McLaren concerned over qualifying chaos in Monaco
McLaren concerned over qualifying chaos in Monaco
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 May 2010   |  6:32 pm GMT  |  102 comments

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh today spoke of his concern that there would be chaos and controversy during the first part of qualifying in Monaco this weekend, due to the enlarged field and the speed differential between the fastest and slowest cars.

With the three new teams this year regularly around six seconds off the pace in qualifying and 24 cars packed onto the tight streets of Monaco for the first 20 minute session, Whitmarsh predicts trouble. It is possible that one of the front runners might get blocked, miss the cut to get out of Q1 and be forced to start at the back of the field in a race where overtaking is nigh on impossible.

“At the moment we have to accept that there are six cars that are very difficult to avoid,” he said during a Vodafone phone-in with leading websites. “They have been in the order of six/seven seconds slower and when you’re trying to open a gap you have cars behind you so you can’t back off, and it’s a circuit where you’re going to catch cars and a circuit at which it’s very difficult for those cars to get out of the way, even if they want to.”

The idea of splitting that first session into the new teams and then the rest has been discussed but it hasn’t happened, not least because the new teams do not want to be portrayed as second class, especially when the CEOs and Chairmen of their sponsors are watching, as many will be.

Monaco is a rare opportunity for a new team’s driver to get out of Q1. Take someone like Jarno Trulli, a former winner of the race and a real Monaco specialist. He has got to fancy his chances of getting a better lap in than an Liuzzi or a Hulkenberg. He only needs two drivers from established teams to stumble and he’s into Q2. The traffic problems, particularly the HRT cars, will be a great leveller for everyone and will create opportunities.

Also it’s worth pointing out that the Lotus car in Spain was only 2 seconds off the Toro Rosso in qualifying pace and only 2.7 seconds slower than Jenson Button’s McLaren, so not all new teams pose the same threat.

In the 1990s fields of 26 cars were common and in the 1993 Monaco Grand Prix, for example, there were 26 cars attempting to qualify and the slowest was 9 seconds off the pace. Guess who that was? Luca Badoer. Of the cars who did qualify the gap from front to back was six seconds. So it’s not like this has never been done before, even if the time they have for qualifying is much less now.

As for championship leader McLaren’s chances of a 16th Monaco win, they are probably pretty good. Both Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have won the race before and Hamilton in particular is very strong on tracks where the walls or barriers are close to the track. Red Bull will carry its qualifying advantage over from Spain, but I think McLaren will give them a real run for their money this weekend and Hamilton will have targeted this as a race he can win. Another will be Montreal with its long straights, lack of fast corners and walls lining the track.

* Whitmarsh also confirmed that Lewis Hamilton’s retirement from Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix was due to a wheel rim failure.

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I don’t think it will prove to be any more of a problem than usual.

There were 22 cars in 2006 with the same qualifying format we have today, The slowest cars were 3-4 seconds slower (About what Virgin/Lotus were off the pace by in FP1/2 today) & the only issue in q1 was Massa crashing at Casino.

Like today in 2006 I recall teams complaining that Super Aguri would cause problems at Monaco in there 4 year old Arrows chassis & they didn’t.

Something else to consider is that GP2 only get 30 minuites to qualify & all 24 cars are out at the same time & it never causses any problems. The slowest GP2 car in practice today was 4.2 seconds off the pace so in the realm of the new F1 teams.


I remember when traction control was banned, many drivers predicted chaos in Monaco, especially if it was wet. What happened? It was wet and the attrition rate was no greater than usual.

Perhaps predictions of the end of the world as F1 knows it are a little far of the mark. Perhaps the powers that be also know that the race will be another bore and only the sight of a top driver trying to overtake around Monaco will keep the punters awake.


It may keep the drivers awake too!

Remember when Senna, in the lead by miles, got bored and fell asleep? DNF!

David Jerromes

Unless the weather intervenes, getting through Q1 is going to be so hectic in the last minute or so, especially with cars on hot laps after the clock has reached 0:00 and others are slowing down on their ‘special mixture settings’ heading for the pits….

I believe we’ll see at least one of the new teams’ cars making it through to Q2 just because of the likelihood of traffic blighting the hot laps of some of those who customarily are there!

I had thought that increasing the Q1 session time by 30 or even 50% might help, however its always the frenzied rush to avoid the ignomany of that cut at the session end that will be there regardless of whether the session is 20, 30 or 40 minutes!

Monaco will be exciting for sure, I predict plenty of carbon-fibre on the streets ALL this race weekend…


if the only problem is that the new teams dont wanna appear second class, the solution is simple: don’t split the field between new and old teams, but split it more evenly into two fields, this will simply cause the cars to have more space, which is the main problem…

Steven Pritchard

Unfortunately this is just a fact of life, and the teams / driver will just have to manage. Not ideal, but should make for an interesting grid.

I expect Hamilton to be mighty in Monaco, but you have to think the Red Bulls will come up trumps (although they really struggled with tyre wear last year…)


Will it be possible for FOTA to make their internal decision and all teams agree to split up into 12 faster cars (10 mins) and 12 slower cars (10 mins).

Ermmm….Karun might show them the two fingers thingy. I’m taking it as a lottery. Imagine De Grassi in 5th.

On hindsight, if all dosen’t work out well, then no procession???

Rain is a must! Where’s the juju man?


I completely agree FOTA can do it outside of FOM and the FIA officially changing the rules.

Jake Pattison

Whitmarsh is just worried about Button getting stuck behind someone again….

and with good reason :p


Suck it up, it’s racing.


But what if one is driving a Ferrari sports car and the other a Hyundai Accent? Will that be racing? Did you noticed there were taxis circulating during the Spain GP.


They were just picking up the drivers who went off! 🙂


Thats the beauty of the sport, isnt it?

You talk about competition, right. It surely aint about speed only. F1 should be a combination of speed, skill and strategy and requires team and drivers to anticipate the changing conditions. You have to be an oppurtunist, as Button did in China and Australia. He was not faster than red bulls but he grabbed his chance. HRT, Lotus and Virgin will have their chances in Monaco and they do have their right to grab it because they are no mugs, they are professional racing outfits. Mr. Whitmarsh, please do not undermine the competetion, you have a fast car but you do need to respect slower teams.


With the new teams being so far off the pace, and even last year there where many incidents of cars missing Q2 or Q3 because of traffic.

Does anyone think that single lap qualifying is a good idea for next year?

We could have single lap for to decide 11-24 (or 26) then the normal top 10 shoot out. I know there are issues with tracks rubbering in etc, but the time lost must be less than coming up against a car that is 6 seconds slower.

It would also save on tyres, which would help the new supplier for 2011.


The smart thing for the teams who are new to the sport would be for them to NOT run in qualifying.

They would save the embarrassment to their drivers the potential expense of damaged equipment and most likely earn plenty of brownie points with the more established teams.

The new teams are not going to be at the pointy end of the grid and as we have seen, not very likely to make it to Q2.

‘A man’s gotta know his limitations’ (Clint Eastwood), and surely the new teams know they are going to get tripped over in the hectic scramble that will be Q3.

So if I were advising them, I’d tell them to make the most of practice and then march up to the top teams and tell them they are going to NOT post a time in Q3 and for them to remember this gesture in the future.

Martin Collyer

I don’t have extensive knowledge of the rulebook but I think I have heard or read somewhere that if you are eligible to run in a Q session you have got to run (mechanical failures, car stranded on track in previous session etc apart)


Well put in 2 laps in Q3 and get out of the way.

That would make Q3 15min for the rest of the teams. Better to have excitement against the clock than against a barrier or someones rear suspension.

All cars on track with only 140 -150m between them with the speed and talent differential is not good.


You are right Martin, there are plenty of good suggestions here, but none can be implemented now, apart from mine of course 😉

Martin Collyer

I don’t think that would count as having attempted to take part, no timed lap!

You may be about to suggest a three lap run and that would count as an attempt to set a time.

But the true problem here is that this whole problem could have/should have been foreseen last year giving plenty of time to sort the problem.

There are some good suggestions under this story as to how this problem could have been addressed, but it’s far too late to do anything for this year’s race.

obi wan oakley

Forgive me if i’m being ignorant but if the new teams elected not to take part in qualifying would there not be some sort of penalty that would then exclude them from participating in the race?

I’m not saying that is the case & i suppose i should really know as i’ve been watching F1 since 1997.


I guess it is probably much like ‘Team Orders’ in that respect.

But they could just as easy say they will go out first do 2 laps and then stay in the garage.

They have nothing to gain but everything to lose by being mobile chicanes.


‘So not going out in qualifying, or not going out and putting in just a token showing, could do some damage.’

You mean being lapped 4 times in a race or being the cause of an expensive accident or destroying a top 4 teams qualifying by not being able to get out of the way is not going to do some damage?

These teams will get more sponsors if the demonstrate some common sense.


sponsorship, corporate hospitality, they’ll have invited VIPs and will be wooing sponsors at Monaco, the biggest race of the year.

So not going out in qualifying, or not going out and putting in just a token showing, could do some damage.


This does not look good. I am afraid that if something is not done soon to stem the boredom

we are going to loose allot of fans.

There needs to be a concerted effort to bring back passing at all costs.

