Are Mercedes really favourite in Monaco?

Pirelli are taking the soft and super soft tyres to this race weekend. However, there should not be the same tyre wear problems that were seen in Barcelona because there are no high speed corners to load the tyres and the surface itself is less abrasive.

The assumption made by many is that Mercedes will win this race. They have claimed 3 pole positions from 5 races and it could have easily been four had we not had damp qualifying in Sepang. The argument is that pole is everything and therefore pole position will give a Mercedes driver the race.

I’m not so sure. Yes the race has been won 10 of the last 12 times from the front row and last time out pole sitter Webber won from 2nd on the grid Rosberg, Yet the difference this year is that the delta times between the worn Pirelli and the new rubber is up to 4seconds a lap.

This reminds me of 2011 when Pirelli entered the sport. We had 4 stops in Barcelona and a pretty exciting race in Monaco. Vettel qualified on pole and Button was second. Alonso only managed 4th.

At the start Alonso jumped – surprise, surprise – a slow starting Webber, and through the first exchange of stops he managed to get ahead of Button too.

Vettel was on a 1 stop strategy, and changed from the super soft to the soft tyre on lap 17. Alonso was 2 stopping and Button 3.

Button and Alonso were hunting down Vettel whose tyres had given up the ghost, when there was an accident involving Hamilton, Sutil, Alguersuari and Petrov. Sutil had hit the barrier on the previous corner, causing a right-rear puncture. Hamilton braked as Sutil lost control, and Alguersuari then ran into the back of Hamilton, damaging Hamilton’s rear wing.

Alguersuari hit the barrier, causing Petrov to do the sameand both cars were out of the race, with Petrov being briefly trapped in his car. This brought out the safety car for the second time and on lap 72 the race was red flagged, with the cars stopping on the grid at lap 72.

During the red flag period, teams were allowed to change tyres and work on cars. This worked to the advantage of Vettel and Alonso who tyres were heavily worn.

It’s a shame we weren’t running ‘Victims of Circumstance because my bet would have been on Button getting past both Alonso and Vettel. I remember thinking excitedly – this is what racing should be like in Monaco.

The 2011 Pirelli tyres were in fact fairly similar to the class of 2013 and Pirelli did actually modifying them as a consequence of a 4 stop Barcelona race – then with the agreement of the teams.

So, assuming Mercedes have made no leaps forward in tyre wear during the race but have retained their 1 lap speed we could see a great race where the conclusion may not be so obvious early on.

Mercedes in Barcelona tried to do one stop less than the winning strategy which was a huge mistake. They probably need to be doing 1 stop more than their closest rival which may force them to 3 stop in Monaco.

This will take balls because it probably means they have to run to a strategy that has them leading the race but stopping first. However, Mercedes have tried to stop fewer times than is optimum too often this year and you fear they’ll lose the plot and hang on to the head of the snake as long as possible on fading rubber.

Sunday may turn out a good vintage – like 2011

18 responses to “Are Mercedes really favourite in Monaco?

  1. mmm . . . i thought the same, Mercedes almost have to lead from the flag and pit for fresh tyres on the same lap as the competition, which is going to be difficult from the fronto

  2. As we saw last year the undercut isn’t a proven strategy at Monaco, it’s rather the overcut that is to be feared here: first of all because of the slow traffic that one is likely to encounter, but also and maybe more importantly because it isn’t easy to get heat into the tyres when exiting the pits on new rubber. Mercedes is best in class when it comes to putting heat into the tyres, so if they manage to avoid slow traffic after their stops I do not think that they will have to pit into the same lap as the others: they might have the ‘luxury’ of being the only team that can pit earlier without being ‘overcut’ by others that can delay their pit stop. So it might all come down to the final laps as Lewis and Nico will then have to deal with worn-out tyres that are even a few laps older than the tyres of those they will be racing against…

    • Agreed BDP

      Hence why for me it’s 3 stops, as did Button in 2011. He managed to run well after his first stop My money would have been on him wining barring the red flag.

      Remember he pitted the lap before the first safety car too – so accrued no benefit from that

      • I’m not convinced he could of, judge.
        As good a driver as he is, we’re talking of Vettel and Alonso, both great drivers.
        I could mention 1992, Mansell on new tyres against Senna on worn out tyres, an absolute classic Monaco memory, or more easily forgotten but maybe more significant, Button trying for some laps to get past Trulli in 2004
        If Alonso qualifies 3rd, considering his 1st lap abilities, there’s no guarantee that as they pass the line, Mercedes will still be 1-2. Beyond that, will several of the top 10, go into q3 with soft rubber?

        • Agreed, but 2011 Pirelli’s were similar to these before they were changed post Canada. Sutil was pretty confident we’d see a quite different Monaco re: overtaking at press conference today.

          • Evening Judge, just seen this comment from Webber on the BBC site.

            “Lewis Hamilton, he was with eventual winner Fernando Alonso on lap five or six in Barcelona two weeks ago and then got lapped. That’s not right.”

            Hamilton added: “I definitely don’t think you should be able to be second on the grid [as Hamilton was in Spain] and then get lapped. But that’s the name of the game at the moment. The tyres are controlling everyone and making it really hard to control.”

            Isn’t it amusing that neither of these drivers thought that after the 2011 Spanish GP?
            After all, didn’t Alonso lead until the 1st pitstops and ended up being lapped afterwards?
            From memory, Ferrari appreciated that they were not competitive and had to work harder. They didn’t suggest that RBR be slowed down because of their dominance..

          • I think the reason why it is not compared is because at the end of that race, 2 cars were racing to win, where as now, everyone is hoping their tyres last.

          • HWS–Ferrari are always saying they have to work harder. It’s like Stefano fears if he doesn’t repeat his mantra in interviews, everyone will just pack up and head home early from the factory, while he’s left to clean the mugs and sort out the cutlery draw in the communal kitchen.

          • When were your ‘Golden Days’ Judge…?
            I can also remember when sometimes only two or three cars finished on the same lap, and the 10th man might be 5-10 laps down… 😉

  3. What about if Mercedes have 1 and 2 out the first corner, 1st bolts while 2nd backs the pack up by 2 or 3 seconds a lap? Ruins the race for whoever in second but if come lap 15 1st place could be 30-45 seconds ahead they would have to be looking good

    Until the safety car comes out at least………….

    • I have wondered about this strategy and it’s not as if Mercedes are against rolling the risky strategy dice. I think it’s unlikely though as it would be a PR disaster, the headlines would not be Merc friendly. Also, what if car 1 crashes trying to get away? Safety car would also screw all that work up, which is definitely likely.

        • As a pre qualifying agreement that should they lock out the front row, pole man is the one to get away, barring a disastrous launch. That way you’ll hopefully get them to buy in, with less risk of taking each other out at the first corner!!

          • You’re right… that could work.

            Could be done regardless of qualifying positions – agree end of first lap leader if they’re 1/2 – which allows for Lewis/Nico qualifying 3rd behind a slow starting Webber kind of scenario.

          • Even better split strategy. P1 calls it drive fast more stops or conserve rubber. Fair enough and either way the team is covered. Expect FP2 analysis to yield important clues though.

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