The Monaco GP preview
Round 6 / 22-25 May / Circuit de Monaco
This tight, twisting classic puts more emphasis on driver skill than any other race
Of all the tracks, Monaco is considered to be the ultimate test of a driver’s skill. Its tight, twisty streets pile pressure on the driver, while engine power plays a smaller role. Especially in changeable conditions, the driver is paramount: Nelson Piquet likened racing on this circuit to “riding a bicycle around your living room.”
Monaco has one of the slowest corners in F1, the Grand Hotel hairpin, where cars crawl around as slow as 30mph. It also has one of the quickest: the kink in the tunnel under the Fairmont Hotel, which is challenging enough without the rapid change from light to dark then back to blinding light as the drivers exit at high speed.
The circuit is bumpy and undulating and drivers will modify ideal racing lines between Casino and Mirabeau corners to avoid overly unsettling their cars. Engineers, meanwhile, must provide a ‘soft’ car that will let the tyres retain as much contact as possible with the asphalt, without giving up too much aerodynamic grip.
Teams typically run a special, largerthan-usual rear wing here to ensure as much downforce as possible is achieved at the lower speeds required here. Front downforce is also an issue, with most teams tending to run a lot of – if not maximum – front wing, because the circuit has an understeer-inducing characteristic.
The asphalt is very smooth, which is why Pirelli will bring the supersoft tyre here for the rst time, paired with the soft compound. The increased torque of the 2014 power units makes good traction more important than ever. We may see quite severe rear-tyre wear if the tyre management is anything less than perfect.
With the high occurrence of Safety Cars, red ags and/or changeable conditions combined with the difculty of overtaking, Monaco presents a unique problem in terms of strategy. Although a certain number of stops might be optimal for a single car going around the circuit, teams are pushed to reduce the number of tyre changes, taking into account the actions of other cars – because track position is key. Teams often take a slower strategy (in terms of lap time) because it provides a better distribution of outcomes.
Despite the difculty of overtaking, there is a lot of excitement here, since a single accident can drastically change the outcome of the entire race.