…if Sebastian Vettel has anything to do with it. Ferrari have not triumphed around the streets of Monaco since 2001 – and must feel that given their super form to start the season together with Mercedes having the longest wheelbase of the current generation of F1 cars that this is their year to win.
More so than any other track Monaco is all about track position and having a healthy dose of luck –pole position will be all important, and as we have seen in the past, any upset in qualifying (like say, your team-mate accidentally going off track and bringing out yellow flags!) can ruin a drivers plans for the weekend. Will Mercedes be able to get their long wheelbase car to work sufficiently well around the twisty track with the slowest corner on the F1 calendar – or will Ferrari finally use the opportunity to end the Scuderia’s miserable run at Monaco – only time will tell!
2009 winner Jenson Button returns to action this weekend for McLaren, filling in for two-time winner around the streets of the principality Fernando Alonso (a winner here in 2006 with Renault and McLaren in 2007). Alonso is off at Indy chasing his dream of completing motorsports triple crown – formed by the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours. While Ayrton Senna holds the record for most Monaco Grand Prix wins with six, of the starting field the only driver with more than one win is Lewis Hamilton, who in addition to winning last year for Mercedes also won back in 2008 for McLaren. Returning McLaren super-sub Jenson Button won here in his title winning season with Brawn in 2009, and while Ferrari have not won here since Michael Schumacher triumphed in 2001, both their current drivers have tasted victory, Sebastian Vettel winning in 2011 with Red Bull and Kimi Raikkonen taking the chequered flag first back in 2005 for McLaren.
Last year’s race saw Lewis Hamilton’s Monaco luck finally take a turn for the better as he took his second Monaco Grand Prix victory after a long wait since his first F1 win here in 2008. Daniel Ricciardo had taken an excellent pole position for Red Bull and initially surged clear of the field on a soaked track as championship leader Nico Rosberg, who was woefully off pace in the wet, held up the field. Rosberg was kind enough to let team-mate Hamilton by, eventually, and Hamilton inherited the lead when Ricciardo switched to inter tyres as the track dried. Hamilton stayed out, and secured the race win by managing to make his wet tyres last and only make one stop to switch to slicks in order to hold track position once. Still, no victory around the streets of Monaco is possible without lady luck being on your side – Ricciardo, who had quickly caught Hamilton on his inters, had looked set to easily retake the lead but for a botched pit stop as he came in for slicks and found that instead of slick tyres Red Bull had – well, nothing ready. Try as he might there would be no passing Lewis around Monaco. Sergio Perez took full advantage of the changing conditions to spring a surprise by grabbing the final podium spot for Force India, while Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz luck would be out, dropping behind Perez with a slow stop that would result in him finishing a disappointing eight place. At least Sainz finished the race – Max Verstappen’s day ended when he smashed his Red Bull into the barriers at Massenet on lap 34, while Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was already long gone, having crashed out by lap 10 . Behind Perez Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was a disappointed fourth place, having lost ground after gambling on an earlier stop for inters, just ahead of the McLaren of Fernando Alonso. Nico Rosberg trundled home slowly in seventh place, even managing to lose sixth place to Nico Hulkenbergs Force India on the last lap!
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. There is some 41.8 m elevation change over the 19 turns on the track.
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.
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. With the DRS activation zone on the start/finish straight Ste Devote is as likely a place to see overtaking as any, and it will surely see plenty of action, and probably carbon fibre if previous years are any indicator. Max Verstappen will have bad memories of driving his Toro Rosso into the back of Romain Grosjean here in 2015, but showed last year that he had learned from that mistake, making a nice move hre on Kevin Magnussen’s Renault.
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 (the barriers here claimed Max Verstappen’s Red Bull during last year’s race), passing the Opera House then dipping down into the right hander Casino, the circuit rising through the corner (the highest point on the circuit). From here the cars snake right and left to avoid a large bump before dipping into a tight right hander Mirabeau (where Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull bumped its way past Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari in 2015).
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 (the tunnel itself not being immune to Monaco crashes, with Juan Pablo Montoya taking out Michael Schumacher in 2004 under safety car – wiping out Schumacher’s unbeaten start to the season in the process).
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, while Max Verstappen showed the correct way last year with a smooth move on the Sauber of Felipe Nasr). 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 (another spot where Max can get you, Verstappen nipping past Pascal Wehrlein’s Manor here last year!).
Out of Tabac the cars squirt up to the swimming pool, a fast left right followed by a further slower right left chicane (scene of Max Verstappen’s qualifying smash last year).
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.
