Is Monaco’s glamour wearing thin in a 21st century F1?

Ariel view of Moanco. Image courtesy of Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

‘To tell you the truth, I hate Monaco. It’s like trying to ride a bicycle around your living room’ – Nelson Piquet.

Nelson Piquet was always a conscious stream of stinging quotes, but this one is arguably his most famous. At the time, it was at complete odds with the narrative of Monte Carlo’s diamond event – one of towering importance, energising luxury and an insatiable desire that this, this be the one race every driver must win, in order to be remembered as a great.

Yet in 2019, Piquet’s summary feels very poignant and true. And as each year goes on, that feeling only grows. But why is it so? What factors are at play, bubbling over the surface to damage the armoured love for a Formula One mainstay? There are many; the lack of on-track overtakes, a heavy reliance on strategy, and an emphasis on what happens off the track rather than on it. And it’s the latter that I want to dissect.

The Cote d’Azur embodies wealth. The glitz and glamour of the event began as a fantastical shot in the arm for all involved. A setting drizzled in history, playing host to casinos, hotels and restaurants galore, Monaco provided the unique backdrop of up to 30+ of the finest racing cars of the time zooming round an opulent city, a final ingredient for an extravagant souffle. It was magical, and a gleaming beacon of hope for those who wanted to be there, be a part of it.

The super yachts of Monaco. Image courtesy of Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

But times, since those heady days of the ‘50s and ‘60s, have changed. We now live in a world where the excessive is held in disdain, and the necessary is king. Formula One has changed, too: no longer a gentleman’s European tour, but a worldwide hand reaching out to new fans who would never have so much as heard tyres wince within their own country. If there’s anything that sums up the change F1 has gone through (and had to, unless it loses all relevance) is the old ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone’s resistance.

‘I’m not interested in tweeting, Facebook, and whatever this nonsense is’.

Ecclestone said of the growing social media juggernaut, a key player in modernity. He’d go on to disregard the young racing demographic entirely, saying ‘I’d rather get to the 70-year-old guy who’s got plenty of cash. There’s no point trying to reach these kids because they won’t buy any of the products here and if marketers are aiming at this audience, then maybe they should advertise with Disney.’

Ecclestone’s Formula One peak came in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when sponsorship was rising to a position of potency in the series and appeasing those funnelling money into both drivers, teams and sport was of high importance. Why speak against those who are allowing the sport to grow like it never had before? More so, why do anything but bend all efforts towards getting sponsor’s services in the rich elite’s lives, and products in their possessions? Ecclestone was never able to shift from the ideology of ‘jobs for the boys’ – and by that I mean catering his circus for the rich men he was intertwined with – and that’s a major player as to why he’s no longer at the helm.

He valued Monaco as an important string in his bow, with the elite eager to turn up and flaunt their most extravagant yachts, take in the wonders of casino life and be exposed in turn to the sport’s sponsor involvement. And Monaco, to this day, is still the same event; a racing-comes-second honey trap. The issue is, while the bees may still be arriving like before, the onlooking fans aren’t salivating at the thought of this race in particular. The year on year procession, where ever-widening cars are threading a needle which hamstrings their true power, and in turn making the races heavily reliant on outside variables, is becoming more and more apparent.

The fan-base that the new owners of Formula One, Liberty Media, have tried at length to get back on side, be it with much increased social media presence (they’ve even finally embraced Snapchat), expansive content and greater scope of reach, are beginning to look past the glamour of Monaco, and are finding at the bare bones an event that quite simply isn’t up to standard.

The season generally reaches a nadir at this circuit – to the point where the weekend is written off as a bore-fest before it even starts. There’s arguably no track on the calendar so dependent on weather variables for a good race, and if Piquet thought his Brabhams were no joy in the Principality, I spare a thought for the class of 2019, with wider, longer and faster cars.

Max Verstappen ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The glamour of Monaco is fading away. It can’t mask the unsuitability of the event any longer. It’s never been so irrelevant in the eyes of the people who make Formula One what it is, the fans. With Liberty’s aid (somewhat) the gentleman’s aura of past is starting to diminish, in favour of the new guard. A new guard who are realising, when you strip away the off-track splendour, that this mainstay of the calendar is at odds with the direction we are going in. It’s a bastion of the Ecclestone era, a rotten tooth among renovation plans. And if this trajectory continues, Monaco could well lose its relevance in the 21st century world.

