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Tight Monaco Grand Prix in prospect, strategists say
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Tight Monaco Grand Prix in prospect, strategists say
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 May 2011   |  1:35 pm GMT  |  127 comments

I’ve been talking to the race strategists from some of the teams the last couple of days and this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix is shaping up to be a very close affair, particularly between Red Bull and McLaren.

Red Bull - qualifying advantage will be smaller (Red Bull)


At the last race in Spain the McLaren was actually the faster race car at several points in the Grand Prix and the Red Bull qualifying advantage – over a second in Spain – will be far less in Monaco as they will not be able to use the DRS wing in high speed corners, as they did in Barcelona.

The championship so far has been shaping up as a battle between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton and there is reason to believe that this could be a Hamilton weekend.

Looking at the record of Sebastian Vettel around Monaco, he does not seem to be as strong between the barriers as at he is on other, more open circuits. He’s never had a front row start there, has one podium from last year and a fifth place in the Toro Rosso in 2008.

It’s a bit like Canada, where his only result is an 4th place in 2010 and an 8th in 2008. This is not a criticism of Vettel, more a reflection that he does not have about him to date the look of a driver who is much at home between barriers as he is elsewhere.

Brushing the barriers (Darren Heath)


Over the years we’ve observed that there are drivers who excel on tracks lined by walls and barriers, as both those circuits are. Hamilton is one and, sadly as he won’t be around, Robert Kubica is another.

Monaco veterans say that to be really fast around there you should be smearing the maker’s name on the sidewall of the tyres!

Mark Webber is traditionally strong at Monaco, he won last year from pole position and could do the pole again this year, but his tyre use in races this season is more severe than Vettel or Hamilton or Button. And there will be a point in the race where this could prove crucial. The race will be interesting as strategy is likely to play a decisive role.

Pre race strategy predictions show that the choice is between two and three stops as the pit lane loss time is high at 21 seconds, so 25 seconds in total.

The strategy models show that three stops is quickest over the whole race distance, but the crunch comes when a thee stopper makes his final stop. Up to that point a two stop strategy is faster.

So a two stopper should just be ahead on the road at that point.

Now, on most circuits, teams faced with this data would choose to go with three stops because the the two stoppers tyres will be worn out in the final stint and the three stopper will go past, as we have seen. But in Monaco it’s so hard to overtake that it may be worth going for two stop and holding on for the last stint.

Red Bull has tended to pit early, before the Pirelli tyres are spent, McLaren has tended to run them longer, to eke more out of them.

The super soft Pirelli tyre, which makes its debut this weekend, is expected to last around 8 laps in the opening stint. Getting a few extra laps out of it will be important. It is estimated that the supersoft will be around 0.7s a lap faster than the soft, so will be the qualifying tyre for the top ten. But a car starting P11 on the soft could really mess things up for the front runners..

It promises to be a fascinating scrap. And Ferrari should be more competitive on the soft tyres than they have been of late.

* I’ve compiled a load of data and considerations which the F1 strategists use to plan their Monaco weekend. Check it out at Strategy Briefing click on the Monaco map graphic

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127 Comments
  1. Jesus says:

    James, you totally forgot to name Alonso, two times Montecarlo winner, and one of those times, ahead of Hamilton with the same car. I know the Ferrari was not fast last week, but you may be surprised how the car fares with the softer tyres they’ll be running this weekend.

    1. Jeebus says:

      In that year Alonso won in Monaco ahead of Lewis, Victory was taken away from Lewis by R Dennis to keep Alonso happy. Lewis had the better strategy and pace.

      1. Speed F1 says:

        Hamilton and McLaren both love complaining about everything when they are not wining. Every year there’s something wrong with everybody else except McLaren and Hamilton. Hamilton’s new complain is about Schumacher. Apparently he was blocked by MS in spain! McLaren is always peaceful as long as they are wining, particularly Hamilton. Off field stuffs are just excuses to add to the bucket list.

      2. James Allen says:

        Don’t all the winners complain when they are not winning?

      3. wolf says:

        James shouldn’t the spelling on that be ‘whiners’ as in “All the whiners complain when they are not winning”? :p

        Still waiting for Vettels first big public dummy spit of the year, since Red Bulls race stategy for Webber seems to consist mainly of ensuring that last year can not be allowed to repeat hopefully the other teams will oblige.

        And yes I’m a ‘w(h)inner’ too! :p

      4. Nesto says:

        Alonso got pole and therefore was ahead of his teammate and got the preferred strategy. Every team works that way. The McLarens were 1-2 and set to cruise, the team didn’t want them to battle and possibly both DNF. Hamilton was pushing while Alonso was not. This was the beginning as Lewis moaned afterwards.

      5. clyde says:

        lewis and his father were the whiners of 2007…seeing to it that they robbed alonso and the team of the wdc that year….by the way hes already whining big time this year saying that shumi blocked him and now torro rosso

      6. PaulL says:

        What nonsense! Alonso set the faster low fuel run in Q2, secured pole, fastest lap, victory, fastest in FP2, opened out nearly 10 seconds lead in the opening stint.

        The call on strategy probably had no effect given the facts. It’s really only incredulity back then in Lewis’ mind that caused him to think he’d been edged for any other reason that Alonso was slightly faster that weekend and the conservative strategy dudded him out of a win.

      7. Tall Tales says:

        What a perfect narration of the Hamilton/Dennis/English tabloids story of how that dastardly Spaniard stole a victory from the vastly superior English rookie.

      8. Aey says:

        Don’t forget Monaco 07 is only forth or fifth race in his life, and he already all over the back of Alonso . . . ready to fight with 2 times world champion.

        How good the rookie he is, the problem for Alonso begin here.

    2. DC says:

      Yes and that was quite an off track battle too with the Hamiltons protesting that Alonso was given preferential treatment that meant Lewis lost the race…. that really got the 2007 tension between Alonso and Hamilton going!

      1. mingojo says:

        Perhaps you should read it:

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/andrewbenson/2010/05/alonso_overreaching_in_reargua.html

        Alonso’s last victory in Monaco was in 2007, and it was the event that marked the beginning of the end of his relationship with McLaren and their former team principal Ron Dennis.

        That race is remembered as one that Alonso won thanks to team orders, after McLaren told team-mate Lewis Hamilton to slow down and not challenge Alonso for the victory.

        But that reading is wrong.

        This has never come out before, but it was Dennis’s actions after that race that so angered Alonso, and which convinced him the team would always be behind Hamilton and not him. That was the backdrop to the tumultuous fall-out that enveloped McLaren and Alonso as that famous ‘spy-gate’ summer unfolded.

        As a McLaren insider revealed to me: “Fernando won in Monaco fair and square in 2007.

        “Lewis was generally quicker through the weekend, but in qualifying Fernando did it and Lewis didn’t. Lewis was quicker in the first run but then he made mistakes and Fernando got pole.

        “Fernando won the race because he pulled an 11-second gap in the first stint when Lewis had (tyre) graining and after that Fernando was just cruising because we had rear brake issues.

        “But after the race, Ron said to Fernando: ‘Be nice to Lewis because we had to (pit) stop him early.’ And Fernando said: ‘What do you mean? I was just cruising.’

        “He got very annoyed about that because it was like Ron saying we handed you the victory. Even after that, the relationship was unrecoverable.

      2. James Allen says:

        As I recall it there was a period in the race when Alonso was vulnerable to an attack by Hamilton if the team had favoured him on strategy, but it didn’t (which is what he referred to afterwards) and anyway Alonso had the measure of Hamilton that weekend on the whole. It was a turning point problem, but the problems between Ron and Alonso had started before the first race.

      3. Luke Robbins says:

        Thanks for this interesting insight. Ron really messed up in 07. Should have been constructors + world title that year.

      4. nando says:

        Very lazy journalism from Benson. Using an anonymous quote without doing any critical analysis of it.

      5. Tom says:

        @nando

        Lazy journalism from Benson? Never!

      6. Philip says:

        James wrote: …”but the problems between Ron and Alonso had started before the first race.”

        Wow. I never heard that before. Are you willing / able to say any more?

        I can’t work out if I’m surprised (“how could it go wrong before they even started racing?”) or not (“did Ron ever have any interest in Fernando as a driver, or did he just sign him to stick one to Flav and force Kimi’s wages down?”)

      7. Benson Jutton says:

        NO surprises there

  2. Luke Robbins says:

    What is the deal with DRS this weekend? Is it going to be used at all? Will it even make any difference? If it couldn’t do the trick at Barca I doubt it can on the streets of MC.

    Still, great battle in prospect.

    1. brooza says:

      It is to be used on the pit straight and has been banned in the tunnel during quali/practice

    2. Dubmeister says:

      My understanding is that DRS will be available in qualifying anywhere on the lap except through the tunnel section, and only on the main start/finish straight in the race

  3. Stevie P says:

    I can sense “a Mansell (on fresh rubber) chasing down a Senna (on old rubber) without being able to get past” scenario all over again :-)

    I like, Jesus (above), feel that Alonso will be quick and racy around the streets of Monte Carlo and in the mix.

    1. Andy C says:

      That race solidified my passion for F1. I have never seen such an exciting last 10 laps. My heart was absolutely pounding watching it. Goodness knows how Mansells must have been going. Legendary race.

    2. I remember that race like yesterday and Mansell collapsing….. Would be great to have a finish like that! ALthough I really HOPE Lewis can win it again, I think he’s the one in with a big chance

    3. kalofer_bg says:

      There will be some bits and pieces layed on the track from outbreacking and ambitious eforts to pass. Can wait for Sunday

    4. Patrick McLaughlin says:

      Stevie I was about to type the same thing !

      Remember it like it was yesterday. Alonso Vettel last year in Singapore was similar, if not quite as entertaining.Its a pity FOM do not allow YouTube show the full thing. Murray’s commentary is immense on it !

      Secured two tickets to Dublin Premiere of Senna Movie on Tuesday night (after unsuccesfully trying on this site to secure tickets to London). I cannot wait ! From all I have read I think it will do the great man justice. I ve already told my girlfriend to be ready for some tears.

  4. Jo Torrent says:

    Ferrari will behave well on this track because they have good traction which is paramount. I see Alonso on the podium by Sunday.

    1. hobo says:

      They are lacking downforce and can’t get heat in the tires, how will this help?

      The latter may not be as important as they will be on softer, stickier tires but the former will be an issue.

      1. Michael Prestia says:

        The Ferrari is very soft on its tires and that is the main reason why it can not get heat into the hard tires. I bet the Ferrari gets the longest distance out of the super softs and this may translate into a win for Alonso.

      2. It is a slow circuit, so aero won’t be as critical. Mechanical grip will be more important, which is why Renault will do rather well and Red Bull will lose their big advantage. I am not sure what Ferrari’s mechanical grip level is like, but their aero problems won’t be a major cause for concern here.

      3. Tom says:

        @malcolm.strachan

        Based on Alonso’s performance in the final sector at Barcelona, particularly launching out of the slow stuff into the final turn, pretty damn good.

    2. Speed F1 says:

      Qualifying pace is also a concern for Ferrari unfortunately. Plus they are quite a bit slower than RB & McL as well. So, it Alonso gets any spot on the podium it will be because of his own talent, not the car or crazy Monaco weather.

  5. goferet says:

    Uh, a two stop strategy is a no brainer around Monaco, I remember back in 2006 Alon-Slow was able to frustrate a much faster Kimi till his engine let go.

    Yes, I too have high hopes for a Hammy win though I doubt he will be on pole for some reason, he hasn’t been able to pole it in Monaco for some reason.

    It’s very possible Vettel will pole it AGAIN this year & get beaten off the line.

    Anyway, hope you will all join me in doing a rain dance come Sunday for despite the tyre situation, Monaco may turn out to be our first boring race.

    P.s. I love the fact free practice always begins on Thursdays in Monaco, makes Saturday that much more exciting.

    I wonder what happens on Friday with this market day business, must be some kind of street carnival.

    1. DC says:

      But will the tyres allow it? 78 laps and the softs are only supposed to be good for 10!!!

      Not so sure about this 2 stop business….

      1. The other Ian says:

        I think in practise tomorrow, the teams will find out how long they will last for. They might find you are right. If the Soft tyres only last 20, then we could see 4 stops (e.g. 10 + 20 + 20 + 20 + 8, assuming; Super Soft, Soft, Soft, Soft, Super Soft)! Yikes!
        The only problem with this, is that the circuit will be a “green” track. I expect the performance and life of the tyres to improve by Sunday, as the track gets rubbered in.

      2. goferet says:

        @The Other Ian Nowadays strategists on the pit wall are really earning their money. Thanks for the clarification

      3. Aey says:

        The harder one is still soft

        so, I don’t think thier life will be twice as long. 50%more life at most

        Front runing car must make sure he won’t get into the slow traffic after pit, if he hit the traffic that the end of his battle. he can’t regain position back form the speed of his fast tyre.

        if the supersoft only last for 10 lap on heavyweight 1st stint, I think that would be problem for front runner becuase if 11th car use soft that last longer, within 10 lap I don’t think they can open the gap to more than 25 sec. they must hit the traffic.

        pretty interesting.

      4. goferet says:

        @DC Oops I hadn’t realized that the super softs are only good for 10 laps. Okay that has just put the cat among the pigeons = 4 stops.

        Under this circumstances, we shall’t have a bad race after all, talk about a lottery.

      5. DC says:

        if the track rubbers in then we may see some trying 3 stops I guess. the Saubers might have the legs for it. bit of variety in strategy should make this a classic Monaco GP.

  6. MR SERIOUS says:

    No scrap.

    No fight.

    Mclaren will win.

    End of.

    1. Speed F1 says:

      Sounds like a ‘serious dream’. Good Luck

      1. Luke Robbins says:

        LOL

    2. DC says:

      As much as I can admire confidence, there is such a thing as tempting fate!!!

  7. Andy C says:

    There is another track specialist this weekend. Pastor Maldonado. I’m expecting him to shine.

    Will be interesting to see which cars do well at Monaco as its more about traction and grip than pure downforce.

    Thats exactly why great placement driversn like Robert and Lewis can make such a difference.

    I’m going for a Lewis pole, a McLaren win.

    Someone reported Charlie Whiting and Colin Kolles were seen having an anited discussion this morning in the pitlane. Any insight? I can imagine what they might have been speaking about.

    1. Red5 says:

      My lipreading is not perfect but it is possible Charlie was suffering some toothache…

    2. Remember that Perez won last year… another new kid to look out for? I’d say the Sauber has a better chance at an upset than a Williams, and given Perez’s stellar one-stop strategy with excellent tire conservation at Melbourne, maybe he could pull off an amazing result.

      Peter might have just cause for repeating what he said in Melbourne… “not bad for a pay driver!”

      1. Andy C says:

        Maybe Malcolm maybe. Speak to you on twitter during the weekend when I’m proved right ;-)

      2. Maldonado vs. Perez = Perez beat him last year in GP2, and Perez is better on tires AND hasn’t crashed nearly as much as Maldonado.

        Williams vs. Sauber = Sauber has a lot more points than Williams, and would have more if it wasn’t for the unfortunate wing discrepancy in Melbourne.

        I think Perez is the better driver, and I also think Sauber is the better car. In a straight fight between the two, my money would be on Perez.

      3. James Allen says:

        Maldonado won the GP2 championship last year.

  8. Dave says:

    And of course, one safety car and all those careful calculations go in the bin!

  9. F12010 to kill time until March says:

    James, have you looked at the possibility that Jenson could have won in Spain(exit in 1st after 3rd stop) if he had kept his 5th place at the start? Seem to remember that the gap after the last stop was around 20+ sec. How much did he loose recovering from that awful start?

    Also, is there any trouth to Petrov loosing 0.6 sec in sector 2 in Spain quali? I think the Renault might mix it with the top 4 in Monaco, and as you pointed out Vettel will have it difficult for the next races if the McLaren is similar on racepace at Barca it should be clear at these next races.. RBR total race time is overhyped and I am very impressed by how Mclaren have reacted this season.

    As far as overtaking goes, I think there is possible to loose time behind other cars, but with better tyres(new vs. gone) we have seen overtaking in Monaco in recent years. Think we are in for a suprise.

    This race is going to be mindblowing i think!

    1. TheLegend says:

      Renault don’t have a driver able to fight for the top 5 this weekend

  10. The other Ian says:

    I am assuming that McLaren (and most of the other “top” teams) will go; Super Soft, Soft, & Soft.
    I reckon, who ever is in the lead after their second stop, will not want to come in again. For anyone else, a new set of Super Soft types may help, to catch the leader(s). Overtaking however, may be a bit more difficult!

    1. Speed F1 says:

      Overtaking is a right off in Monaco. Haven’t seen any decent overtaking since Schumacher, 2006

      1. F1a says:

        Not true at all. Alonso overtook about 4/5 other cars last year, just after the tunnel.

  11. David Perel says:

    “and a fifth place in the Toro Rosso in 2008″

    Not bad for a Toro Rosso…

    I think Seb will be a lot more confident in Monaco this year from the fact that he is leading the championship by a chunk, he is also a much better driver compared to last year and he carries the #1 on his car. The motivation to win will be massive.

    Can’t wait!

    1. James Allen says:

      It was a good Toro Rosso..

      1. Tom says:

        2008 was the year it was miles better than the “senior” team, right?

  12. Red5 says:

    Think we will see some storming drives on new tyres. Agree that Alonso is strong around the principality.

    However, once the tyres give up grip it will be interesting to see which drivers struggle to stay away from the barriers.

    Will the safety car cause the strategists a headache on Sunday?

    1. James Allen says:

      70% chance of safety car

    2. Not really; it’s the same as usual:

      If a safety car comes out, you should stop.

      If you were lucky enough to stop just before the safety car, then you get a bunch of positions.

      Under few circumstances should you wait until after the safety car to pit, otherwise you not only lost the gap behind you, but you also will lose any positions you gained when you decide to pit, as those who pitted will be right on your diffuser because they have new tires.

      The only time I would wait is if there are some very, very ominous clouds hanging out above the track, ready to unload some rain.

      The strategy isn’t difficult; it only adds one more dimension, and their strategists know a lot about several theories… it’ll just be the one that chooses the right theory to bank on that’ll be the deciding factor providing their driver keeps it out of the walls.

