Monaco is a track like no other on the Formula One calendar, tight and twisty with the barriers waiting to catch out any slight lapse in concentration.
With overtaking so difficult, being able to qualify well is crucial, and with a high risk/certainty of a safety car during the race, the potential damage of being behind your team-mate can easily be magnified. Around no other track is the need for luck to be on your side as obvious as in Monaco. With that in mind, we take a look back at the form of the leading drivers around the streets of Monaco to see how they have fared on the streets of the principality – the results are surprising!
Lewis Hamilton – Starts 10, Pole Positions 1, Wins 1
Despite being regarded as the fastest man in the paddock, and holding by far more pole positions than any active driver, Lewis results in Monaco have been disappointing for one reason or another. He has taken pole positon here just once back in 2015, a race where he lost out on a certain win due to the appearance of the safety car and a poorly judged call to stop for fresh tyres, while last year’s win was only the second time he triumphed around the streets of Monaco, his other win being a wonderful drive in 2008 where he came back from an early puncture to seal victory. The common denominator in these two victories? Wet conditions and a bit of luck, with Lewis excelling around the streets in the tricky conditions, but also benefitting from Red Bulls botched pit stop for Ricciardo last year, as well as eventually benefitting from his own mistake in hitting the barrier in 2008, the subsequent puncture putting him onto a different fuel strategy – speed alone is never enough around Monaco! He has had his bad moments too, crashing out of qualifying in 2009, and having a weekend to forget in 2011, where he earned penalties for collisions with Massa’s Ferrari and Maldonado’s Williams during the race. With qualifying critical in Monaco, Lewis poor results can partially be explained by the fact that he has surprisingly been outqualified 6-4 by his teammates over the years, and while he can boast the one pole position and two victories, in his time in F1 his teammates have taken 2 pole positions and 4 victories, with Lewis head to head results in races where both cars finished sees him surprisingly behind 3-5.
Valtteri Bottas – Starts 4, Best Grid Position 10th, Best Result 12th
Amazing as it sounds, Valtteri has not recorded a points finish in Monaco in his four seasons in F1 to date, a record he should surely break this season now that he has a Mercedes at his disposal. All his races were with Williams, whose car has long struggled around Monaco, and leaves it difficult to judge Bottas potential in Monaco. Still, in his four races here he has had mixed results when compared to his teammates, coming out on top in qualifying 3-1 and tying the races 2-2.
Sebastian Vettel – Starts 9, Pole Positions 1, Wins 1
Just like Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian has also a disappointing record at Monaco when viewed against his success elsewhere. He has the edge on his team-mates in qualifying – just, 5-4 up over his 9 seasons in F1, but while Sebastian has managed just one pole position and one victory here, in their time together at Red Bull Mark Webber managed to grab 2 poles, and both times used the track position to convert them to victories. Vettel’s win in 2011 for Red Bull was well deserved, but showed how important luck can be even for the best, as a late red flag following a multi-car pile up which saw Vettel able to take on fresh tyres before the restart, ending the hopes of Ferrari’s Alonso and McLaren’s Button, who had been harrying him on fresher tyres. In races where both cars have come home Vettel is tying 2-2 with his team-mates. Vettel will enter the race with the comfort of knowing he has the edge over Ferrari team-mate Raikkonen in their time together, which should reduce complications if/when the safety car makes an appearance in this year’s race.
Kimi Raikkonen – Starts 14, Pole Positions 1, Wins 1
Kimi has one pole positon and one victory to his name in Monaco, coming way back in 2005 with McLaren. Over his career his record against his team-mates is 7-7 in qualifying, and 3-4 in races where both cars have finished, but importantly he’s been behind Sebastian Vettel ever since they paired up at Ferrari. At least Kimi knows it possible to overtake in Monaco, as he showed with his determined drive in 2013 for Lotus, Kimi recovering from an earlier collision with Sergio Perez McLaren and passing 3 cars on the last lap on fresh tyres to salvage a point in 10th place.
Daniel Ricciardo – Starts 5, Pole Positons 1, Best Result 2nd
The driver who has arguably shown the best form around the streets of Monaco, Ricciardo is still awaiting his first win here. Daniel grabbed the first pole position of his F1 career at last years race, but luck was not on his side in the race as he fell back behind Lewis Hamilton to finish second after a botched pit stop. In five visits here Ricciardo has been impressive, only being outqualified by a team-mate once (Jean-Eric Vergne getting the better of him in a wet session in 2013). In his five visits there’s only been one race where both Ricciardo and his teammate took the finish, in 2015, and showing the luck needed to succeed in Monaco he actually finished behind teammate Kvyat in that race – even then Ricciardo showed his class around the streets of Monaco with an aggressive pass on Kimi Raikkonen at Mirabeau after taking on fresh tyres under the safety car – he also set fastest race lap as he attempted vainly to pass Hamiton’s Mercedes, before he had to give up his position to Kvyat who had let him pass to try to chase down the Merc.
Max Verstappen – Starts 2, Best Grid Position 9th, Best Result DNF
It’s a small sample size, but Max has yet to enjoy the best of luck around the streets of Monaco, crashing out of both races, and being outqualified by his team-mates at both attempts (although he would start ahead of the sister Toro Rosso in 2015 after Carlos Sainz was demoted for missing a weigh in). In his first race here for Toro Rosso in 2015 Max was his usual self – overtaking cars where no-one else seemed able to – making a clean pass on Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus before catching drivers unawares as he followed Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari through while being lapped, passing both Valtteri Bottas Williams and team-mate Carlos Sainz with that trick, but his race would end in disaster as he misjudged Romain Grosjean’s braking and ploughed into the Lotus at Ste Devote. Last year while Ricciardo took pole position Max came back down to earth after his Spanish victory, with a qualifying crash scuppering his race chances, and despite impressively moving up the order in the race, he would crash out for the second year in a row, this time after losing control at Massenet. He’s shown he has the pace and can overtake around Monaco, it’s just a matter of finding the consistency and the luck needed around the streets to turn that into a result!
I’m surprised you never mentioned what is likely to be the best ever drives at Monaco and that includes Senna in 1984 – Hamilton’s one-eyed drive in 2014. After getting dirt or a hair or some foreign debris in his eye, Hamilton drove the race with one eye. The M-B team wanted to bring him in for “medical treatment”, but he refused. Luckily it cleared with a couple of laps to go, so we’ll never know what actually was in his eye. What a trooper.
It was a remarkable recovery wasn’t it 😉
I remember when Lewis first came into F1, he proclaimed that Monaco was “his best track”. Just shows what we know eh!
I think Merc might struggle a bit this time out. Their longer wheelbase will be an absolute hindrance at this track. The shorter Ferrari and Red Bull should gain back some of that power unit advantage the Merc holds. If you consider the final sector at the Russian GP this year, it’s very tight and twisty and in that sector Ferrari were way faster than Mercedes, again it was only the superior powerunit in the Merc that allowed Bottas to a.) get in front and b.) stay in front; a car quick in the bends is great for lap time but not for overtaking.
Thinking of having a little flutter on Ricciardo each way (1st or 2nd) for this race.
I think Ricciardo might well be worth a flutter, but its a cruel race to try to predict.
I’m very interested to see how the revised Red Bull looks around Monaco alright, hopefully they can get into the mix and spice things up 🙂
Max and his crashes are the reason why rbr only takes one set of each of the harder compounds with them. They know he won’t be driving long enough in to the race for him to use them 😂
So if we’re playing Moneyball, might we find a Force India on the podium?
first things first you have to get the finish, not always a given around the streets. Checo is on an amazing run of points finishes….I’d not begrude him another Monaco podium, but he’ll need a little luck to get there..then again, you always need luck in Monaco 🙂