Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Catman
The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most glamorous and prestigious events on the sporting calendar. Known as “the jewel in the crown” of the championship it is one event above all that every driver aspires to win. It is also the most important event for the teams in terms of entertaining their sponsors, with the super-yachts anchored in the harbour acting as floating party venues.
Last year was a massive turning-point in the battle between Lewis and Nico with the controversial qualifying incident. After the first runs in Q3 the gap between the two was only 0.059 seconds, with the German slightly ahead. During his final run, Nico was too late on the brakes into Mirabeau corner and had to take to the escape road to avoid hitting the barriers.
The resulting yellow flags forced Hamilton behind him to slow (after posting a personal best first sector time) which ruined his lap and prevented him from challenging for pole position. The stewards investigated but found nothing untoward, but the damage was done. The aftermath in the media was not pretty and set the tone for the rest of the season.
It was also the race where Jules Bianchi put in a superb performance to score the first points for the Marussia team (now Manor) and so far the only points scored by any of the three new teams introduced back in 2010. This result gained them a major boost in FOM revenues and was one of the main reasons that Manor is now the only one of those three teams still competing.
There is a unique appeal to the very tight and twisty street circuit laid out around the harbour of Monte Carlo. The original motivation to hold the race was to gain national status for the Monegasque car club as their main event, the Monte Carlo Rally, is not actually staged in the Principality itself. Antony Noghes, the club president, decided to stage the race right in the heart of the city to avoid any doubt.
The inaugural event was held in 1929 and was won by William Grover-Williams in a Bugatti. The circuit holds the longest unbroken run of F1 races, holding the event every year as part of the World Championship since 1955.
Due to the constrictions imposed by the surrounding buildings and the resulting lack of space to expand, the circuit has remained relatively similar to the layout used originally in 1929. The original start line was in the swimming pool section but was moved to it’s current location in 1963.
This area of the circuit has been redesigned twice, firstly in 1973 when the pool itself was built, then again in 1997 to improve the run-off space. Other parts of the track have also been widened to improve safety including Sainte Devote and the Novelle Chicane. To satisfy demands from the teams for more space for their increasingly complicated equipment the pit-lane received a long overdue revamp in 2004.
The new design is very unusual in that the garages face away from the start-finish straight towards the harbour.
The circuit itself is built in the six weeks running up to the Grand Prix and since the roads are so crucial to the running of the city, the roads re-open overnight to normal traffic during the race weekend. The track is one of the most challenging of the year, with drivers having to negotiate tight blind corners, elevation changes and skim inches from the barriers.
Nelson Piquet once said that driving around Monaco is like “riding a bicycle around your living room”. It has the slowest corner in Formula One; the Fairmont Hotel Hairpin (previously called the Grand Hotel Hairpin, Casino Hairpin, Loews Hairpin or Station Hairpin) taken at only 30mph, followed by one of the fastest kinks on the calendar as the cars blast through the tunnel at a scary 160mph.
The cars spend only 23% of the time on full throttle and there will be 91 gear changes per lap on average.
The tight and twisty nature of the track means that there are very few opportunities to overtake (there were only seven completed moves in 2014). The one and only DRS zone is down the start-finish straight and passes are usually achieved at the heaviest braking zones into turn one or into the chicane after the tunnel.
MONACO WITH LEWIS HAMILTON
BRAKING WITH BREMBO
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.
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 26%.
The heaviest braking point on the circuit is turn 10 as the cars emerge from the tunnel over the crest into the chicane.
TYRES WITH PIRELLI: SUPERSOFT AND SOFT COMPOUND
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “Monaco is one of those races that everyone looks forward to: there are very few words that can adequately describe the spectacle. We’re bringing our brand new supersoft tyre for the first time this year, together with the soft, as has been the case since we started our current Formula One era in 2011.
Monaco has often been described as a circuit where overtaking is impossible, but we have seen in the past there how tyre strategy and degradation has often led to positions changing, including on-track overtaking. In particular, the way that drivers use the new supersoft tyre, with is notable performance advantage, will be crucial.
There are a number of unusual aspects to Monaco, including the timing of the sessions themselves, which only add to the famed unpredictability of this race and inevitable comparisons with the roulette wheel. But as is always the case, the right preparation and collection of tyre data during practice will put any driver in a strong position to maximise their potential in the race as well as the crucial qualifying session.”
Monaco features a number of unconventional aspects. It’s the race with the lowest average speed and slowest corner of the entire championship, emphasising the importance of mechanical grip from the tyres rather than aerodynamic grip. All these factors make it ideal territory for the supersoft tyre, which offers the most grip of the entire range as well as the fastest warm-up. Monaco is also the only race that doesn’t run to the FIA’s mandatory minimum distance of 305 kilometres.
The supersoft is the only P Zero tyre to have a brand new compound for this year, created to offer even greater resistance to graining and blistering. One of the key evolutions on all the tyres this year has been optimisation of the footprint pressure and temperature distribution. This presents a more even contact with the asphalt, improving grip and handling: vital attributes on the streets of Monaco.