      That, or whoever has the most luck. Remember Panis in ’96? I don’t think Ligier was the pinnacle of strategy at that point in history… nor was their car a particularly strong one.

      1. Anton says:

        A busy pit lane also means there a possibility of being held by the lolipop man

      2. Losing a spot or two because of traffic in the pits is better than losing 5~10 spots because you decided to pit five laps after a safety car.

  13. nando says:

    What is the expected difference between soft and super-softs? Will the big teams run something like this to have two sets of fresh softs in the race, I assume the super-softs might not work in a two stop strategy.

    Quali
    Q1 soft / Q2 super-soft / Q3 super-soft x2

    Race
    super-softs / soft / soft ?

    1. James Allen says:

      Expected difference is 0.7s a lap

    2. The other Ian says:

      Since qualifying IS important in Monaco, as overtaking will be “difficult”, I can see people using 2 sets of super soft tyres in Q3, just to try and improve their position.
      So; Q1 – Soft, Q2 – Soft, Q3 – Super Soft (x 2?)

  14. Jo Torrent says:

    Drivers are not confident about super-soft tyres which didn’t prove great during pre-season tests.

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/91700

    1. *Malcolm likes this*

      Throwing a spanner in the works in terms of strategy usually provides a good race.

      1) It’s Monaco, so all bets are off.

      2) Tires that haven’t been run on since testing, so any bets you might have thought about are definitely off.

      3) Questionable asphalt, so yeah, no bets…

      4) Maybe some rain? Don’t even mention betting…

      5) A circuit that’s not so aero sensitive? All bets are uneducated guesses at this point. ;-)

      Personally, I can’t wait to watch this race! I’ll watch it from my hotel in Detroit, and then celebrate by dancing down where the US GP was held for a few years!

  15. Unocv12 says:

    Also

    DRS + Tyres + New track in braking zone = Saftey car

    Saftey car /= overtaking

    3 stop = overtaking

    3 stop /= saftey car

    DRS + Tyres + New track in braking zone /= 3 stop

    Logic.

  16. kalofer_bg says:

    Do not wright Alonso off. He is very good on the streets of Monaco. Pirreli are bringing Soft& Super soft and that should be suit F150 Italia with all slow corners. I see’

    Qualy:

    1.Alonso
    2.Hamilton
    3.Weber

    Race:
    1.Hamilton
    2.Alonso
    3.Weber

    It’s too bad the Kubica is not racing. Definitely he would of been in the mix.

    1. TheLegend says:

      If Alonso takes pole (something I really doubt, but everything is possible there) he will take the race, Ferrari won’t have tyres problems and Fernando will have a great race pace.

      1. kalofer_bg says:

        Indeed. One saml gltch in the pit and Hamilton will jump Alonso in the pits. Than it will be thard to get by..

      2. clyde says:

        i predict hamilton in the barriers :-}

    2. MR SERIOUS says:

      I’ll settle for that result :<)

    3. I wouldn’t write off Heidfeld; he’s finished well in the past, and Renault has a good chassis/suspension. I could see him snagging a podium.

  17. bones says:

    James,what is the stewards opinion about drivers blocking others that are 3 secs faster per lap?
    What are they planning to do?
    Is there any rule about it?

    1. If it’s for position, it’s fair game. As long as the blocking isn’t dangerous or illegal, it’s ok. There’s never been a problem with defensive driving; every racing driver does it and should do it!

      1. K-F1 says:

        Just to add: only one defensive move is allowed.

      2. Exactly, but the point I was getting at is that you can use that one defensive move even if the driver behind you is 10 seconds a lap slower. If it’s for position, it’s fair game.

        (The one move rule falls under what I said about “dangerous or illegal”) ;-)

  18. H-Bomb says:

    Would any of the front runners decide to go for the known quantity – softs for Q3?
    Data for 5 races and starts on softs could be important.
    This obviously will put them in traffic at the start, but as the super softs are only supposed to go maximum 10 laps.
    Pit stops being 25-26 seconds, traffic after the first pit stop could be an issue especially if others go for the prime.
    If they are not on the front row they are liable to be in traffic anyway and lose the advantage of the option in the race.
    I suppose the critical factor will be the drop off of the option and that is an unknown quantity.
    This could be a strategy for Button.

  19. BillC says:

    I fancy most will go on a 3 stop strategy with Jenson winning doing 2 stops.

  20. guy says:

    Thanks James – I also love the stuff on the ubs website too.

    Although two stops on the clock is quickest – factoring field spread it would seem three is a favourable option – especially given high chance of sfaety car.

    Also it will be interesting to see if red bull are super quick in quali given DRS shouldn’t have so much of an effect as there are no high speed corners.

  21. greg says:

    can’t wait for the weekend!

    i have a feeling shumi will play the long game again or may take the gamble to qualify on the s.softs to get pole.

    i think soft, soft, super soft & super soft again will be the way to go. get the fuel down before putting the s.softs on to go the distance.

    i’m going to the bookies to stick £10 on Shumi, just have a feeling that merc will shine.

    how will this new bit of tarmac effect the tyres james?

    1. Jack says:

      I really doubt they’d sacrifice grid position at Monaco, or are you saying for the drivers who aren’t in Q3?

  22. Luke Robbins says:

    Surely with overtaking so hard they will do 2 runs in Q3. Front row still vital for Monaco win or am I wrong?

  23. Eric says:

    Could anyone risk a one stop? Or maybe if you start towards the back of the grid do a very short first stint on the super soft of 1 lap, pit, and then go half way on the soft?

    1. Perez is the only one that’s done that yet… and made it work well. He also won there in GP2 last year.

      It’s Monaco, so anything could happen.

  24. MarkA says:

    Hang on… There are tyres that are only going to last about 8 laps … 26km. So much for ECO-F1.

    I love the new tyres, but that is mildly ridiculous.

    1. Jack says:

      exactly, it’s so hypocritical. I found out the other day that refuelling was banned to improve F1′s image and make it seem less wasteful, even though carrying more fuel means you have to burn more fuel! Ah well, F1′s all about the image

      1. nando says:

        I thought it was due to the high cost of the refuelling rigs and of course the danger of fire.

      2. Chapor says:

        The costs of flying the re-fueling rigs all over the world were substantially more costly and used up a lot more jet fuel than the little extra fuel the cars burn during a race.

  25. Hamilton, Webber and Alonso are the key men this weekend, for my money. All three of them are in their element around Monaco and I’m expecting this to be the best qualifying session of the year.

    The Ferrari seems to have good mechanical grip but poor downforce levels so I’m not sure Alonso will be in a position to win it, but he’ll certainly have a say in the outcome. My gut feeling is that we’ll either see Mark Webber enter the title fight with a bang here, or a top-drawer performance from Lewis Hamilton.

    Vettel isn’t much of a streetfighter and seems to drive a bit within himself at tracks like this but who knows, maybe this is the year he starts to grow out of that? Button, despite driving a great race in 2009, doesn’t usually go that well in the Principality. He’ll gain some places if he can make a 2-stopper work, but I think both Button and Vettel will have to work hard to keep Rosberg and Schumacher at bay.

    Renault are once again the wild card. Their car could could be capable of cracking the top 6 but I don’t think either driver has the ability to really shine around Monaco. In fact, I’d put money on Petrov bringing out 2011′s first safety car on Sunday!

  26. Phil Waddell says:

    I was a little concerned about Vettel’s record at Monaco…until I checked the stats. He’s only raced there three times in F1 (2008 with Torro Rosso and 2009&10 with Red Bull).

    He really is still just a youngster, isn’t he!!

    1. Bob D says:

      Agree, Phil.

      In 2008 Vettel started 19th and finished 5th.

      In 2009 he started 4th and binned it for a DNF.

      In 2010 he started 3rd and finished 2nd.

      Don’t understand why so many folks dismiss young Seb. Nationality? Should make for and interesting qualifying and race.

    2. creed says:

      And 5th in a Toro Rosso, and last year 2nd with a damaged chassis. So I don’t understand people claiming he is bad here or other street circuits (most tims he finishes above Webber, including Canada and Singapore).

      People just seem to make up stuff as they go along.

  27. Richard says:

    70+ laps, tyres that don’t last, high chance of safety cars making a mess of things & a circuit where its hard to overtake…

    Prehaps a car that can stay out much longer on tyres and eek a 2-stop out could win. Wonder what odd’s I can get for Perez to win.

  28. Onyx says:

    The Gp Lotus Renault should be good at Monaco…just a shame they havnt got a decent driver….Should have signed the Hulk!

  29. Ben G says:

    Track position is king.

    Mansell couldn’t get past Senna in a way faster car in ’92.

    1. F1a says:

      People keep saying this – but no one is Senna. He was the ultimate. I believe that with these tyres and these drivers, fresh tyres will overtake just after the tunnel.

      1. Stevie P says:

        Interesting you say that, as I was just thinking that I reckon we’ll see more “corner exit” rather than “into corner” passes – although into the chicane after the tunnel will of course see “attempts”.

        For me, I see superior tyre grip and some KERS on corner exits, e.g. the same chicane as mentioned above, down to Tabacc and maybe out of St Devote up the hill, allowing cars to pass on acceleration (rather than braking) as traction reduces to varying degrees [think back to turns 10 to 11 in Spain, for what I'm kinda getting at :-)].

  30. D. says:

    James,

    tremendous article, thank you much for this information. I have not seen any other site providing race-strategy infornation anywhere near the depth discussed here. Kudos !

    From what I read on the various sites, Renault fancy their chances for a podium as well (in fact, one of their comments directly mentioned the possibility of a race win !).

    Any thoughts on Renault for this race ?

    1. James Allen says:

      They were mighty here last year with Kubica. Heidfeld goes well on street tracks, they should be competitive certainly

  31. goferet says:

    @Phil Waddell Yes the lad is really a youngster but this year, he’s been winning races he hadn’t won before. Australia & Spain being examples & guess what, Monaco could be the next.

  32. Komieko says:

    James, just a query. I have replayed via DVR all of this seasons races. I have noticed specifically this past weekend that the Mclaren front wing camera that was on Lewis’s car was swinging for the first time. Am I to assume that Mclaren now have the famous flexing wing? Also, I noticed that after Red Bull makes its first pit stop in each race, they are manually manipulating increasing/reducing the downforce on the front wing. Could this be the reason why they are so devistatingly fast in qualifying?

    1. James Allen says:

      It’s standard practice to take front downforce out at the first stop. You can’t have a quali set up and a race set up, so you just have a bit more front bite for quali to get the tyres lit up and then you take it out at the first stop

      1. nando says:

        Are the teams adjusting ride-heights during the pit-stops?

  33. goferet says:

    I have been out here thinking … whenever Hammy is expected to win a race by the majority of the fans, nine times out of ten, he doesn’t do it e.g. Monaco 2009.

    So I have changed my mind & am putting my money on Vettel to win this again for not only is the Red Bull’s qualifying pace vulgar, but Vettel has been picking up race wins this year he had never won.

    Looking back at my archives, most of Hamilton’s wins have come when few expect him to win such as China 2011 & Monaco 2008 & lets not forget Silverstone 2008 (Damn, I love that race.)

    Oh and by the way, happy anniversary to me for it was this weekend eight years ago that this bloke began following Formula 1 on television.

    Happy anniversary & may I live to see many more to come.

    1. Grayzee (Australia) says:

      ooh…you just a spring chicken. This year marks 30 years for me. I saw Alan Jones win the 1980 title and was hooked! (Mind you,I was pretty young back then…. :-))
      Happy Anniversary, Goferet.

  34. BurgerF1 says:

    It should be interesting to see how the drivers cope with the sharp degradation in tire performance. On normal race tracks, they can afford to slide wide occasionally for a lap or two after over-stepping the life of the tire since they won’t hit anything. At Monaco, this would put you out of the race. What driver’s seem to rely on for pace in Monaco is a consistent car with predictable tire performance. That’s no longer the case. Over-step the life of the tire, and the lap time penalty might be much more dramatic in Monaco.

  35. PaulL says:

    Don’t know if this was brought up in the previous post about Ferrari not enjoying the hard life, but Ferrari have to get slicker with their pitstops if they’re going to stay at the front in races. They seem to average around 4-5 seconds whereas the top 2 teams can do 3-4. Not much in it! But you still can’t afford to be giving away half a second when racing for position.

  36. Jack says:

    I have exactly the same level of excitement for Monaco this year as I did for the start of this season. There’s just so many permutations of what could happen that I can’t wait for this weekend, lot’s of questions to be answered. Although, as James mentioned, this is the track I would have been most excited to see what Kubica could pull out of the bag. Hopefully we’ll see him on a Friday soon!

  37. jay harte says:

    james
    vettels best result at canada is 4th in last years race .
    looking forward to the next few races as you say james red bull are still hit and miss with the kers. mclaren are looking great for wins at montreal and valencia even if red bull get pole
    in both the twin drs zones will make them very vunerable ,this weekend will all depend on who has fresh tyres and track position after the 2nd or 3rd stops ,cant wait .

  38. ACB says:

    I’ll be happy to not have to sit through another tyre changing competition that gets interrupted every 15 laps or so by a race.

  39. Historically speaking, quite a few drivers have done well here. I think we’ll see a good battle for the top spot between several drivers.

    Webber: Despite the loss of the aero advantage, it’s still a good chassis and the extra downforce will help a bit in a few corners, such as Massenet, Tabac and the entry to the Piscine complex. The off-throttle EBD should work particularly well in Massenet, as they spend a significant portion of the corner off-throttle. Webber has also run well in the past, even before his win last year.

    Alonso: also quick at Monaco, and the Ferrari is good on soft tires. Their aero problems won’t hurt them as much here. This adds up to Alonso being a force to be reckoned with, even if he was lapped in Spain.

    Heidfeld: finishes well, which bodes well for a race that is historically high in attrition. Beyond that, he is also in the Renault, which has a very good chassis; mechanical grip is king here. He might not win, but Renault has had two podiums this year, so I wouldn’t bet against Heidfeld finishing in the top three or maybe even pulling off an upset win.

    Vettel: Same advantages as Webber in terms of his car, and has the advantage of winning the last few races. He hasn’t fared too badly in two out of the three Monaco GP’s he’s contested, so he certainly is no write-off.

    Hamilton: Talented, good car, and the aero disadvantage will be minimized further. He’s had a 2nd, a win, a 12th and a 5th, so who knows how he’ll actually do? My guess is he’ll either be on the podium or in the wall. He even tapped the wall when he won (and I seem to recall his mistake ending up giving him a nice advantage through a change of strategy).

    Button: Same car as Hamilton, but might treat the tires a little better. Also a little more mature, so less likely to tap a barrier.

    Perez: Ok, hear me out; he’s the only driver to pull off a one-stopper (Melbourne) which means he’s good on the tires, the Sauber is a decent car, and he won here last year in GP2. All signs point to positive. Not a contender for pole and only a chance of making it to Q3, but a top-5 finish could be in the cards if he drives the smart race I think he can.

    Maldonado? I could see him scoring points, but likely not any better than that. Williams has a long way to come before he could cause a huge upset. Too many good cars are between him and the podium… but then again, anything can happen in Monaco.

    The battle for pole will likely be between Webber, Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel and Heidfeld, with Button, Massa and Petrov not far behind. If I was forced under much duress to bet on the win, I would say Webber would repeat.

  40. Fausto Cunha says:

    I love this race but this year i´m fering the safety car very much.

    Drivers on worn tyres at the end of the race against drivers with new tyres on a track like this i think we are in for a safety-car show and it will play is part on the win.

  41. Gary Corby says:

    Given the extreme difficulty of passing, why wouldn’t you use up all your super-softs in qualifying, for the best possible start position, and then stay out as long as possible on the softs?

    Pre-race strategy is probably a waste of time here. Teams will be making it up as they go, reacting to events, guided by the aim of keeping their guys out of the pits as much as possible.

  42. F1a says:

    I love the need of prediction – too many factors mean any of the top 5 can win. Except Webber :P

    I will say that form-wise, Lewis seems in absolutely top spec and driving head and shoulders above the rest currently.

  43. BC says:

    Re strategy:
    Since a safety car is highly likely (James said 70% chance), any advantage built on the supersofts in the first stint will be lost.
    If you are the first of the soft tyre runners, you will gain the lead and track position when the super soft runners have to pit. Unless they build a stop’s worth of gap in 10 laps, which I reckon is unlikely and the penalty of exiting the pits in midfield traffic is very high.
    If you can exit the pit in the lead, or near the lead on your last stop to put on the supersofts, I reckon you would have a winning strategy – maybe something for Webber or Button to consider. New supersofts may have over 2 seconds advantage compared to worn softs and a good chance of outbraking.

  44. Ryan Eckford says:

    I feel there are six teams that have cars that are capable of being on the podium. These teams are Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Renault, Mercedes and Williams. I feel that Red Bull will have the advantage again, but by not much over the other five teams I have mentioned, who will be fairly close to each other. I feel if Kubica was in that Renault, it would be a totally different story. Eric Boullier can say that Petrov has improved his speed from last year, but I know that a driver’s speed really never changes during a career, and we all know that this Renault is better than last year. It needs a driver of Kubica’s class and speed to show off the true potential of this car. If a driver was to take 2 or more years off, different story, but to say Petrov is faster than last year, I just don’t buy into that.

  45. David Turnedge says:

    If Webber doesn’t win here, and Vettel places ahead of him…

  46. Robert N says:

    James,

    how are they going to police the non-usage of DRS in the tunnel? I assume this will rely on the driver not to activate it there. Will a driver simply lose his time if the rear wing is open in the tunnel during a flying lap?

  47. Matra says:

    So is Alonso out of your favorites still JA?

    1. James Allen says:

      He’s a great driver, no question. So are one or two others in F1. No favourites

  48. I'monfire says:

    Can someone tell Vettel that he over uses the index finger.

    If Vettel beats Webber in this race I expect Mark will have driven his last Monaco GP in a competitive car.

    Thoughts?

  49. Sam says:

    Can someone tell me why this race is on the calendar? Not being a traditionalist I find this procession as boring as anything to do with the royal family. A procession of cars for 2 hrs around a tight twisting circuit on which it is almost impossible to pass (at least for the lead cars). Get this race off the calendar. I know it is fun for the rich and famous who are there in person on their yachts with the hot young women but as a spectator on TV I find this the worst race of the year!

  50. eso news says:

    No one can do it better than you.

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