• Monaco Grand Prix - Preview

Monaco baby, yeah!

Laurence Edmondson May 13, 2010
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It doesn't matter that a good grandstand seat costs £500. It doesn't matter that the run-off areas are all too small. It doesn't even matter that there's no overtaking. Why? Because it's Monaco. Once a year F1 comes back to its spiritual home for a weekend of hardcore partying, multi-million pound business deals and, most importantly, balls-to-the-wall driving. Nothing comes close.

On Form

Red Bull's dominance in Spain was scary. Before the race, Mercedes' engine cover took all the headlines while Ferrari's hand-operated F-duct sparked debate. But all the attempts to try to catch Red Bull were in vain as the RB6, relatively unchanged to the untrained eye, blew the opposition away. Lewis Hamilton was its closest competitor in qualifying but barely got within a second of Mark Webber's pole position time. The only hope for the competition this weekend is that Monaco's stop-start circuit layout will cancel out the advantage Red Bull had through Barcelona's high-speed, downforce-dependant, sweeping corners.

Out of Form

It's getting close to panic stations for Felipe Massa. He was around half-a-second off team-mate Fernando Alonso in all three qualifying sessions in Spain but, most worryingly of all, he doesn't appear to know why. To add to the confusion, when he crashed into Karun Chandhok's HRT in the race and broke his front wing he started to go faster rather than slower. Nothing about the F10's performance is making sense to him right now and that makes it very difficult to know how to make things better. Rumours that Robert Kubica has signed a Ferrari contract for next year won't be making life any easier for him, as he is a driver who needs to feel a part of a team to perform at his best. Monaco was the venue for one of the greatest qualifying laps of his life in 2008, and whether he can recreate a similar performance this year could be crucial for his season … and his career.

Monaco is a race like no other © Getty Images
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One to watch

Lewis Hamilton has offered more entertainment per lap than any other driver this year. His fight backs in Australia, Malaysia and China made for must-watch TV but didn't yield the points they deserved. He is due a good result and, with his innate feel for grip, he is something of a Monaco specialist. Hamilton may have only won one in three F1 races here (in 2007 he lost out on strategy to Alonso and in 2009 the car was uncompetitive) but in F3 and GP2 he was untouchable. Beating Red Bull will be tough but, alongside Alonso, he is in a position to put up a considerable fight.

Talking points

Traffic
Expanding the grid cars to 24 cars, six of them way off the pace, has meant Q1 sessions this year have been a tight squeeze. On circuits like Shanghai and Sepang it hasn't been that big an issue but Monaco will be a different story. In the space of 20 minutes and on just 2.075 miles of track, 24 drivers will attempt to put in (at least) one hot lap in an attempt to secure their place in Q2. Drivers have issued complaints, but without the full agreement of all the teams, nothing could be done to change the format.

2011 tyres
It's becoming critical that F1 finds a new tyre supplier for 2011 as work on the next year's chassis is already well under way for many teams. The good news is that there are at least three potential candidates for the position, with Michelin, Pirelli and Cooper Avon all putting forward offers. The teams' preferred solution is for Bridgestone to stay, but for the Japanese company to make a decision of that magnitude will likely take longer than one weekend. KERS is also on FOTA's agenda in Monaco and the re-introduction of the energy-recovery technology is very likely to be approved at some point.

Motor homes
With back-to-back races over the last week, many of the teams brought alternative motor homes to Spain to ensure their full-sized ones were ready for Monaco. Mercedes used a DTM unit in Barcelona and will unveil its brand new hospitality centre this weekend. Red Bull also used a downsized motor home in Spain so that its truckies had enough time to erect its four-storey Energy Station on a floating raft in the Monaco harbour this week.

Prime tyres
Unlike previous years, Bridgestone won't be bringing its two softest compound tyres to Monaco. Instead it will bring the super soft and medium compounds - in line with the two-compound gap seen at other races - to cope with the extra tyre wear caused by this year's heavy fuel load in the race. While it might help on Sunday, the harder rubber could cause havoc while trying to find a set-up on a green track on Thursday. The circuit gains grip throughout the weekend as rubber is laid down by the cars, so gauging how the track surface will evolve over the weekend will be key to a good a result.

Weekend Timings

  • Free practice 1 0800 GMT / 1000 Local
    Free practice 2 1200 GMT / 1400 Local
    Free practice 3 0900 GMT / 1100 Local
    Qualifying 1200 GMT / 1400 Local
    Race 1200 GMT / 1400 Local

Fast facts

  • Ayrton Senna has won the Monaco Grand Prix the most times, with six victories
  • McLaren is the most successful constructor, with 15 victories in total
  • Drivers change gear 54 times per lap at Monaco. In total they make more than 4,200 changes over the course of the race
  • 42% of the lap is spent at full throttle, with the longest straight just eight seconds long

Trivia

  • The event was first held back in 1929 and won by British driver William Grover-Williams for Bugatti
  • Only since 2004 have there been garages for the cars along the pit lane. Before the restructuring of the pits, teams had to push cars between an underground garage and the paddock for each session
  • Graham Hill was nicknamed the 'King of Monaco', after winning the race on five occasions including three successive victories from 1963 to 1965. He took his last grand prix victory here in 1969
  • Monaco is the world's second smallest independent state (after the Vatican); it takes just 56 minutes for the average person to walk the width of the entire country

Circuit

If Monte Carlo applied as a newcomer to Formula One now it would probably be turned down on safety grounds. Triple world champion Nelson Piquet Snr once compared driving the circuit to being like "riding a bicycle around your living room" and the gap between a fast lap and ending the race in the barriers is literally measured in millimetres. Getting it right here is an art, and six-time winner Ayrton Senna told reporters he had an out-of-body experience when he qualified on pole by nearly a second-and-a-half in 1988. All of the history and mystique means this is the one place where every driver wants to win.

© Getty Images
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Weather

Rain is a slight threat all weekend and has the potential to spice things up. A wet qualifying day would make Q1 even more chaotic and could lead to a very mixed grid for the race. A dry Sunday (most likely) will probably lead to a processional race as overtaking opportunities are very few and far between.

Betting

Unsurprisingly Vettel is again the favourite to win with odds of 2-1. Interestingly, Hamilton's odds (7-2) are shorter than last week's race-winner Webber (9-2). Schumacher's strong performance at Barcelona and his five previous victories at Monaco see his odds at 14-1, considerably shorter than Rosberg (22-1) and Massa (25-1). Robert Kubica is also highly fancied given he is driving a Renault, at 20-1.

ESPNF1 Prediction

After his accident on the penultimate lap in Spain, Lewis Hamilton needs a good result in Monaco to keep his championship hopes on track. In Barcelona he was the only man who took the fight to Red Bull, on a circuit that could have been custom-built for the RB6. Monaco should be a more even playing field where Hamilton can exploit his natural talent for driving on street circuits.

Laurence Edmondson is an assistant editor on ESPNF1

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Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1 Laurence Edmondson grew up on a Sunday afternoon diet of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell and first stepped in the paddock as a Bridgestone competition finalist in 2005. He worked for ITV-F1 after graduating from university and has been ESPNF1's deputy editor since 2010