Hubert hooks up Monaco F2 sprint win

Anthoine Hubert became the first rookie of F2’s field to snatch victory in the 2019 championship, but was made to work for it on the tricky streets of Monaco by Louis Deletraz, who set up a nail-biting photo finish. Guanyu Zhou rounded off the podium and made it a day to remember for a pair of Renault junior drivers.

Hubert started the race much as he finished it, competent but under pressure. The same can’t be said of Mahaveer Raghunathan, who cut across the pit lane exit and gained four places, only to (quite deservedly) be given a 10-second time penalty. Zhou, meanwhile, went around the outside of Artem Markelov for third, and Ralph Boschung worked his way up into P7.

Luca Ghiotto caused the first accident of the day, making contact with the sidepod of Tatiana Calderon at Mirabeau and sending the Colombian into the wall. After the stricken Arden was removed from the track, Ghiotto too found his day ruined when he crashed with Raghunathan into Loews corner, ending both their races.

Boschung was forced into retirement shortly after, while Nobuharu Matsushita climbed to 9th and feature race winner Nyck De Vries into P6. Sean Gelael added a large dose of spice to proceedings with a forceful double-punt on Giuliano Alesi, the second contact forcing the Italian out of the race.

The front four drivers began to pull away from fifth-place Dorian Boccolacci, to the tune of over ten seconds, while Deletraz continued to hound and press Hubert into a possible mistake up front. The chance would ultimately not come, however close he made it across the line – Hubert was on the right side of a photo finish and recorded his maiden F2 win.

Nicholas Latifi just managed to cling on to his title lead by a point from De Vries, with the fastest lap putting him on 95 points. Ghiotto finds himself third on 67 points, while Jack Aitken and Guanyu Zhou have 62 and 54 respectively. DAMS leads the teams’ table with 147 points, while Virtuosi Racing remain second on 121 points.

 

[Featured image courtesy of Joe Portlock/FIA F2]

Monaco Grand Prix: Among the Monte Carlo casinos, Ferrari look to finally strike lucky

Five: the number that bought endless jubilation to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes last year was also a haunting figure for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari, as Hamilton claimed his fifth drivers’ championship, and Mercedes their fifth consecutive constructors’.

Now, five has become the shining symbol of utter and unbridled dominance from Mercedes, having taken five consecutive one-two finishes to start the 2019 season. It is a record-breaking start to the season that has left Ferrari looking on in exasperation in the wake of their rivals, and wondering just what they have to do to kerb the astonishing Silver Arrows.

And so the 2019 season takes us to the streets of onte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix – a race that should suit Ferrari, right?

Monaco Grand Prix 2018 – Sebastian Vettel

In a word: no. Perhaps the last couple of years would have seen Monaco favour the Prancing horses, but Mercedes’ pace in slow corners has far bettered Ferrari’s so far in 2019. Given that Monaco is packed full of those, it promises to be another good weekend for Mercedes.

However, as we know by now, Monaco has a habit of throwing the car performance book out the window. The proximity of the barriers to the circuit increases the necessity of raw pace, bravery and the most effulgent consistency. Cue drivers like Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, and this will be an extremely stern and uncompromising test of Valtteri Bottas’ title credentials as he approaches the weekend seven points adrift of Lewis Hamilton at the top of the championship.

Let’s not forget Monaco’s very own Charles Leclerc either. The young Ferrari driver grew up in and around the streets of Monaco, and if there was ever a time for Ferrari to turn their fortunes around, and for Leclerc to get his first win in F1, it is this weekend.

All in all, despite the lack of overtaking opportunity and the at times processional races at Monaco, there could still be a fight between three teams for the win. The aforementioned Max Verstappen will know that this is the first real opportunity for Red Bull to grab a win. as Daniel Ricciardo did last year. The Dutchman will have to keep it out of the barriers this time though.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Looking further back, Haas’ one-lap pace will certainly come into its own on a circuit where it is notoriously difficult to overtake, while their seemingly improved race-pace in Spain will give them confidence. But, let’s hope for their sake that they’ve found an answer as to why they had such a disaster here last year, ending up at the back of the field.

