The joy of Monaco
Scuderia Ferrari
The joy of Monaco
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 May 2011   |  5:01 pm GMT  |  21 comments

The sun is shining, the harbour is full of big boats and the competition looks very exciting this weekend at the Monaco Grand Prix. You can tell that the drivers are really pumped up about this race and several of them have a chance as things look after the first day of practice.

The best seats in the house (Red Bull)

As the world pulls itself out of recession, there is a real buzz about Monaco this year. There are some monster boats bobbing in the harbour, the corporate execs are happy to be seen here again after wearing sack cloth and ashes for a year or two. Of course there is plenty of horse trading going on behind the scenes over the future of the sport and the ebb and flow between the teams and Bernie Ecclestone. I asked him this afternoon about his plan to charge the teams to race. Would he see it through? “I hope I’m alive to see it!” he said.

The weather helps everyone’s mood – it’s baking hot and there are no menacing clouds forecast to come over the mountain tops to threaten the spectacle.

On track the cars look spectacular – Button kissing the barriers on a wide elegant line out of Casino Square, Alonso flick-flaking the Ferrari through the first swimming pool corner at immense speed. Hamilton looks hungry, as does Rosberg. You don’t sense that this is a nailed-on Red Bull weekend. McLaren are on them pace wise in race conditions, while Alonso talks of ‘needing to take risks’ to close the gap to the others. He also means by that that the engineers need to take risks in development, some light bulb solutions are called for. But judging by the way the leading drivers are attacking the circuit already, this is going to be a classic Monaco.

We learned today that Pirelli’s predictions for how long the tyres would last was wrong; they are lasting far longer than expected.

The soft Pirelli (which is the prime tyre here) is especially durable on this low grip surface. As the track ramps up that should even improve, although there are no guarantees. It will make a 2 stop race more likely for many, especially as track position is still very important here.

At the limit it might even make a team like Sauber try a one stop with one of its cars.

Vettel did a 23 lap run where the final lap was a comparable time to the first. With only around 36 kilos of fuel burned off in that time – worth a second a lap – it seems that the tyres will last well and that will affect the strategy, pushing people towards stopping only twice.

Another point is that the tyres seem pretty fast compared to last season’s Bridgestones. The fastest time in Practice 2 last year was a 1m 14.9 by Alonso. Today it was Alonso again with a 1m 15.1. The supersoft tyre, making its debut today, seems fast, but also more durable than expected.

The cars have improved since last year, and the DRS is a small factor here, but important nevertheless. But they are also heavier with the KERS system, so Pirelli have done a pretty good job. The gap between the supersoft and the soft in single lap performance isn’t huge, 1.2 seconds maybe, so you can imagine all kinds of possible strategies in Q3 for cars outside the top five or six, which will make for a very interesting Sunday afternoon.

Michael Schumacher had a moment in the morning when he crashed the Mercedes into St Devote, in two minds as to whether to take the escape road. One or two ex drivers in the paddock said it looked like an accident that a younger man’s reflexes would have dealt with, but perhaps that was uncharitable. Mercedes’ Norbert Haug described it as “a little off”, Schumacher called it a ‘crash’ and went on, “We had made a set-up change for the run and I locked up braking for turn one. After that, my decision to go down the escape road was too late, which is why I hit the barrier.”

MONACO GRAND PRIX, Monte-Carlo, Free Practice 2
1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m15.123s 42 laps
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m15.228s + 0.105 33 laps
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m15.321s + 0.198 44 laps
4. Jenson Button McLaren 1m15.448s + 0.325 38 laps
5. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m15.667s + 0.544 46 laps
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m15.781s + 0.658 45 laps
7. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m16.356s + 1.233 33 laps
8. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m16.642s + 1.519 42 laps
9. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m17.101s + 1.978 46 laps
10. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1m17.126s + 2.003 38 laps
11. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m17.337s + 2.214 35 laps
12. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m17.541s + 2.418 47 laps
13. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m17.570s + 2.447 39 laps
14. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m17.581s + 2.458 32 laps
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m17.633s + 2.510 49 laps
16. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m17.706s + 2.583 37 laps
17. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m17.789s + 2.666 43 laps
18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m18.266s + 3.143 50 laps
19. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m18.490s + 3.367 39 laps
20. Paul di Resta Force India 1m19.053s + 3.930 15 laps
21. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m19.185s + 4.062 40 laps
22. Timo Glock Virgin 1m19.338s + 4.215 35 laps
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m22.066s + 6.943 33 laps
24. Tonio LIuzzi HRT 0 laps

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Looking forward to qualifying, 6 guys in the mix should make it the best of the year, exciting.

Alonso and Hamilton looking strong as expected, Rosberg not far behind with Button and Vettel bringing up the rear. Webber must be disappointed, but the track will be green again during P3, so certainly as time to catch up.


I’m not certain, but I just watched P2 back again, and It really didn’t look like Vettel had his rear wing open on the short straight after the chicane on his fast lap, It looked like the other drivers were using it there, It’s a short straight but I would have thought It would be of use, shame the only other shot you got of the exterior of his car was coming out of the tunnel and it’s banned there anyway.

maybe I was just seeing things, looks like it going to be one hell of a close race!


I’m driving to Monaco from Essex in 10 hours and counting, yeehhaa. Come on Ferrari, make it a worthy trip.


Has the puddle been fixed?


I’ve got to say James that this is the nicest piece of yours that I have read to date on this blog.

It is like listening to a radio show and really cnveys a sense of the excitement of Monaco.


Monaco is always a joy to watch just because it’s such a special venue. Let’s all hope for an exciting weekend!


Sorry, but F1 @ Monaco is terrible. It’s great to see the cars zooming around with the barricades so close to the track, but that grows old after the first 10 laps. What we’re left with is then a boring, no overtaking procession.

This is the 1 race a year I skip intentionally.


Those “ex drivers” are probably the ones who always like to stick the boot in where Schumacher is concerned. Whatever Schumacher does is micro anaylsed, whatever he does or doesn’t do he gets critcism. I know they are two differents incidents but I saw a “younger driver” unable to deal with an off in the same session at the chicane.


Eh, I wouldn’t pull out the champagne just yet, Red Bull always do this, they always do not show their true hand in FP1 & FP2 only for Q3 to come around Saturday afternoon & that’s when they turn the switch to their jet propelled engine & BANG – Pole.

So I expect to see a smiling Vettel on Pole again irrespective of what the competition does.

All we can hope for is he doesn’t pick up another win but Vettel has been winning races this year he hadn’t won before & if Jenson’s championship season is anything to go by, Vettel has to win 5 of the first 6 races.

As for Monaco, I don’t know, I have never warmed to the place, it’s too compact.

If I were wealthy, no way, no how, would I ever leave in tiny Monaco, I love a place with lots of green land & scenery


Michael Schumacher gag to Rosberg was 1s and so was Webber’s gap to Vettel. It’s becoming embarrassing for those 2.

Schumacher is increasingly looking like an old Boxer who simply can’t/won’t realize he’s off the cliff and it’s painful really to see him perform this way. I want him to stop just for the sake of his own image.

Problem with champions is that ego that gives them self-belief make them blind to their decline.

Drivers don’t respect Schumacher skills anymore and more annoyingly they don’t respect the champion as Hamilton recent declarations show.

As for Webber, well I don’t know what’s going on.


Sorry, as a Schumi fan I have to jump in…

How many here think Schumi doesn’t care what the press or others think of him?

How many here think Schumi doesn’t care if Hamilton or anyone other driver respects him?

How many here enjoy seeing the 7 stars on the helmet on board video?

As for the incident, I think his impact would have been much harder had he gone right, not to mention risk of a collision with other cars. Good reflexes and good call by an experienced driver who locked up breaks. He’s not the only one to lock up the breaks around here.

I hope everyone can see that even uber-perfect Schumi can make an unintentional mistake around Monaco streets – just like he obviously and honestly did in 2006. 🙂


Quali predictions


Ferrari are relatively quick even on one lap (Alonso) and so is Rosberg. They should be able to qualify on Prime for Q1.