TYRES WITH PIRELLI:
Having brought the three hardest compounds in the range to the last grand prix in Spain, Pirelli now brings the three softest compounds to a completely different type of circuit, Monaco, featuring soft, supersoft and ultrasoft. The famous street circuit is well-known for having the lowest average speed and tyre degradation of the year: as such a one-stop race is the most likely scenario. But how the different teams approach this demanding and unforgiving race strategically is much more uncertain…
THE THREE NOMINATED COMPOUNDS
1/ Purple ULTRASOFT
3/ Yellow SOFT
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW
- It’s hard to overtake in Monaco, so a strong qualifying – by unlocking the performance of the ultrasoft already in practice – is vital.
- Degradation will be very low: even the ultrasoft should be able to run long stints.
- With the lowest wear of the year as well, the window for the sole pit stop is wide open.
- Lowest average speed of the season and also the slowest corner: Fairmont hairpin.
- Teams run the highest downforce possible to enhance the mechanical grip from tyres.
- With no run-off area, it’s impossible to get away with any mistakes: precision is vital.
MARIO ISOLA – HEAD OF CAR RACING
“The three softest compounds are the obvious choice for Monaco, but there is still plenty of scope for strategic variation, because wear and degradation is so low that the teams can more or less choose whenever they would like to make their single pit stop from ultrasoft to supersoft, which should be the standard choice for the race. This is the first grand prix that the drivers have been able to select their own tyre allocations, and as expected the nominations have overwhelmingly favoured the ultrasoft. This is the tyre that will be used the most in both qualifying and the race.”
- Some teams are introducing further upgrade packages as well as specific parts for Monaco, but overall performance is not always the deciding factor in the Principality.
- Former Monaco winner Jenson Button returns to Formula 1 with McLaren for the first time since last year, deputising for Fernando Alonso, who is competing in the Indy 500.
- As is traditional in Monaco, there is no F1 track action on Friday, with free practice instead taking place on Thursday.
MONACO MINIMUM STARTING PRESSURES (SLICKS) 19 psi (front) – 18 psi (rear)
EOS CAMBER LIMIT -4.25° (front) | -3.00° (rear)
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. Read more
2014 – A storming performance in the midfield witnessed Jules Bianchi claim Marussia’s first Grand Prix points with a ninth place finish – crossing the line in eight place but losing a spot after a time penalty for being out of position on the grid. The highlight of the drive being a a daring move on the rival Caterham of Kamui Kobayashi at Rascasse.
The leading drivers have not fared as well as might be expected around the streets of Monaco, and the pressure will be on Sebastian Vettel in particular to deliver at a track where he has not always excelled. While Mercedes have won the last two races, it’s not been the boring-boring Mercedes of previous years, indeed Ferrari must feel that both Russia and Spain were races that they could have won. With concerns that Mercedes extra-long wheelbase car (their car has the longest wheelbase on the grid) might suffer around Monaco, this is one race Ferrari, and Vettel, cannot afford to let slip through their fingers. But it’s oh so easy for things to go wrong at Monaco, as last year’s runner up Daniel Ricciardo can attest. It’s likely to be a tight for pole between Vettel and Hamilton, with Lewis likely to outpace team-mate Bottas who has not enjoyed the best of times in Monaco (admittedly in a poor Williams up until now), while Kimi Raikkonen has not been able to beat Seb here in their time together at Ferrari. Red Bull are usually contenders where horsepower is not critical – but after a sluggish start to the season the prospect of a Red Bull threat seems less likely than in years gone by. Max Verstappen was encouragingly closer to the Mercs in qualifying in Spain, and will be hoping he can make it third time lucky around the streets of Monaco, while Ricciardo will be hoping Red Bull will be able to unlock some more speed from the revised chassis introduced at Barcelona – if they can he could certainly cause trouble for the leaders. Believe it or not Fernando Alonso managed to come fifth here last year for McLaren! McLaren sorely need to get a points return here, and will be hoping Jenson Button can blow away the cob-webs (and his Honda holds together), otherwise McLaren face a long season trying to get back ahead of Sauber!
F2 leads the supporting cast, while the Porsche Supercup and Formula Renault Eurocup 2.0 will also run, so there will be plenty of entertainment in the background.
In F2, Ferrari Academy’s Monegasque driver Charles LeClerc has had a storming start to the season, taking pole position at both race weekends and winning last time out in the feature race in Spain to add to his sprint victory in Bahrain, and will be favorite to secure a home victory. Renault Sport Academy driver Oliver Rowland is currently second in the standings after a steady start to the season but already some 26 points adrift of LeClerc, while Luca Ghiotto is in third place, ahead of Bahrain’s feature race winner Artem Markelov and Spain’s sprint race winner Nobuharu Matsushita.
|2012||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault|
|2011||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2010||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault|