.
Hamilton grinned at the thought: “It’s going to be like being in the room with Freddy Krueger,” he said, referring to the fictional serial killer of horror movie fame.
Hamilton’s boyhood hero, the late triple champion Ayrton Senna, was the master of Monaco with five wins. One qualifying lap in 1988 was so sensationally quick it seemed almost superhuman.
The Briton has only admiration for such an achievement, knowing only too well how hard the metal-fenced layout can bite the unwary - and how fast it feels even if the average speed is the slowest of any race.
“It’s a circuit that you really have to walk very slowly before you can run. You’re not running before you get to Sunday probably,” he said.
”It’s so fast. You go up that hill (to Casino Square) at almost 200 miles an hour, you get up there and you can’t even see the corner at the top as it drops down.
“You’re just looking at the sky and all of a sudden the corner arrives and you can’t see around it. Oh man, I’m just getting excited thinking about it.”
One mistake, the slightest clip of the crash barriers, can end in carnage.
Brake a fraction too late, in the new V6 turbo hybrid cars that are far more prone to skipping out of line, and the wall awaits.
“That’s why it’s the best track because there’s no room for error,” said Hamilton.
“It’s ridiculous, it’s insane how fast we go through there,” he added of the swimming pool complex after cars have blasted through the tunnel and out into the sunlight along the harbor side.
“The coolest thing is that they keep the race on, they allow us to race here. It’s the most real race there is.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris