Two weeks on from Hamilton’s maiden Spanish Grand Prix victory, F1 heads to Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix, the race of glitz, glamour and famous streets. The Circuit de Monaco, set in the Monte Carlo harbour, is a street race like no other and a challenge every driver in the world dreams of facing.
The first Grand Prix held at Monaco was back in 1950 and has been one of the stand-out races on the calendar ever since. With driver’s facing a tough test as they aim to get around the 3.340km track, which always provides a challenge with the tight, twisting streets, chicanes and the famous tunnel. Being a street track, it takes weeks to get into place for the race. In fact, it takes six weeks to build the grandstands, barriers and paddock. Before a further three weeks for the dismantling after the race.
For the race Pirelli will be bringing along the soft compound (yellow marked) tyres and supersoft compound (red marked) tyres.
Now for my track guide to the Circuit de Monaco.
The track is known for being extremely hard for overtaking, due to the tight streets. But a great driver can still pick out opportunities to get past their opposition. Whether it be from a lunge into one of the chicanes, a daring move into Sainte Devote or a exquisite manoeuvre through Massenet, Loews Hairpin, Tabac or Rascasse.
Heading down to turn one, otherwise known as Sainte Devote, drivers will need to get on the breaks at precisely the right time. Otherwise they could lock up and sail into the barrier bringing their race to an abrupt end. Unless they release the break or get lucky and are only forced into going down the escape road. But if challenging for position, a lock up could end both of their races. But this corner could also see some great action, if a driver is bold enough to make a move down the inside, or even the outside, with thanks to DRS. Another factor that could influence moves is that the pit-lane exit is the inside of Sainte Devote, meaning as cars begin their climb up the hill towards Beau Rivage they could be side-by-side, wheel-to-wheel not even metres away from total disaster.
But, providing they make it clean up the hill, they will then enter another challenging complex with the Casino square. Starting at Massenet, they face a quick left turn, dipping from the summit of the hill, a unstable car could see it fishtail into the barrier or loose so much speed they are forced into defending their position. Next up in the Casino Square after Massenet is Casino. Here drivers face another short full-throttle burst whilst avoiding the mound in the road. So expect to see cars shooting out of the corner towards the right hand of the track before darting back to the racing line for the next corner.
Which is Mirabeau. Like Sainte Devote, Mirabeau is a fierce right hand corner which is known for races ending for some. Drop to far into the apex of the corner you will dip your front wheel into the drain, probably also collecting the armco barrier with the top of the wheel. But trying to prevent this too much can see you go too deep and collect the wall on the other side. Again, like Sainte Devote, there is a run off here but with little room for error, even the escape road doesn’t offer you a easy escape from danger.
But the action refuses to stop there. Another quick burst will see you make you’re way back down and straight into the Grand Hotel hairpin. Which was recently re-named from Lowes Hairpin. This hairpin requires the most steering rack input as the drivers literally have to cross arms to ensure they can point the car in the right direction come the exit.
Despite not being one of the major corners at the track, turn 8 or Portier, has had its time in the limelight. Most notably Ayrton Senna crashing out of the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix whilst leading the race in his McLaren. But following on from turn 8 is where the sun disappears and F1 enters the shadows.
There isn’t really much that needs saying when it comes to the tunnel at Monaco. Other than here provides the drivers with a challenge they do not see anywhere else as they leave the day light for a short, fast stint, arching around a tunnel. If it’s raining out on track the tunnel gains another dimension as it guarantees dry track. If cars go side-by-side through the tunnel of wet or intermediate tyres, the reduction in grip could see one heck of an amazing spectacle.
Next up on the Monaco track is the Nouvelle chicane. After leaving the darkness to re-emerge in the daylight drivers face yet another down-hill descent towards a heavy breaking zone. As the cars exit the tunnel, drivers need to position themselves towards the right hand side of the track for the best run into the Nouvelle chicane but this can leave you open to attack down the inside.
Back in 2011 Sergio Perez suffered a heavy crash into the Nouvelle chicane after contact with the barrier. During breaking, the rear of his Sauber stepped out, forcing the front right into the barrier. Loosing the front wheel and all control saw Perez glide at pace, sideways into the tecpro barriers. These barriers probably saved his life as an ordinary armco barrier or no barrier at all could have seen his life end.
The end of sector two comes with Tabac. This is another high-speed corner at the track, providing a good opportunity for overtaking. With the addition of a zebra crossing going over the track, the potential for an overtake is higher thanks to the added grip provided. But last year, at the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix, Tabac saw the end of Pastor Maldonado’s race after a heavy crash involving himself and the Marussia of Max Chilton.
But this corner usually marks the start of the swimming pool sector. A quick double chicane sector around the swimming pool, deep in the heart of the Monaco harbour. Last year this sector had some extra entertainment after a daredevil pigeon kept turning up at the chicanes and was caught on camera flying away from incoming cars across the weekend.
Now moving on to the second to last corner at the track, Rascasse. Named after the restaurant located on the inside of the corner, Rascasse provides an interesting corner as the approach is a left-swinging corner but Rascasse itself is a right-hand corner which requires seriously late breaking for the optimal line but like every corner at the track, break too late and its all over for you. But back in 2006, Rascasse was the home to an interesting, yet flawed, qualifying tactic by Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher. Here he attempted to secure a strong position for the race by parking his Ferrari on the exit of the corner. Bringing out the red flag.
Hopefully this year’s Monaco Grand Prix won’t come with any controversy but will come with some great wheel-to-wheel racing around the principality. Kicking off on Wednesday with the drivers press conference ahead of free practice on Thursday. You can follow the action from across the weekend here on kylearcher.co.uk or exclusively live on SkySportsF1 in England.
Wednesday 21st May
14:00 – Drivers’ Press Conference – Live!
17:30 – Drivers’ Press Conference – Replay.
Thursday 22nd May
08:45 – Monaco GP Practice One – Live!
11:00 – GP2 Practice – Live!
12:45 – Monaco GP Practice Two – Live!
15:10 – GP2 Qualifying – Live.
16:00 – Team Principals’ Press Conference.
17:00 – The F1 Show – Live!
Friday 23rd May
10:10 – GP2 Feature Race – Live!
17:00 – The F1 Show: Monaco Special – Live.
Saturday 24th May
09:45 – Monaco GP Practice Three – Live!
12:00 – Monaco GP Qualifying – Live!
15:05 – GP2 Sprint Race – Live!
20:40 – Ted’s Qualifying Notebook.
Sunday 25th May
11:30 – The 2014 Monaco GP – Track Parade – Live!
12:00 – The 2014 Monaco GP – Race – Live! !
15:30 – The 2014 Monaco GP – Paddock Live!
18:00 – The 2014 Monaco GP – Highlights.
19:00 – The 2014 Monaco GP – Ted’s Notebook