Brought to you by Marek, compiled and edited by Catman.
The Monaco Grand Prix is a unique event, considered a part of motorsports triple crown alongside the Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours. The circuit is set on the tight streets of Monte Carlo, with the race rushing past the harbour where the chosen few have a perfect view from their yachts. It is simply the race every drive wants to win.
Last year’s race saw Lewis Hamilton take a dominant pole and storm off into the distance, only to lose out after pitting under a safety car caused by Max Verstappen slamming into the barriers at Ste Devote while trying to overtake Romain Grosjean. Nico Rosberg took the victory, while Lewis parked briefly at Portier at the end of the race to collect his thoughts and wonder how he had lost what appeared a certain victory. The win was Rosberg’s third consecutive Monaco Grand Prix victory, with Ayrton Senna holding the record for consecutive wins at five in a row (from 1989 to 1993). While a number of drivers call Monaco home, Nico Rosberg grew up here and recalled how his school was above the paddock. How he would love another ‘home’ victory to keep his amazing run going!
The first Monaco Grand Prix was held in 1929, with William Grover-Williams taking the victory in a Bugatti. The Monaco Grand Prix was part of the inaugural Formula One World Championship in 1950, with Juan Manuel Fangio winning for Alfa Romeo. The race did not feature in the F1 calendar for the next 4 years, but returned in 1955, and has been present ever since, the longest continuous presence on the F1 calendar of any circuit.
While other traditional European circuits are under pressure to retain their status on the calendar, the thought of Formula One without Monaco seems impossible to imagine, like Formula one without Ferrari.
The basic layout of the track has had relatively few modifications over the years. From 1955 to 1962 the start finish straight was located alongside the harbour, with the old Gasworks hairpin the first corner. This was moved to its current location in 1963, after a marshal was killed following a collision at the Gasworks hairpin in the 1962 grand prix.
1973 saw the largest changes to the track layout, after the swimming pool in the harbour was built. The swimming pool section was revised with additional corners added to the circuit after Tabac, and Gasworks hairpin was removed, with the track now feeding into the new final corners of La Rascasse and Anthony Noghes (named after the president of the Automobile Club de Monaco responsible for introducing the grand prix). The tunnel was extended significantly due to construction of the hotel.
In 2004, following land reclamation from the harbour, the pit complex was upgraded with the track layout altered by removing the inside barrier at Ste Devote and the merging of the pit exit moved to after the corner.
As a street circuit, the track is set each year in time for the grand prix, taking some 6 weeks to set up. That’s hardly surprising given that some 33 kilometres of safety rails, 20,000 square meters of wire catch fencing, 3,600 tyres for tyre barriers and 1,100 tonnes of grandstand seating for spectators are used in the construction of the circuit.
The circuit is the shortest on the F1 calendar at just 3.34 km, and is also the slowest. It boasts the slowest corner on the F1 calendar, the hairpin, taken at around 50 kph.
Despite the slow speed of the circuit, it is one of the most mentally demanding on the calendar, with the barriers every present as the drivers hurtle through the tight and sometimes bumpy streets, blast from the dark tunnel out in the glaring Monegasque sunlight, and navigate blind corners with the threat of a blocked road from a collision ever present.
Overtaking is always at a premium on the tight streets. Max Verstappen proved that playing follow the leader is one viable option last year, while the appearance of the safety car showed that fresh tyres could help somewhat in overtaking as Ricciardo showed with an aggressive move on Raikkonen at Mirabeau (albeit with the help of a little nudge). Expect contact during the race.
From pole position there is a short sprint to the first corner, the right handed Ste Devote. There is likely to be fireworks here at the start as the drivers know that if they are behind a car coming out of Ste Devote they are unlikely to find a way by any time soon. Ste Devote is capable of catching out drivers pushing too hard during the race too, as Felipe Massa found out in 2013 when he crashed heavily in practice after locking up coming into the corner, before crashing at the same point during the race.
After Ste Devote the track climbs uphill through Beau Rivage, flicking left then right on this tight straight before winding left through the long Massenet corner, passing the Opera House and then dipping into the right hander Casino. From here the cars snake right and left to avoid a large bump before entering the tight right hander Mirabeau. This was the scene of Ricciardo’s nudge on Kimi last year, an opportunistic overtaking spot at best.
From Mirabeau the cars dart downhill into the Hairpin. The hairpin is often viewed as the best opportunity for overtaking, with Adrian Sutil in particular making a number of successful moves in 2013 and 2014.
From the hairpin the cars snake downhill into Portier, a double right hander leading into the tunnel. This was the scene of Ayrton Senna’s famous loss of concentration whilst dominating the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix that saw him slide into the barrier, and then storm off from the track to his apartment in fury at himself.
The cars then disappear into darkness in the through the tunnel (it was in the tunnel in 2004 under a safety car that Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into Michael Schumacher – wiping out Schumacher’s unbeaten start to the season).
The drivers emerge into the sunlight and must brake hard for the chicane, watching out for bumps. The chicane represents another potential overtaking opportunity (Sergio Perez crunch with Kimi Raikonnen in 2013 an example of how not to get the job done). The chicane will also test the resolve of the stewards, with drivers frequently tempted to cut the chicane when under pressure.
Out of the chicane the cars have a short straight before hitting the left hander Tabac (scene of an odd collision between Max Chilton and Pastor Maldonado which caused a red flag during the 2013 grand prix).
Out of Tabac the cars squirt up to the swimming pool, a fast left right followed by a further slower right left chicane (Juan Pablo Montoya lost it here and ended up in the barriers while harrying team mate Ralph Schumacher in 2001).
The DRS detection zone is after the swimming pool, with the track winding into a left hander leading into the Rascasse, a tight right handed turn before the final corner. The Rascasse witnessed Jarno Trulli’s Lotus mounting Karun Chandhok’s HRT in 2010, and it was also here that Michael Schumacher controversially ‘parked’ his car in qualifying in 2006 to prevent Alonso from getting pole – for which Schumacher would be sent to the back of the grid as penalty.
Out of Rascasse the course bends right again through the final corner named after Anthony Noghes, and back onto the start finish straight with the DRS activation zone, offering another slight hope to overtake heading into Ste Devote.
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:
The eagerly-anticipated P Zero Purple ultrasoft makes its debut in Monaco, alongside the P Zero Red supersoft and P Zero Yellow soft: the three softest tyres in the range. These will work well in the low-grip and low-speed conditions of the Monte Carlo street circuit, where the accent is always on mechanical grip from the tyres. Monte Carlo is such a legendary venue that there is little left to say about it that hasn’t been said already. It remains the most prestigious race on the calendar, and also one of the most unpredictable.
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW: The street circuit offers very little grip and a high degree of track evolution over the weekend. Teams use a high-downforce set-up to ‘push’ the car onto the track as much as possible. Wear and degradation is the lowest seen all year, making one-stop strategies possible even on soft compound tyres. Tactics need to consider a high probability of the safety car and the difficulty of overtaking. With little representative running of the ultrasoft up to now, free practice (on Thursday) is vital. Lowest average speed of the year so tyre warm-up is a key skill for maximum
THE THREE NOMINATED COMPOUNDS: Yellow soft: unusually, it’s the hardest compound of the weekend. Not so many chosen. Red supersoft: a favoured race tyre, capable of quite long stints in Monaco. Purple ultrasoft: chosen by many teams; the default choice for qualifying and expected also in the race.
HOW IT WAS A YEAR AGO: Winner: Rosberg (one stop: started on supersoft, changed to soft on lap 37 of 66). Best-placed alternative strategy: Hamilton, second with two stops. Pitted from the lead to take on new supersofts during a late safety car, but admitted later that it was probably a mistake. The vast majority of drivers made just one pit stop: including Sainz who finished 10th from last.
PAUL HEMBERY, PIRELLI MOTORSPORT DIRECTOR: “Monte Carlo will mark the first race for our new purple ultrasoft tyre, which offers the maximum performance and technology that we can put into a compound. However, the large numbers of this compound nominated by the teams for the Monaco GP shows that it is a serious race tyre rather than just a ‘qualifying special’. With the unique conditions of Monaco, and its own specific timetable, the teams will be looking to get a thorough read on the characteristics of the new ultrasoft during free practice. Only then will we have an accurate idea of race strategy, although with the difficulty of overtaking, drivers will be looking to minimise their pit stops.”
WHAT’S NEW FROM PIRELLI? We’ll be hosting a special unveiling in Monte Carlo, which will provide an intriguing glimpse into the future. More details will be revealed when we get there.
TJ13 analysis – both Mercedes and Red Bull have maxed-out their allocation of the brand new ultrasoft tyres for this weekend, which are expected to be very grippy but questions remain over their durability.
The difficulty in overtaking around the tight street circuit could make an alternative strategy pay dividends. If there is an early safety car, expect to see some drivers dive for the pitlane to put on the soft tyres to run as long as they can, particularly those out of position or drivers renowned for tyre conservation, such as Sergio Perez who has chosen the most number of soft tyres of any driver along with his team-mate and the Toro Rosso duo.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM MONTE CARLO:
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.
2015 – The safety car intervened to affect Lewis Hamilton’s race once again, but this time with disastrous consequences for the Briton. An error in the timing of his pitstop under neutralised race conditions saw Lewis emerge behind both Rosberg and Vettel. Despite fresh tyres he was unable to mount a challenge in the closing laps and was furious to finish third. The victory for Rosberg brought him into an elite group – the only other man to take more consecutive Monaco Grand Prix victories is Ayrton Senna.
Monaco has been a flash-point between the two Mercedes drivers in the past, but this time the tension is already sky-high. It will be fascinating to see the dynamic between the two as the world’s media put their magnifying glass over every statement and glance they make.
The pressure is still firmly on Lewis’s shoulders, if he wants to win the title for a fourth time he will need to start to claw back the 43 point gap to his team-mate at some point soon. The qualifying duel between them will be critical to his chances this weekend.
Red Bull pulled off a magnificent victory in Barcelona, but most accept that it only happened due to the exceptional collision between the two Mercedes drivers. The team are pumped up and raring to take the fight to Mercedes as the nature of the track will level the field and allow them to exploit their excellent chassis. Coupled with a long anticipated Renault power unit upgrade fresh from Barcelona testing they could be the dark horse for this weekend.
Daniel Ricciardo is undoubtedly still reeling from the strategy decision that, although seemingly sensible at the time, ultimately cost him a comfortable victory in Spain, made worse by the fact that new-boy Verstappen stole the trophy and the headlines. Daniel will want to strike back this weekend by stepping up once again to lead the team. His magic bullet could be another superb qualifying lap like his inspired effort in Spain.
Equally under pressure will be Ferrari, who were flummoxed by their inability to overcome the Red Bulls last time out. There was already talk of change at the top (which has been rather strenuously denied) and continued failure will only fuel the fire.
GP2 heads the supporting cast, new Renault test driver and leading rookie from 2015 Sergey Sirotkin will be looking to shine and stamp his authority on this year’s championship to push his case for promotion, especially after he threw away an almost guaranteed podium finish in Spain. Formula Renault 2.0 will also provide entertainment, with Lando Norris and Max Defourny splitting the early races between them. The Porsche Supercup will also run in support.
|2012||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault|
|2011||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2010||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault|