Monaco Grand Prix Preview

ImageIt is hard to deny, there is something special about Monaco. Granted, the races may not be the most unpredictable or exciting on a calendar but the history and prestige of the unconventional circuit has made it a cult Grand Prix for fans and drivers everywhere. It is simple. Nowhere else provides this kind of backdrop.  

The circuit is considered to be the ultimate test for the drivers come any race weekend. When presented with the challenging tunnel, the drivers must alter their vision accordingly. Combine this with the elevation changes and tight corners and it is soon easy to see how Monaco has been bestowed with this honour.

The Formula governing body, the FIA have themselves admitted that Monaco would not be permitted to join the racing calendar for safety reasons. Ultimately, it requires complete commitment, dedication and a dogged determination. It is unforgiving.

Ste Devote is at a ninety degree angle, which is usually completed in second gear, and marks the end of the DRS zone. The drivers will certainly need full use of their DRS if overtaking is to be possible. In the words of Pastor Maldonado, “qualifying is probably 70% of the weekend”. To claim the extra horsepower on offer, it will take courage. The youth of Formula 1 may well be learning this lesson from the more experienced masters this weekend.

This year, the Monaco Grand Prix will celebrate its sixtieth year in the official Formula World Championship. It is the oldest Grand Prix in the sports history thus gifting us with vital patterns and statistics – really there is no better tool for casting predictions.

Mark Webber is an obvious contender for the win this year. The Australian won in 2010 and 2012 and has failed to finish outside of the top five in the last five years. Almost entirely made up of high speed corners, the Circuit de Monte Carlo should undoubtedly suit his Adrian Newey designed, RB9. Perhaps we will see another party in the famous Red Bull swimming pool this year. Rumours surrounding his pending retirement do not seem to be fading, it could be one last chance to stamp his authority on the iconic circuit.

Fernando Alonso is the only other driver on the 2013 grid who has multiple successes to his name, each from his time at Renault in 2006 (the year of his second championship) and McLaren in 2007. The Spaniard is yet to charge his Ferrari to the top step of the podium; the team’s last win came in 2001 courtesy of five time winner, Michael Schumacher. 

Both Alonso and Webber will face tough competition from Kimi Raikkonen. After all, the fastest-ever lap was set by the Finn in qualifying for the 2006 Grand Prix – a 1:13.532. 

If we are to believe statistics, albeit somewhat tentatively, two surprise performances may be evident in Monaco. Caterham F1 are looking to secure their first points finish since their maiden Grand Prix in 2010. Giedo Van Der Garde appears confident that the team will do “something special”. The Caterham is packed with new upgrades and is, arguably at its fastest. Some luck could push them ahead of Toro Rosso. It will be close but, in Monaco, anything is possible.

Pastor Maldonado has three podiums from four GP2 starts, among the Venezuelan’s many attributes is confidence. This is key and could push him to a crucial points finish. He just needs to avoid the seemingly ever closer barriers that hampered his chances last year.

I am sure we will all take a collective intake of breath at some point as the barriers loom ever closer to the drivers. I always think:

“Surely they cannot get any closer to those barriers?”

Each year, they do.

If Monaco has taught us anything, it is that, ultimately, experience is key. Fail to master the circuit at your first attempt, and you will face a losing psychological battle. Sergio Perez’s 2010 crash in the Principality, and his two retirements in as many races, suggest that Monaco is his Achilles heel.

Master the circuit once and the confidence gained is enough to propel you to future successes. Ayrton Senna had six victories to his credit until his untimely death in 1994. Five of those were consecutive, won between 1989-93. I wonder whether any of the current Formula 1 incumbent could challenge that impressive tally? Let’s not forget Graham Hill and his own mastery of the circuit – he wasn’t called ‘Mr Monaco’ for nothing. 

IMAGES COURTESY OF RED BULL RACING AND THE HILL FAMILY.

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