The track surface in Monaco is the least abrasive of the year. There’s also an unusual format for the sessions, with a break on Friday meaning that the circuit is open to public traffic. This has a profound effect on track evolution, with very little rubber being laid on the circuit.
With limited run-off area, there is strong potential for incidents that can bring out the safety car, and this has to be factored into strategy calculations. Because of the very low tyre wear and degradation that characterises the Monaco Grand Prix, a one-stop strategy can often work.
Last year’s strategy and how the race was won: Last year the winning strategy was a one-stopper, helped by a safety car period that fell conveniently in the pit-stop window. Nico Rosberg (who won the race from pole) and his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton both stopped on lap 25 of 78, switching from the supersoft to the soft.
The highest-placed two-stopper was Romain Grosjean in eighth, with a number of other drivers using innovative race strategies to make up places from lower down the grid.
Expected performance gap between the two compounds: 1.0 – 1.1 seconds per lap.
Expected weather conditions for the race: Generally bright with cloudy intervals and ambient temperatures ranging from 15 degrees overnight to 23 degrees during the day. There is, however, the possibility of rain showers throughout the four days of the grand prix.
5 MEMORABLE MOMENTS
1982 – This race became very confusing to follow as the lead changed on so many occasions. Initially Alain Prost and Riccardo Patrese were battling at the front but a rain storm caused chaos. Prost crashed into the barriers and Patrese spun, but was able to restart his car.
Didier Pironi inherited the lead but ran out of fuel, as did Andrea de Cesaris. Derek Daly then lead for a while until his gearbox packed in. This brought Patrese back into contention and evenutally took the flag for his first victory in Formula One.
1984 – A controversial finish to the race saw Alain Prost leading in atrocious weather, being chased down by a young Ayrton Senna in his debut year. Senna set a blistering pace and came to pass Prost just as the race was red-flagged. Finishing positions were taken from the previous lap which denied him a sensational victory.
1992 – Nigel Mansell in the all conquering Williams was set for an easy victory before having to make an unscheduled pitstop as a result of a loose wheel nut. This allowed Senna to take the lead and set up one of the most iconic battles in the history of the sport.
Mansell was much faster and hassled the Brazilian all the way to the flag, but Senna was able to hold him back to take one of his six victories in the Principality.
1996 – An amazing race which holds the record for the least number of finishers in a Grand Prix. Olivier Panis in the Ligier took his one and only victory ahead of David Coulthard and Johnny Herbert. Every other driver failed to finish through a combination of slippery conditions and mechanical failure, although seven drivers were classified due to a finishing position count-back from a last lap pile-up.
2008 – Lewis Hamilton grazed the barriers and punctured his tyre on the sixth lap. He had to pit from the lead of the race and under normal conditions all would be lost. His McLaren team gambled on a strategy that relied on the weather changing and an advantageous safety car period neutralised the field.
Luckily for him the gamble paid off and Lewis won the race against the odds.
Nico Rosberg will be looking to carry forward his momentum from Barcelona where he dominated championship leader Lewis Hamilton. He is one of only two multiple winners of the Monaco grand prix currently on the grid along with Fernando Alonso and wants to make it three in a row after winning in 2013 and 2014.
Lewis has said that he wants to make amends for last year, so expect final qualifying to be an intense affair. Further down the field, expect some teams that have struggled so far to make gains with the possibility of Mclaren scoring their first points of the season.
This weekend Formula Renault 3.5 joins the Grand Prix circus for the first time this year. Lotus F1 junior driver Mattieu Vaxiviere had dominated testing and claimed pole position for the first race at Motorland Aragon. He was caught out in a three-way scrap into the first corner and lost positions. Oliver Rowland (right) led home a Fortek one-two ahead of Jazeman Jaafar.
Dean Stoneman, who steps into the seat vacated by Carlos Sainz Junior, managed to hold off the recovering Vaxiviere to claim a podium finish on his debut. The second race was led by Mclaren junior driver Nyck de Vries until the final lap when Vaxiviere pulled off an audacious move around the outside of the hairpin. Contact was made as they exited the corner but both drivers were able to continue to the end of the lap.
Rowland finished off a fantastic weekend with another podium finish in third place.
The opening Porsche Supercup round at Barcelona was utterly dominated by Michael Ammermuller who claimed pole position, the fastest lap (by over 0.6 seconds over the rest of the field) and, after escaping a first lap incident behind him, took the victory by over seven seconds.
The GP2 series opening rounds in Barcelona were arguably more exciting than the Formula One event. The feature race saw another win for Mclaren protege Stoffel Vandoorne who held off late pressure from Mitch Evans and Alexander Rossi on the faster soft tyres. The sprint race saw Alex Lynn (former Red Bull junior turned Williams development driver) take the top spot just ahead of Vandoorne and Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly.
|2012||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault|
|2011||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2010||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault|