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Monaco Grand Prix – The latest Tech stories
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 May 2010   |  7:32 am GMT  |  46 comments

This weekend the teams faced up to the challenges of the Monaco Grand Prix circuit, one of the most famous but also most difficult circuits on the calendar.

Monaco is a unique circuit and calls for some particular details in the technical preparation of the cars, which you will not find anywhere else.

The main one is the steering lock, which needs to be 21 degrees in order to get round the Loews hairpin. Normally an F1 car has a steering lock of 17 degrees.

It is possible to run a standard steering lock and still make the turn, but engineers tell me that it is around 3/10ths of a second slower, so everybody runs the extended steering range.

The brake calipers get quite hot here so there is extra ducting to them. Some of the new teams found that they had not factored in enough cooling and struggled in the race.

The other point to make is that the cars use less fuel to cover the race distance here. Around 125 kilos instead of the 160 they use at many tracks.

And there are quite a few wrong assumptions, such as the idea that you need to run the suspension soft. In fact very stiff set ups can work very well in Monaco. Look at slow motion shots of Robert Kubica attacking the kerbs and you’ll see what I mean.


Monaco is unusual because you need very little entry stability to corners, all the braking is straight. Then you need to be able to turn without understeer. If you can manage that then traction comes because car is turned and pointing straight. Traction in a straight line has a significant effect on lap time, so a rearward weight distribution is beneficial. But there is a trade-off because this can add rear tyre wear, which is often a problem in the race, particularly on the super soft tyre as we saw last year here.

New tech on the cars
There were not many technical updates on view this weekend, more Monaco specific details looking for extra downforce and traction.


Ferrari did not use its drag reducing (F Duct) rear wing here but they did have an additional couple of winglets placed one each side of the shark fin.

This was done to increase the downforce generated at the level of the rear axle so to improve the traction on this very slow circuit. The wing angle was of course at its maximum figure both front and rear.

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali revealed this weekend that the F Duct rear wing needs some work before its reintroduction in Turkey because, although it gave the team the fastest car through the speed traps, the team found in Spain that it took overall downforce away from the car and this is a handicap in competition with the Red Bull.

Red Bull’s technical wizardry
Red Bull had many teams scratching their heads after qualifying almost one second clear of the rest in Spain. Again in Monaco the margin of pole position was 3/10ths of a second, which is a lot. The team does not yet have a drag reducing rear wing and its Renault engine is considered not as powerful as the Mercedes. This meant that it was 20th through the speed trap on Saturday, some 9km/h down on the Ferraris. However it made up for that in its speed around the corners, thanks to its high level of downforce.

The secret of the Red Bull is the multiple little details which ensure that the bodywork of the car is optimised to work with the airflow that comes off the front wing and gives the massive diffuser the best chance to function. Red Bull were making microscopic changes to the front wings in Spain, adding a tiny gurney flay to the top element in practice to fine tune this.


The bodywork at the rear of the car is incredibly slender and low it is designed to clean up the airflow. The exhausts have been repositioned low and the technical team has introduced small slots just in front of the rear wheels, all tiny details to optimise the car. The result is a well balanced, aerodynamically efficient missile, perfectly in tune with itself.

Mercedes revert to shorter wheelbase
Mercedes reverted to the standard wheelbase on its car for Monaco, after extending it by 5cm in Barcelona. The shorter wheelbase is more suitable for the dynamic demands of the tight circuit. The longer wheelbase is designed to give the car more of a range of options on weight distribution.

Mercedes will revert to the longer wheelbase for the next Grand Prix in Turkey.

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46 Comments
    1. drums says:

      “[Alonso] was just a few centimetres off line and going slightly too fast as he turned in to the demanding 100mph Massenet corner at the top of the hill on Saturday morning, but that was enough to throw him into the unyielding barriers.”
      Yet I’ve read that according to Ferrari telemetrie Alonso braked 3 metres before and went a few kilometres slower than usual in Massenet corner that morning. May be he knew he was off line? Or else.

