Brought to you by TheJudge13 Track Profile Specialist Alistair Hunter
The Grand Prix de Monaco is one of the most prestigious events in the world of motorsport. It is viewed by many as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Formula One, and many fans have fond memories of the street circuit. Last year, Nico Rosberg won his second ever Grand Prix in the principality, following on from a second place finish in 2012. Mercedes will hope that history repeats itself in order for the team to extend their lead over second placed Red Bull Racing in the constructors championship, which is already over 100 points.
Like the majority of Formula One events, the concept of a race around the streets of Monte Carlo was motivated by politics. Since the Automobile Club de Monaco could not attain national status due to its main event – the Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo – not being held exclusively in the streets of Monaco, the idea was to create a brand new race in order to gain this status.
The first event in 1929 was invitation only, and was won by William Grover-Williams in a Bugatti. Since then, seventy-one editions of the Monaco Grand Prix have been held (as part of the Formula One World Championship (60) (of which, two were designated the ‘European Grand Prix’), the European Championship (2) and non-Championship races (9)).
The circuit has changed very little over those years in comparison to other tracks, but its unique position as a street circuit from the pre-F1 era has led many to observe that if the ACM was to put forward the race today, it would not even be considered. However, it can be seen to be getting safer every year, with the depth of safety precautions being quite impressive – I’m sure I read somewhere that there are divers employed at the race weekend, in case a car goes into the Mediterranean Sea nearby (which has happened on two occasions).
The circuit is notable for being one of the toughest tests of a driver, as even the smallest mistakes can lead to severe accidents due to the challenging nature of the track. The 3.34 kilometre circuit consists of 19 corners, and has the slowest average speed of any track on the calendar, as well as the slowest corner at turn six.
The top speed is 295 kilometres per hour – but there are not many opportunities to go very fast for a large amount of time, contributing to the decision to make the track one of two on the calendar with a single DRS zone.
The track does require a high downforce setup, but has the lowest percentage of the lap on full throttle (45%). The thirteen braking zones contribute to a medium amount of brake wear, while there are around 48 gear changes per lap. The main overtaking point is going into turn one, with few overtaking opportunities in other areas, meaning pole position in Monaco is said to have a very important influence on the race result.
Caterham released this snippet of telemetry last year, and while it is obviously less relevant due to the rule changes and the Leafield-based team being more successful than last year, it is still interesting to look at. It still manages to tell the story of the famous street circuit rather well.
The RED line indicates the RPM over the lap
The BLUE line indicates the speed over the lap
The GREEN line indicates lateral G-forces
The PURPLE line indicates the gear
The AMBER line indicates the % of throttle application
The BROWN line indicates the brake pressure and application of brakes into/through a corner.
Lap of Monaco with Lewis Hamilton
Monaco with Pirelli
Pirelli’s P Zero Red supersoft tyres make their 2014 debut at Monaco, alongside the soft tyres that have already been seen in three of the five races that have been held so far. With Monaco having the lowest average lap speed of the year, as well as the slowest corners of the season, the cars rely almost entirely on mechanical rather than aerodynamic grip – which is generated only by the tyres. A quick tyre warm – up is essential, to allow the compounds to deliver maximum adhesion as quickly as possible. A slippery surface, with the usual street furniture found on a street circuit – such as painted lines, manhole covers and bumps – only adds to the challenge for the tyres. Part of the circuit has been resurfaced this year, after the exit from the tunnel.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “ Monaco is obviously a showcase event for everyone involved in Formula One, with a unique atmosphere and a special challenge that you just don’t see anywhere else.The supersoft tyres make their debut in Monaco, which like all our 2014 slick tyres have new compounds and constructions this year, designed to improve their durability. Wear and degradation is traditionally very low in Monaco, so it’s possible to do the race with just one pit stop. However, that’s not always the quickest way, therefore strategy will as always play an important part: particularly with Monaco being such a difficult track to overtake on. This also increases the importance of qualifying. Any race strategy has to be flexible as there is a high probability of safety cars on the narrow circuit, so reading the race to make use of any potential opportunities exactly as they happen will once more be key to success.”
Jean Alesi, Pirelli consultant: “I’ve raced in Monte Carlo 12 times and I understood straight away how much of a difference the driver can make there. I’ll always remember my first race there in 1990 with the Tyrrell – Ford on Pirelli tyres, which meant that I had really good pace and was able to finish just one second behind Ayrton Senna, who won the race. The following year I had another fantastic podium: third with Ferrari, just behind Senna and Nigel Mansell. Monaco is a circuit that rewards car set-up and skill rather than outright engine power. You run as much downforce as possible through the corners, which make up pretty much the entire 3.3 kilometres of the circuit. The tyres are obviously really important, with the arrival of the supersoft meaning that the cars will be able to make the most of their performance. There’s quite a big degree of track evolution in Monaco, with a dirty surface on Thursday, so you really have to wait until the track is more rubbered in on Saturday before you see any significant times. Strategy is going to be interesting: I reckon a set of fresh supersofts at the end of the race could make a massive difference.”
The circuit from a tyre point of view:
Monaco has a unique format, with free practice taking place on Thursday and then no Formula One action until Saturday, as on Friday afternoon the track is open to general traffic. This affects the usual pattern of track evolution, with much of the rubber laid down on Thursday disappearing during Friday,
while normal road traffic also drags dirt and debris onto the surface.
The exit to all the slow corners that characterise Monaco means that wheelspin is a constant risk. That risk is increased this year due to the extra torque from the turbocharged engines, so looking after the tyres by avoiding wheelspin will become all the more important.
With mechanical grip being a more significant influence than aerodynamic grip, getting the tyres into the ideal operating window and keeping them there is essential. A consistent and smooth driving style, with a proper tyre warm-up, is vital to achieve this.
The supersoft tyre is a low working range compound, capable of achieving optimal performance even at low temperatures. The soft tyre is a high working range compound, suitable for higher temperatures and more strenuous track conditions. The weather in Monaco can be variable.
Monaco is rarely won from beyond the front row of the grid, putting the emphasis on qualifying. However, even the quickest cars can be caught out by traffic on the tight confines of the track, meaning that finding a clear window to run in during the session is as important as ultimate pace.
Nico Rosberg won for Mercedes last year, having qualified on pole. He claimed victory with a two – stop strategy (supersoft-soft-supersoft) but the race was
also affected by two safety car periods, which effectively handed drivers a ‘free’ stop.
Tyres for Monaco in 3d with Pirelli
Monaco with Brembo
This is a historic city circuit that winds through the streets of the Principality and can create many problems for the single-seater brakes. In fact, the winding track with poor grip often means that the drivers need to control the car often using the brakes, with negative reflexes on the caliper and brake fluid temperature. In the past this event has often been a theatre of problems connected to overheating and vapour lock of the braking system (a phenomenon in which the brake fluid reaches the boiling point inside the caliper), leading to a lengthening of the pedal in braking which has many times caused drivers to retire, if not crash. In our day and age the progress made in cooling the brakes has held these problems at bay, although particular attention still needs to be given to managing temperatures during the race weekend. The braking sections are not particularly sudden, but the time spent on the brakes here is among the highest of the season at 21%.
As I’ve mentioned, there have been quite a few races in Monaco, and several of them have been packed with drama, chaos and incredible racing. Therefore, rather than highlighting every race that hasn’t turned into a procession, here are five of the most memorable ones:
1982 – The race had become a battle between Alain Prost and Riccardo Patrese, but was then hit by rain, causing chaos. Prost crashed, while Patrese spun out of the race. Didier Pironi inherited the lead but ran out of fuel, while a similar fate hit Andrea de Cesaris, putting Derek Daly into the lead until his gearbox broke, so Patrese – who had to restart his car – took his first race victory.
1984 – Prost led from the start, before being passed by Nigel Mansell, who would go on to crash out of the race six laps later. After Prost went into the lead again, Ayrton Senna battled with him for the race victory. Despite the Brazilian overtaking him, Prost won as a red flag came out, meaning positions were taken from the lap before.
1992 – Nigel Mansell appeared to be on course for an easy victory, before having to stop on lap 71 as a result of a loose wheel nut. Despite being much faster than Senna and putting up a huge fight to get past the Brazilian, he could only finish second while Senna stood on the top step.
1996 – This race holds the record for the least number of finishers in a Formula One Grand Prix, with Olivier Panis finishing ahead of David Coulthard and Johnny Herbert for his only race victory, while every other driver did not finish the chaotic wet race (although seven were classified).
2008 – Lewis Hamilton hit the barrier on lap six of the race and was put onto an optimistic tyre strategy that would hopefully take advantage of the weather improving. Massa’s lead was neutralised by a safety car, and Hamilton’s strategy led him to take victory in incredible fashion.
While I must say I’m excited for the début of Formula E at this track (assuming that it is the same configuration for the series), this weekend we’ll have to make do with the GP2, Porsche Supercup and Formula Renault 3.5 series supporting F1. Jolyon Palmer currently leads the GP2 standings after building on his championship lead in Bahrain with two second place finishes in Spain, 22 points ahead of Julian Leal and 28 points ahead of Felipe Nasr.
As there has only been one race in the nine round Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup, it isn’t a surprise to announce that Earl Bamber currently leads the standings after finishing on the top step of the podium last time out. The New Zealander came second in the first race in Abu Dhabi last year, although he wasn’t eligible for points, as he was only a guest driver for that round and the Hungarian race.
The Formula Renault 3.5 series has gradually grown in importance to Formula One, and it lines up for its fifth race of the season after previous rounds in Monza and Aragon. Carlos Sainz Jr. leads after winning two of the previous four races, while British driver Oliver Rowland lies in second after winning the final race last time in Spain.
|2003||Juan Pablo Montoya||Williams-BMW|
|2010||Mark Webber||Red Bull|
|2011||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull|
|2012||Mark Webber||Red Bull|