Meanwhile, Antonio Giovinazzi looks to finally score his first points of the season, while Williams, who have just signed W Series’s Jamie Chadwick as their development driver, look to somehow avoid necessitating the use of any more scarce spare parts as they traverse barriers that eat debris for breakfast. They may even finish somewhere above 19th – this is Monaco after all.

It’s the race they all want to win, but for our championship protagonists – particularly Ferrari – it’s the one they need to win.

 

[Featured image – Ferrari Media]

Joe’s Track Preview: The Circuit de Monaco

Unadulterated bravery is arguably the most critical aspect as Formula 1 heads for its sixth stop of the season; the iconic Circuit de Monaco.

A fixture on the championship schedule since 1955, not much has changed on the streets of Monte Carlo since – aside from some minor alterations to the entry of Rascasse over a decade ago.

The Monaco Grand Prix indeed is a race which provides some of the most exhilarating moments on the calendar, although if overtaking is your thing, you will not find much here.

With the tight streets of sea-abreast Monaco walled with Armco car-killers, aside from the tunnel – one of the few places on the track where drivers can put their foot down – or some serious Daniel Ricciardo-sized cojones, qualifying is arguably the best shot of securing maximum points.

In fact, in its 64 races, pole position has lost out only 10 times, highlighting that grid position is everything on the roads of Monte Carlo.

Speaking of the surface, the Circuit de Monaco provides the lowest wear on tyres on the calendar, which is partly due to the super-slow corners dotted around the track – including the Loews hairpin, which sees the cars drop their speed to around 30mph.

However, although there is no chance of cars hitting full tilt with downforce set to maximum across the paddock, we will finally be able to witness Pirelli’s hypersoft compound for the first time as it makes its debut on the world famous street circuit, which, in testing, has shown to be a full second faster than the supersoft.

“We’ve tested the hypersoft in Abu Dhabi and Barcelona: of those two, Abu Dhabi is a better comparison to Monaco and there we saw that the hypersoft was worth about a second per lap than the ultrasoft; so we could see some more records broken this weekend,” Mario Isola, Pirelli’s Head of Car Racing, told Formula 1’s official website.

“Nonetheless, the hypersoft is definitely a race tyre rather than a qualifying tyre, so it will be interesting to see how it adapts itself to the unique demands of Monaco, and what effect it has on strategy.

“Collecting as much data about it as possible in free practice will be particularly important. The drivers have all each nominated between eight and 11 sets of hypersoft, so we should see plenty of running on it throughout the weekend, if it stays dry of course.”

2012 Monaco Grand Prix – Shades of the old Michael

The 2012 Monaco Grand Prix had plenty of sub-plots, sidestories and points of interest aside from Mark Webber’s final victory in the Principality. Webber became the sixth different winner from six races in an open start to the World Championship, Romain Grosjean had more opening lap contact – and one other important story. That was the performance of Michael Schumacher during Saturday’s qualifying session.

The seven-times World Champion had failed to find the scintillating form seen during those Ferrari days at the beginning of the millennium ever since joining Mercedes for 2010 after three years away. Since that second coming his best result had been a fourth place scored at the famous Canadian Grand Prix of 2011 and 2012 had been beset by bad luck, collisions and sometimes lack of pace. Indeed, Schumacher went into the race weekend with a five-place grid penalty following an accident with Bruno Senna in the previous Spanish Grand Prix.

Monaco. Monaco Grand Prix 2012 BY COURTESY OF PIRELLI

Mercedes had had solid pace all weekend but were not considered to be amongst the favourites – aside from the Chinese Grand Prix in which they were running first and second before Schumacher’s retirement, the car had been inconsistent. However, in the second qualifying session both Mercedes made it comfortably through to the pole position shootout with Rosberg just ahead of fifth-placed Schumacher.

Mark Webber’s time of a 1:14:381 looked like enough as Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean both struggled to eclipse it. But Schumacher, one of the last men over the line, slapped in a 1:14.301 to take his 69th and final pole position of a glittering career. Post-qualifying, in the knowledge that he would start sixth, the then 43-year-old was delighted with the result.

“It is simply a wonderful feeling to set pole after such a long time, and particularly here in Monaco. Okay, it has taken a little bit longer than I might have wanted in the second chapter of my career, but that makes it even sweeter. It’s just beautiful.”

After contact with the pinballing Grosjean at the start, Schumacher remained solidly in the top eight through the Grand Prix until his retirement from a fuel pressure issue with fifteen laps remaining. He would stand on the podium once more before retirement at the end of the season with a third place at a chaotic European Grand Prix in Valencia.

Monaco Grand Prix: two shots of happy, one shot of sad

Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Thursday 25 May 2017.
Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF70H.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONZ8912  courtesy of Pirelli Media

What an ordinary Grand Prix in Monaco we saw on Sunday! Ferrari took all the stakes. Everything they could win in the Casino of Monte Carlo, they won. A fantastic Sebastian Vettel, even losing the pole position, was able to overtake the great Kimi Raikkonen, who grabbed the pole but wasn’t able to keep the fury of Seb behind him.

Valtteri Bottas tried too, but this year Ferrari is a title challenger, strong in every race. And without an unlucky Lewis Hamilton, things were surely easier for Italian squad. They have to thank Stoffel Vandoorne, who showed he is still young to feel the pressure of Monaco’s corners, for crashing twice: once in qualifying (and causing the end of the Q2 for Lewis Hamilton trying to improve his time) and once in the race, ending in inglorious fashion McLaren’s Grand Prix. But even if Lewis could have made it into Q3, we really don’t know if he could have battled with Ferrari on Sunday.

Behind Ferrari a superb Daniel Ricciardo grabbed a fantastic third place, despite many saying his performance was going down lately. No way! I’ve always thought Daniel is a great race driver and he hasn’t lost his talent. And it’s always so good to see his endless smile on the podium! And with Carlos Sainz finishing in sixth position, I think these two are the drivers of the day. Carlos showed how good Toro Rosso is in this moment and his own performance is remarkable considering the difficulty of a circuit like Monaco.

In the end, let me spend some words for Jenson Button. I was absolutely surprised looking at his performance in qualifying. He never tried the car before, only some laps in the simulator. And with wider tyres and new regulations he got in the car and learned immediately how to go fast! He is still a champion.

But the sad thing to face was that stupid penalty. After having qualified ninth, Jenson had to start from the pit lane because of new power unit parts. So, a race ruined from the start, in a circuit where is almost impossible to overtake. And after a frustrating part of the race spent behind Pascal Wehrlein, he finally tried to pass but Monte Carlo said no, you can’t. And, as a result, we saw a spectacular and scary accident with no consequences for poor Pascal and a retirement for Jenson too.

So, while Ferrari went to win the race, with two shots of happy, McLaren went to lose again with one shot of sad. Courtesy of Bono Vox…

Massimo Trapanese, F1 correspondent

Monaco In Verse

It’s the Monco Grand Prix, the grandest of the races on the calendar. Let us take a lyrical lap.

The Lights Go Out, The Tyres Burn

Sainte-Devote The Very First Turn
Is There A Crash, How Many Cars?
Your Safely Through To Beau Rivage

Inches From The Barrier At Massenet

The Cars They Jostle, Positions Are Set

Into Casino A Sweeping Curve

Mirabeau Next Will They Hold Their Nerve

Slow Right Down Approach The Hairpin

Grand Hotel Spectators Shout And Sing

Its Portier Next As They Enter The Tunnel

Heading For Novelle, Into The Chicane They Will Funnel

Sweep Round The Harbour Through Tabac

Then Louis Chiron, There’s No Turning Back

The Swimming Pool Section, No Time For A Dip

They’d Better Slow Down, Thats My Only Tip

Because It’s Rascasse Next, The Cars They Slow

Then Its Off Through Noghes And Off They Go

Through The Grid For Another Lap

As The Crowds They Scream, They Cheer, They Clap

This Is Monaco Full Of Glamour And Speed

These F1 Legends Are Brave Indeed

The Barriers So Daunting And The Crowd So Near

Negotiating The Streets, Drivers With No Fear

Neil Simmons

Twitter: @world_racing

Monaco Track Preview

Image courtesy of Red Bull Racing

The winding streets of Monaco are preparing to host their 75th Grand Prix this weekend, and what a track it is.

The picturesque circuit, stretching over 3.337 kilometres and consisting of 19 mostly low-speed corners and a flat-out tunnel, is Formula 1’s contribution to the infamous Triple Crown of Motorsport, and has featured some of the sport’s most notorious victors.

None more so than the man who holds the most wins around the circuit, the great Ayrton Senna.

The Brazilian claimed six victories in Monaco during his decade-long career, and potentially could have secured a seventh if it were not for Le Mans royalty Jacky Ickx, who red-flagged the rain-sodden 1984 race without consulting fellow track stewards, allowing Senna’s arch-rival Alain Prost to pick up a half-points win on lap 27.

Senna’s half-dozen Monte Carlo victories went some way to secure McLaren’s dominance over the iconic track.

The Honda-powered team currently leads the way in terms of constructors wins with fifteen, six ahead of nearest chasers Ferrari, however it is highly unlikely McLaren will extend that number this weekend even though the circuit will not punish their lack of power as much as others on this year’s race calendar.

It will in fact most likely be the Driver’s Championship contenders Sebastian Vettel and two-time winner Lewis Hamilton, who currently holds the record for the fastest ever lap set around the track—a 1:17.939s achieved last year—that will be contesting for number one spot come the end of the 78-lap race.

Red Bull can possibly expect to mount a challenge if their set-up, which has hindered them on several occasions so far this year, is correct—with maximum emphasis on downforce this weekend due to low tyre wear.

As potentially should have been witnessed during the Spanish Grand Prix a fortnight ago, Monaco will see the return of the red and purple-striped Pirelli P Zero—an appearance that will please drivers following their frustration with the manufacturer after the conservative decision in Barcelona to run soft and medium compounds.

No matter what it will surely be another thrilling instalment of the Monaco Grand Prix, which will celebrate hosting the race for three quarters of a century on Sunday.

With just four points between both Vettel and Hamilton at the top of the driver’s standings, it is sure to provide another twist in the tale for the 2017 World Championship.

By Joe Owens, F1 Correspondent

 

Ferrari have a chance to write the Monte Carlo script

Image Credit: Zak Meuger/LAT/Pirelli Media

How fitting that Formula One heads to Monaco around the time of Cannes Film Festival just mere miles from the principality.

As with Cannes and the film industry, the Monaco Grand Prix is arguably the most glamorous setting for F1’s main characters to produce another masterpiece such as those celebrated in Cannes..

And boy, have Ferrari given us something to get us out of our seats this season.

Where in the previous years of the turbo era Mercedes could walk off into the distance, the Prancing Horse have had something of a revival.

Each of the five races in 2017 have been filled with enough intrigue to get even the judges at Cannes out of their seats, and like all good films, the ending has often been difficult to predict.

Indeed, despite Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton winning the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago, Ferrari can arrive in Monte Carlo in confident mood once more.

Pitting under a Virtual Safety Car brought out by Stoffel Vandoorne aided Hamilton no end, as his Mercedes on faster tyres and having taken six seconds out of Vettel meant a lot of the hunting was done for the Brit.

The Silver Arrows were said to have brought a raft of upgrades compared to the developments made by Ferrari, yet Hamilton qualified just half a tenth quicker after a promising start to the weekend.

With Vettel taking the lead at the start, Hamilton and Bottas weren’t exactly all over the German four-time champion like a cheap suit.

Once he did get ahead, Hamilton did not simply gallop away into the distance and Ferrari still harboured hopes of a win until the final eight laps.

Both Ferrari drivers have stood atop of the podium in Monte Carlo before, with Vettel taking the honours in a crazy 2011 race and Kimi Raikkonen in scintillating form for McLaren back in 2005.