Q1 problem is of course traffic and that’s a lottery.

Hamilton & Alonso managed 2 quick laps on the same super-soft set an aborted one and the good one. So the option set can be used twice.

I think that qualifying is so important here with the useless DRS & very difficult overtaking that the teams will go out twice in each session to gain positions on the grid.

I see McLaren/RBR & maybe Alonso & Rosberg doing this

Q1 on prime (soft)

Q2 on option (super-soft)

Q3 on option twice

– re-use the option used in Q2

– then use a new option set

this way the teams will tackle the race with a new set of option and 2 new sets of prime.

Race Strategy


The big boys should go for a 2 stopper (Button might go his own way as usual)

option / option / prime (more likely)


option / prime / prime

depending on tyre degradation.

If they can save tyres in Quali, they will always fit a new set at each pît-stop.


Setup change or no, St. Devote seems an odd place to go off under braking. Especially with brake bias being adjustable from inside the cockpit. On the other hand, while Boss Haug tried to sugar-coat it, at least Michael had the honesty to call it what it really was.


I hope Alonso win this race..


“…some light bulb solutions are called for.”

I’m enjoying reading your commentary Mr. Allen, sir. Well written stuff.


I reckon Massa’s the dark horse this weekend – he’s got a good record at Monaco – in the top 4 for the last four years, the only driver to do that. His long stint was quite impressive today as well.

Anyway, this weekend should be brilliant, it looks like there are up to 8 cars fighting for the top spot.


We are already back to 2 stops!

This is where it starts, the tyres are the best aspect of this year with the DRS in my opinion a bit fake.

Pirelli have mentioned several times recently about 2 stops as if to placate the pit lane who has said many times there were too many pit stops at the first races.

I can now see 2 stops and artificial DRS ruining the rest of the season.

A Monaco with 3+ stops was looking great.

Glad I did not waste the cash going.

If I am right and I hope I am not, I may be selling my Silverstone tickets.


Whether the race is a procession or an action packed event, its always amazing watching these cars go around this track on the tv.

I can only imagine what it is like to actually witness it.


Let me tell you, it’s worth every penny of the 500 Euro+ Sunday ticket. Take section K1 for grandstands if you go, I think it’s best as you see them exit the tunnel and all the way into pool. You get nearly all passes there of course.

Every red blooded F1 fan should make the pilgrimage to Monaco at least once in their lifetime. As recently as 2002 on the old layout you would actually help the Ferrari Logistics team load up the trucks – locked up boxes only of course, under supervision. But after a long weekend they were more than happy to get muscle help from good honest fans. Same year was the last time I remember getting free access to the Monaco pit lane Friday – because it was a public road, you just got to walk around with entry only limited to the actual garages where they were still allowed to work on the cars at night. You got full access to see the cars right after the GP – battle scared and dirty behind a bank line ribbon barrier, you would see the punishment of 70+ laps around these streets. You could get as close as you wanted, with one strict rule – never touch the hardware.

Since the layout change it’s gotten a bit more controlled and restricted – as is the way with F1. But I can’t help but smile every darn time I see that shot from the cliff – where many fans stake out exceptional spots for 50 Euros a piece last time I checked. Be ready to sleep there if you want the best spots.

The place can make you feel really poor, but I for one am not impressed by fortunes. What I am impressed with is the experience, sound, smell, look of this place during the GP. Truly like no other motor racing event you are surrounded by racing in that K grandstand. Locals probably aren’t thrilled about it, but be sure to stay around in the principality the whole race day. What’s better; walking the track after the race and sitting down for a meal and a drink, or being squeezed in a train station and train for hours with the crowds making their way out?


I have been lucky enough to go 6/7 times. Once I watched from the Racasse Restaurant (absolutely amazing, could nearly touch the cars) and once from an office of the Company I worked for at Ste Devote.

Amazing place.


I just watched an onboard lap from Senna in 1990. He did a 1m21s. Karthikeyan was slower today. LOL.

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