  1. Interesting that the Red Bull is just a better car than its rivals, not that it’s got some clever gadget or device responsible for much of the gain in the mould of a double diffuser.

    To my mind, this makes it much more difficult for the other teams to make up the difference because nothing specific on the Adrian Newey car which can be adapted to the others. Can Red Bull keep up the development race though? Will they even need to, given their lead?

    1. Gil Dogon says:

      They do have the unique solution of the lower exhaust pipes , optimizing the flow to the diffuser, as can be seen beautifully in the included photograph. Anyway the key word in actually any engineering field is ‘optimization’, and doing this requires a global view of the problem, it is allmost never the case of a single item or gadget. Or in other words , the devil is in the details ……

    2. smellyden says:

      They will need to, as F1 never stays still, but with such a strong lead now, the championship is thiers to lose now. Espcially with this new scoring system.

      1. Hisham says:

        Actually their lead isn’t as great as it should be. Considering Alonso who hasn’t had a truly clean weekend since Bahrain is only 3 points behind, with everyone else in touching distance, Red Bull haven’t maximised from the first 6 rounds although the past 2 races have helped.

        If Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes catch up to them in terms of pace and start winning poles and races of them, I can see Red Bull looking back at this point of the season with some regret and wondering why they didn’t get as many points as they should have.

  2. T says:

    Renaults were fastest @ the speed trap so maybe their engine doesn’t lack the power that much now.

    1. Pawel says:

      Renault lack downforce and as you know less dwonforce means more speed. The same adheres to worse team like Lotus etc. Mind you, RedBull that season have never been quick at speedtrap.

      1. Ishaak says:

        So why weren’t the new teams fastest through the speed trap?

      2. Mikey says:

        Presumably the Cosworth engine that they (and Williams) are running, isn’t yet up to the job.

      3. Andrew says:

        Maybe the Cosworth engines are down a bit on power?

      4. Aussie Fan says:

        They were at times at Barcelona & China, maybe here they had too poor traction to get out of the corners fast & get a good top speed on the short straights of Monaco

      5. Dr Prozac says:

        Yes, it all about drag. And downforce comes with a penalty of extra drag. And the stopping force rises exponentially with speed.
        You can’t blame the engine for the low top speed, especially that engines the difference in power between the most powerful and least powerful isn’t huge. I think that if RBR had Mercedes or Ferrari engines their top speed wouldn’t be much better. And they don’t need it, as long as they have a big advantage in cornering speed.

      6. Dr Prozac says:

        I’ve ment:
        “You can’t blame Renault engine for the low top speed, especially that the difference in power between the most powerful and the least powerful engine isn’t huge.”
        Sorry for the mistake.

        As for the new teams and their top speed, you should take into consideration that they probably have low traction and problems on corner exit. If you exit from a corner badly, it will hurt your speed at the end of the straight.

  3. David Mulvey says:

    Apparently Red Bull have another big package of upgrades coming for the next race as well (So I hear)

    Look out if they all work, particularly in a straight line, it could be a 2 second gap…..

  4. K. Chandra Shekhar says:

    Why Barrichello is not punished?

    1. GLM says:

      this is a good question – Rubens of all the drivers should know what a chunky piece of a F1 car can do to someone else.. ok last year it wasn’t his fault, but to throw a steering wheel into the path of other cars is plain stupidity!

      Also, i thought it was a regulation to leave all the cars with steering wheels attached, which means it should def be followed up on…… ?

  5. AC says:

    All the braking is straight in Monaco? Only Mirabeau, the hairpin and the swimming pool….

    Every other braking zone is either on a turn or/AND a crest! St. Devote.. Massenet.. Portier…chicane, rascasse…

  6. Mee says:

    “Look at slow motion shots of Robert Kubica attacking the kerbs and you’ll see what I mean.”