However, you have to go back to 2001 for the last time the Scuderia won in Monaco, courtesy of Michael Schumacher.

This season represents one of their best chances to end that drought, and around the casinos of Monte Carlo, their ability to nurse tyres may prove to be their trump card.

With it confirmed that Ferrari are in the title fight for the long haul, they have another chance to provide their own plot twist this weekend.

Jack Prentice @JPrentice8

 

Monaco Grand Prix, Let the Party Begin

GP MONACO F1/2016 – MONTECARLO 29/05/16
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

The famous race of Monaco is taking place this weekend in Monte Carlo, a race which almost every motorsport driver wants to participate and win it, it is like Indy 500 and Le Mans. It is not a very demanding circuit for the cars, but requires high concentration from the drivers. There is no space for overtaking and any mistake might be crucial for the driver and the car.

The king of Monaco is Ayrton Senna with six victories, followed by the Mr.Monaco and Michael Schumacher who have won the race five times.

Monaco Grand Prix is one of the oldest circuit on Formula One’s calendar, the first race held in 1950 and traditionally the first two free practice sessions held on Thursday instead of Friday.

Lewis Hamilton holds the lap record with 1:17.939. Last year, Lewis stopped Rosberg’s domination in Monaco, the German have won the Monaco Grand Prix for three consecutive times, but the Brit despite that he started the race third, behind Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Rosberg, managed to take the chequered flag and celebrate a victory in Monte Carlo. The race started behind the safety car due to a rain which occurred before the race.

Daniel Ricciardo finished second behind Lewis Hamilton, followed by the Mexican driver, Sergio Perez, who secured a podium finish for Force India.

Circuit De Monaco

Number of Laps: 78

Circuit Length: 3.337 km

Race Distance: 260.286 km

Lap Record: 1:17.939 (Lewis Hamilton – 2016)

Tyre allocations: Ultrasoft (Purple), Supersoft (Red), Soft (Yellow)

Jenson Button will cover Fernando Alonso’s absence, who decided to take part in the Indy 500 and qualified 5th. The British driver will return to Formula 1 after a few months of absence and he will be able to complete some laps with the MCL32 during the free practice sessions before the race on Sunday.

“It feels slightly surreal to be back in the cockpit for the Monaco Grand Prix, when the call came from Eric, there was no hesitation. It’s a totally unique situation and a great opportunity. I’m looking forward to stepping back behind the wheel for one of the most crazy, unpredictable and exciting races of the year.”

Button promised to Alonso that he will do his best to look after his car. Alonso misses the Monaco Grand Prix for the first time since 2001.

Monaco is a good opportunity for McLaren to score their first points of 2017, it will be interesting to see if Button will manage to do that in his 2017 debut with McLaren-Honda.

GP MONACO F1/2016 – MONTECARLO 29/05/16
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

Monte Carlo will also give the chance to Red Bull to try to secure their first victory of the season, as it is a track which is not suitable for overtaking, so the qualifications plays a critical role every year.

Max Verstappen – “There is no such thing as a low risk lap in Monaco, it doesn’t exist if you want to be fast because you have to be on the limit. Last year’s crash was very unfortunate but it doesn’t affect my confidence heading back there, it just makes me want to do better this year and learn from my mistakes. We still have a lot to learn from the car in terms of setup as it is always developing and we haven’t driven it on a tight street circuit yet. Preparation for Monaco is a little different, you definitely build up a little bit slower throughout the weekend and pace yourself. It’s important to find the limit carefully. With the new cars I think the chicane around the swimming pool will be the most challenging corner this year.”

Daniel Ricciardo – “In theory I could walk to work while we are in Monaco, it is still a bit of a way but it could be done. Luckily for me though we get boats to the Energy Station which is a nice change. Being able to sleep in your own bed and complain about the noise is also a treat. Monaco is definitely my favourite track to drive, it is so tight and intimidating. From the outside some of the sequences look impossible to go through at the speeds we do. Once you are in the car it’s an amazing feeling. If you kiss the wall it actually makes you want to do it again as opposed to scaring you. The whole spectacle of the weekend just makes it something unique and special.”

Victor Archakis- @FP_Passion

Images Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media