Glamour, history, tradition, money. The F1 circuit continues its way around Europe and it arrives to the most iconic circuit in the world, one of the three major motorsport events, called the Triple Crown of Motorsport - Circuit de Monaco, Indy 500 and 24h of Le Mans.
Graham Hill is the only driver to have won the all the races in the Triple Crown. 17 drivers in motorsport’s history have competed in all three legs of the Triple Crown and have won at least one of the events; Juan Pablo Montoya is the only active driver to have achieved that record.
The Monaco GP is held at an urban track. It was one of the first seven circuits which opened the Formula 1 World Championship in 1950. It has some of the most famous corners on the calendar; Loews, the slowest on the calendar, and La Rascasse, the third last turn.
Drivers will pass through them 78 times during the 3340 meters of the street circuit, to complete the 260 kilometers of the race. The barriers leave no margin for error, demanding more concentration that any other Formula One track. A combination of precision driving, technical excellence and bravery is required to win on the Monte Carlo streets.
Overtaking is very difficult but not impossible, as drivers like Michael Schumacher, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Kimi Räikkönen, and more recently, Max Verstappen, have shown.
Best, or only, three places to overtake in Monaco are the first turn (St Devote) after the curved main straight or the exit to the tunnel, the hairpin and up the hill at Beau Rivage.
Max Verstappen, the brilliant winner of the last race, commented on Monaco, where he showed lot of potential in 2015: “I always enjoy racing street circuits like Monaco because you are really pushing the limit and are very close to the walls, it gives you a great feeling that you are on top of your car and getting the most out of it.
“It’s so difficult to overtake in Monaco, last year I tried and we ended up in the wall, so the most important thing is to have a good qualifying and start and from there on keep it on the track! Monaco is also special because the track is walking distance from where I live so that’s nice to feel like I’m home during the race weekend.
“Naturally there is a lot more attention around driving the car but at the end the most important thing for the driver is just to focus on what you’re doing.
“My favourite part of the track is around the swimming pool section because it’s very fast, to go flat out through the first chicane on a street circuit is nice to do. Also riding the curbs in 15 and 16 feels great.
“My first win in Spain felt amazing, I still can’t believe it! It was a great weekend, a great result and we’ll see what happens in Monaco. The target first of all is just to stay out of the walls, and if you stay out of the walls we can be close or hopefully on the podium.”
Monaco winners and the 2016 championship
Juan Manuel Fangio was the first winner in Monaco and he also got the first Grand Chelem in the history of F1. The King of Monaco, however, is Ayrton Senna, who won six times there. Graham Hill and Schumacher got the victory five times. Only two of the current drivers have been in the first place of the podium more than once: Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg. The Spaniard won in 2006 with Renault and in 2007 with McLaren. The German is the defending winner, having won the editions of 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2011 Vettel took the gold, Hamilton did it in 2008 and Räikkönen in 2005. The lap record is held by the Kaiser since 2004; he recorded a 1:14.439s. If we consider the new engines, the record belongs to Daniel Ricciardo since last year, with a 1:18.063s.
The championship is on fire. Nico Rosberg has been the leader since the first race but after both Mercedes crash in Montmeló, now Räikkönen is second in the tables, 39 points behind the German and with 4 more than Hamilton.
Vettel is fourth, with 48 points, 9 less than the Brit and the same as Daniel Ricciardo. His new teammate Max Verstappen is just behind him with 38 points, 2 more than Felipe Massa and 9 more than Valtteri Bottas. The top 10 is completed by Daniil Kvyat and Romain Grosjean, both with 22 points.
Red Bull showed strong pace in practice and is expected to take the fight to Mercedes come race day.
The lap starts with the short main straight through Boulevard Albert which ends in Ste Devote corner, a nearly 90º tight one to the right. Speed reached at the straight is around 290 km/h and turn 1 is taken at first or second gear so there is a heavy braking.
As history attests, It is quite a dangerous corner; drivers need to be careful with the outside wall if they don’t want to finish the race early. There is another kind-of straight uphill, divided in two by a very open and soft corner first to the left and then to the right called Beau Rivage, where drivers go flat out. Right after they head to Massenet corner; a long one to the left that is linked to the famous Casino; a mid-speed corner to the right taken at third gear and 115 km/h.
Sector two starts thereafter. At this point, the track is 44m higher than the lowest part, and the surface is bumpy so drivers need to modify their line before they get to the next corner, Mirabeau; a tight right-hander in which drivers slow down to 70 km/h and shift down to first gear.
Now cars go downhill right to a very closed and slow hairpin to the left, Loews. Full steering lock is required. The track continues downhill to a double corner named Portier, twice to the right.
Drivers then head to the most special part of the circuit, the Tunnel. This section is taken flat out, the fastest part of the circuit. A good line and exit is necessary because just a few meters away from the end of the tunnel, there is a left-right-left chicane where drivers will try to outbrake the rivals to overtake them. It follows a short straight ending in corner number 12, Tabac. It is a tight fourth gear corner taken at 150 km/h.
To start sector three, drivers press the accelerator and go up to 225 km/h until they reach Piscine, a double chicane formed by a fast left-right corner followed by a slower right-left one. Right after, there is a short straight where the DRS detection point is located, followed by a quick left turn which is immediately followed by the tight 135 degree right-hander called La Rascasse. This is another corner which requires full steering lock. Then, a short straight that precedes the final corner, a tight one to the right which brings the cars back onto the main straight.
Tyres and technical requirements
The Circuit de Monaco has very different technical demands on the cars; the priority is traction and stability more than the power and speed. Softer and higher suspensions are also needed due to the bumped track. Cars run with maximum downforce and brakes are worked hard due to the numerous heavy braking.
Just the 23% of the lap is at full throttle and brakes are used as its maximum during the 12% of the lap.
Pirelli brings to the Monegasque layout the least durable compounds from its range, since it is not a very demanding circuit for the tyres: the ultrasoft, supersoft and soft. The ultrasoft make its debut in a Grand Prix for the first time.
This is what Paul Hembery said: “Monte Carlo will mark the first race for our new purple ultrasoft tyre, which offers the maximum performance and technology that we can put into a compound. However, the large numbers of this compound nominated by the teams for the Monaco GP shows that it is a serious race tyre rather than just a ‘qualifying special’. With the unique conditions of Monaco, and its own specific timetable, the teams will be looking to get a thorough read on the characteristics of the new ultrasoft during free practice. Only then will we have an accurate idea of race strategy, although with the difficulty of overtaking, drivers will be looking to minimise their pit stops.”
Race local times
FP1 Thursday 26 10.00h
FP2 Thursday 26 14.00h
FP3 Saturday 28 11.00h
Qualifying Saturday 28 14.00h
Race Sunday 29 14.00h
by Cristina DeLarge