Zobra Wambleska

I’ve followed F1 since 1956 and while I love to see lots of passing it’s not what keeps me interested in the formula. For me, and I suspect a lot of hard core fans, the interest package is a much bigger than that one issue. I’m interested in the technology on all levels, the personalities, the strategy, and the constant struggle that all teams find themselves having to just keep up. The real interests can only be fully appreciated over a season and beyond. I’d suggest that, for those of you that want instant gratification and a passing frenzy to keep from getting bored, you move on to a different form of racing.


Ah yes, remember “our Noige” chasing the back end of a certain someone, about six inches (and sometimes less) behind, for the last few laps. Now that’s how we want the aero today!

Even with good aero back then, it was impossible to overtake in Monaco if the one in front defended even minimally; so today we stand no chance of seeing any contested overtake. Unless as last year coming out of the tunnel into a forced error.


In reference to Hamilton’s wheel rim failure, is it just me or did it look terrifyingly similar to Heikki Kovaleinen’s in 2008?

If Mclaren still use Enkei rims which I think they still do, would Mclaren start having talks with Enkei about its manufacturing or supplies?

Even if both the incidents don’t really seem to be related and far and few.


why should the top teams worry so much when they can go out early and set a competitive time and sit out the rest of Q1 and let the midfield and new teams slug it out for the rest of the segment?


This is going to be one hell of demolition derby.


Why is this issue only just being raised? Why did FOTA and the FIA not consider scenarios like this when they were busy tinkering with the rules? IMHO they should all just get on with it. Everyone will be in the same boat. If it all goes belly up perhaps a lesson will be Learnt. Let’s face it, if it’s dry we’ll need something to spice the race up as competitive overtakes will be nigh close to impossible at Monaco with the current aero specs.

Martin Collyer

I think you are right Gantsa, this should have been forseen last year.

Drivers too, should have realised way back that this could be a problem.


I don’t think FOTA and the FIA realised that by this point in the season, there would be a speed differential of around 6 seconds between the top teams and the new teams.

Remember Lotus at the start of the season were saying the new points system meant they should be able to pick up some?


Let’s hope that Schumacher does a better job in qualifying than he did the last time he was in Monaco.


No Parking Please…LOL!

Maxime Labelle


My understanding is that Mercedes will revert to the previous, shorter car for Monaco.

I sure hope this is good news for Rosberg, who has not yet fully adapted to his new

How do you think this will impede Schumacher’s chances to shine there ?


Not what I heard in Spain. Let’s be clear, the lengthening is about suspension geometry, the chassis is the same length


‘Fry said his team, which used an updated car in Spain, will revert to the shorter wheelbase machine for Monaco.

“There is some specific front suspension for Monaco so it will be different again. As always we do some unique changes for Monaco, because the cars designed for circuits like Barcelona won’t get around the hairpin.”‘


If a driver is found to be impeded (as in if the stewards award a penalty) will the FIA finally address the ruling and advance the driver who was impeded and give him a chance in Q2 or Q3?

If you think about it, it’s fair even if that driver didn’t deserve it. Because in the next session he will just go to the back anyway if the is slow.

It’s going to be REALLY STUPID if these backmarkers affect the championship and if Webber/Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton or Button aren’t able to advance to Q2 because of a backmarker.

They did something like this in Monaco with DC and Heiki a few years ago, but I’m talking more about instating a rule.

Personally, I don’t like these backmarkers at all. Even having to overtake them 4 or 5 times a race is beyond a joke. It’s like Mosley is sitting back at home and laughing at the joke he has pulled on everyone. But if they crash into someone or ruin qualifying it will be a joke. Who cares if they get into Q2. They will be slow in the race and will probably retire anyway.


The joy of Monaco is it’s much less about the machinery and all about how the driver’s can throw it around close to the walls. Jenson was epic here last year and he’s my favourite going into the weekend.


Looking forward to the weekend!


Hey, that’s motor racing.


Ah, but back when there were so many cars, the sessions were 60 minutes long, so it wasn’t so hard to get a semblance of a clean lap in the entire process. Now Q1, the real problem, is far shorter, and the slowest teams tend to be lapping constantly during this period.

So comparing this to the 90s is not apples to apples James, and you know it.


How much quicker are they lapping now than in the past? That reduces track capacity. Also when there were 26 teams before the format of qualifying was different. YOu didn’t have such a short window to stay in the event.


Although its understandable for McLaren (and probably all the top teams) to fear slower drivers, they have to realise that slow cars arent only a potential hazard for them, but also their rivals. As you pointed out James, its not just 6 new teams to worry about, but a string of new drivers in F1 that might have limited experience at Monaco. If this makes qualifying more exciting then the last 5 races (which had become too predictable) then all the better. Throw in some potential rain, and this could be chaotic and fun to watch.

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