    Martin Brundle said during the race yesterday that the Renault had a rather soft suspension?

    1. Ishaak says:

      Yeah, you could really see the tyres moving about a lot, or is that more to do with the tyre pressures?

  7. Glen says:

    Hello. I’m just thinking about any possible future tyre war. I prefer F1 without a tyre war.

    If there are two suppliers next year I would like to see them compete against each other by teams running tyres during race provided by each company.

    For example: tweak the existing rule of having to run both compounds. So instead of compounds ‘soft and ‘hard’, the teams have to run a set of ‘Goodyear’s’ and ‘Avon’s’ during the race.

    1. Ishaak says:

      But the tyre that is less competetitive will be moaned about, on live tv. Not gonna do the lesser tyre company any good.

      1. Mark says:

        Why not just let the teams choose which tyre (company) they want to run with after Friday testing instead of having to stay loyal.

      2. C says:

        Simple: Because tires are so different from each other than just changing tires on Friday is just not possible. With sidewalls that are as wide as those in F1, the differences in construction cause huge changes in the suspension of the car: Changes that one can’t just do between practice sessions with a bit of tweaking.

        Remember how, when F1 switched to Bridgestone only, many Michelin teams had a whole lot of trouble of half the season to just get used to their tires.

      3. Jeff Cranmer says:

        With the present tyre design, high sidewalls and low diameter centers, it would be difficult to switch.

        If the tyres are changed to more conventional, low profile race tyres, however, where tyre construction had a lesser effect upon the suspension performance of the car, perhaps this would work?

        It would certainly be an improvement over the situation in the 90′s where one team enjoyed almost a monopoly over the good tyre brand, and consequently romped away with a bunch of boring, processional championships.

  8. Henry says:

    james, I have read that the mercedes shorter wheelbase is not anything to do with making it better for Monaco, but that they did not have enough of the longer wishbones to run all weekend…after all the shorter wheelbase has no effect worth talking about on turning circle, that is most certainly a myth, and I fail to see how they would want less options for weight distribution.

    1. Adrian says:

      This is what I heard too. That they didn’t have the steering rack that they would need to fit the new longer wheelbase so had to go with the shorter one.

      James, I find it interesting that Ferrari are saying the F-Duct robs them of overall downforce…could we see Red Bull decide not to run one as they may find they are faster without it..??

    2. tank says:

      they couldn’t get enough frontward weight distribution in other races. as James wrote, Monaco needs rearward distribution, so the longer wheel base may not have been needed. As for there not being enough wishbones, I can’t believe that with their budget…

    3. Craig D says:

      Of course a shorter wheelbase provides a shorter turning circle! It’s not about the amount of steering lock obtained. Just imagine the turning circle of a mini compared with that of a bus!

      A shorter wheelbase can make a car less stable in corners but for Monaco you c
      want a car that’s ‘pitchy’ on turn-in.

    4. Shorter wheelbase better at Monaco. Took it out of choice.

  9. Phil I says:

    James, on all the cars (that I’ve seen up close pictures of anyway) there is on each side a flat structure that extends from the bottom of the rear of the air pods. It creates, I assume, more flat floor area but looks very thin and sharp. It’s shown perfectly in your picture of the red bull in this story. My question is could these not become rather effective guillotines if one car jumped up onto the top of another like we saw at the end of the race Sunday and slice into a drivers helmet/head?

    1. Drez says:

      Heath & Safety course lately? How about the big wide thing on the front of all the cars. A much more effective guillotine and nothing obstructing it’s path.

      1. Phil I says:

        I cant stand Health and Safety!! Point taken, but I’ve rarely seen the nose of a car go anywhere near the driver. Three times in recent memory the side of a car has run over the cockpit of another which is what sparked my question.

  10. Luca says:

    I see that Mark Webber was fined for speeding in the pitlane.. how come the stewards opted for a fine over a drive through or stop and go, which is the usual outcome of such rule infringements?

    1. Jon says:

      It was BEFORE the race, in the formation lap to the grid. 30 mins before the race started. Which is the same as speeding during practice. Which equals a fine.

    2. Matt says:

      It wasn’t during the race, it was when he left the garage to form up on the grid.

      Obviously you can only be given a drive through while the race is running.

  11. Jon says:

    What is Ferrari and McLaren excuse now? :/

    Last year it was KERS and DDD.

    This year it’s ride height control. Which now appears to be a thing of the past.

    It just seems Redbull have a better car. They don’t even have the F Duct device yet. Last year Ferrari especially made big excuses, pointing at others instead of themselves. Adrian Newey and his team of designers deserve alot of credit.

    McLaren vetoed for Merc to give Redbull their engines for this season. Lucky for them, the lead could be even bigger. Like James said, Monza and Canada and tracks like this, will be the chance these teams have to merge the gap.

    1. JoTorrent says:

      200% with you ! RedBull is showing them how to do it & Adrian Newey is proving how good he is. Since Roy Byrne left Ferrari they lost so much in the design de partement, we’re seeing no innovations whatsoever.
      RedBull’s front wing is something else, so many tiny details working effectively is really great

      1. PT says:

        100% not enough for you?

  12. Ishaak says:

    One thing I’m struggling to get my head round is this. Why did the likes of DiGrassi, Senna and Chandhok accept drives at HRT and Virgin when the cars are SO far off the pace? Wouldn’t this do their reputation more harm than good as they are unlikely to score points or even come close…Look at Grosjean, he’s gone to FIA World GT series or whatever and is winning straight away!? Wouldn’t this be a better option?

    1. Philip T says:

      My side of the argument still lies on how difficult this generation of F1 car appears to be to drive especially given the lack of testing. When you see how good Alguersuari is and how much he’s improved since last year and consider that Grosjean wasn’t that impressive in a Renault, wouldn’t he have jumped at the chance of a second shot at it?

      If di Grassi, Senna and Chandhok are serious about F1 as their career maybe this is the learning curve – an alternative to testing. Impressing if only relative to a team mate could open doors for them. A Minardi didn’t do Alonso any harm and not everyone is Lewis Hamilton!

  13. JoTorrent says:

    How does the rear suspension deal with the exhaust gaz high tempuratures on the RedBull ?

    1. Ron Williams says:

      Because there will be a nice stream of cold air surrounding the hot gas from the exhaust due to the laminar airflow around the car.

  14. Brian says:

    Interestingly, a top respected South African F1 Journalist did an analysis and found that the past 20 years, it has been either Brawn or Newey designed cars, both these men have won on most teams they moved to. Last year it was a Brawn designed car and this year it may well be Newey’s turn. Ferrari and McLaren can no longer keep up with Newey and Brawn designed cars. So the greatest war in F1 may be between Brawn and Newey.

    America has Buffet and Gates, they manage and control some of the world biggest economy and F1 has Newey and Brawn, they have changed the game of F1. As they say, if you buy that new BMW or Merc, they company may claim all the credit but the fact is the true star of that car is its designer, the man who crafted the car to perfection.

    1. Zeus says:

      Brian,

      I would like to clarify that Ross Brawn is not a designer. He has more of a management role. The last time he designed something, it was probably in late 70s or early 80s. Adrian Newey’s nemesis was Rory Byrne. The guy who designed MSc cars during his years at Ferrari.

      1. Philip T says:

        Even so, don’t underestimate Brawn’s influence and remember Adrian Newey leads a team of designers now as opposed to it being his car. Both men inspire genius. I would offer to the discussion that the last year or so has shown that Brawn can find an area of the rules to exploit to his advantage, and has confirmed once again that Newey as in 1998 is the quickest to adapt to the change in regs in ‘the spirit of the regs’ but of course spirit means nothing, nor should it!

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