Why Monaco Grand Prix was more like a cycle race than an F1 race
Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 May 2013   |  3:25 pm GMT  |  204 comments

The Monaco Grand Prix was similar in many ways to last year’s event; a race of managed pace, but this year with interesting consequences.

It showed a wider strategy on the part of the championship contenders in particular. If you analyse the way they conducted their races, it appears that they were focussed on the championship rather than on challenging for the race victory.

Nico Rosberg was the dominant figure in Monaco across practice and qualifying, but he wasn’t well placed in the championship going into the event and he wasn’t challenged in the race as he might have expected to be, particularly given that his strategy was to slow the pace down from the outset, which meant that his rivals were never far behind.

Because he – and later Sebastian Vettel – backed the field up, there were plenty of passes and attempted passes and this led to a number of incidents. So it was a race punctuated by two safety cars and a red flag stoppage. The stoppage on lap 46 of 78 gave all the teams a chance to fit a new set of tyres before the restart and meant that no-one struggled for tyre life.

Pre-race expectations

In their strategy briefings before the Grand Prix, teams were confident that a one-stop race was possible. Two stops was shown as being 15 seconds faster than one stop but it was considered risky because of slow traffic and the high chance of a safety car (80%), which could negate the advantage accrued from running at a higher pace.

It was expected that Mercedes, given its tyre management problems in the previous races, would control the pace, but in the end it was slower than any of the strategists had imagined.

Controlled pace
Mercedes strategy was to control the pace and drive to a target lap time. Red Bull did a similar thing with Mark Webber the year before.

They did this in order to ensure that the tyres would reach at last lap 30, which was the window for a one-stop race. Although two stops was theoretically faster, they decided that attempting two stops might make them vulnerable to a one stopping Red Bull or Lotus, particularly if a safety car intervened.

The pace in the first stint was extremely slow – ten seconds a lap slower than qualifying. The degree to which the pace was controlled is demonstrated by several things; Sebastian Vettel set the fastest lap near the end in a moment of exuberance, some two seconds faster than the next fastest lap!

Meanwhile Nico Rosberg’s pace on new soft tyres after the restart from the first safety car was five seconds slower than it had been on used supersofts when he pushed hard immediately before his pit stop under the safety car ten laps earlier.

This had two effects; first it stopped any of Rosberg’s rivals attempting to undercut him – ie making a stop a lap before and trying to pass when the Mercedes pitted afterwards – because there were few gaps without traffic to drop back into.

Secondly it meant that the field was bunched up and this led to drivers overtaking or attempting to overtake and colliding. The result was two safety cars and a red flag.

Safety car changes the game for Hamilton

The unintended consequence of this is that the first safety car spoiled the race of Rosberg’s team mate Lewis Hamilton and cost the team a 1-2 finish, although it was more the driver’s fault than the strategists’.

Hamilton was running second in the opening stint, but then the first safety car was deployed for Massa’s heavy accident which was always likely to trigger a safety car, but Mercedes were slow to react. Their cars were three corners away from the end of the lap when it happened.

But the Mercedes pair had crossed the line to start a new lap when the safety car was deployed.

So they had to drive around the lap at the approved speed (around 40% slower than normal), while the Red Bull drivers had pitted immediately. In itself this is not a problem, because everyone has to drive to a prescribed speed and in any case the Red Bull cars were picked up by the safety car. The problem was that Hamilton lost an additional eight seconds on his in-lap to the pits.

If he had maintained the same speed as Rosberg, a 1min 54s lap he would have arrived in the pits three seconds behind the German, as he had been the previous lap. The mechanics were ready with a second set of tyres for Hamilton long before he arrived in his pit box and when he went back out he had fallen behind the two Red Bulls.

Title contenders – trying to win?

In Tour de France cycling, when there is a breakaway of riders who are not in contention for the Yellow Jersey, the race leaders don’t generally react.

It was a bit like this with the Monaco Grand Prix. With Rosberg ninth in the table on just 22 points, it seemed that the title contenders were more focussed on getting points and moving on to the next race, rather than challenge him.

With Vettel now in second place, after Hamilton’s safety car error, with 47 laps to go and the Mercedes likely to be marginal on tyres in the closing stages if pushed hard, the surprising thing was that he did not seem to make any attempt to challenge Rosberg for the win. Like several of the championship contenders he was thinking of the points, rather than the glory. By staying in second he would extend his points lead over Raikkonen and Alonso and Rosberg would still be 62 points behind him.

Alonso too demonstrated risk-aversion all afternoon. Having started from an unpromising sixth on the grid, he yielded a place having tried to avoid an accident with Sergio Perez, then was caught napping by Adrian Sutil and by Jenson Button. The Ferrari looked better on the soft tyre than the supersoft, but they chose to put him on the latter for the final stint after the red flag, which was surprising; that is when he was caught by Sutil and Button. In mitigation, his car did pick up some debris, but it was still a below par performance.

Kimi Raikkonen had made an early stop for tyres on lap 26 hoping it would cause some of his rivals to react and cover him, thereby taking the risk of running out of tyres with a 50 lap second stint. No-one reacted and they all got a free pit stop under the safety car instead. Raikkonen had settled for fifth place until Perez forced the issue and Raikkonen resisted, damaging both cars. Raikkonen ended up 10th.

Force India surprise

As surpising as the poor performance of Ferrari was the strong result for Force India. Adrian Sutil finished fifth (thanks to the collision between Perez and Raikkonen) but had a very strong afternoon despite racing with a broken front wing for the first 45 laps. It was changed when the race was red flagged and he was able to make passes on Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. Force India are battling McLaren at the moment and the silver cars were a shade faster in Monaco, but Force India came away with 12 points to McLaren’s 8.

This was also partly due to Paul di Resta’s result. After a disaster on Saturday where he and the team got the tyre choice wrong at a critical moment and he qualified only 17th, he went for a different strategy by pitting early on lap 9. The team took advantage of the fact that the pace was being managed, to run as much as possible in clear air. At this point the team was playing it by ear, but well placed should there be a safety car or red flag. As it transpired we got both and di Resta gained significantly, moving from 17th to 9th at the flag.

The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen with input and data from several F1 team strategists, from Pirelli and from JA on F1 technical adviser Mark Gillan.

Courtesy Williams F1 Team

The extent to which the pace was managed is very clear from the race history graph. In the first stint Mercedes controls it, in the second stint and third stint it is Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.

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Hmmm, torn on this one… On one hand it is a procession, but on the other hand if you watch the on-board cameras you can see what a test of skill it is


Hi James,

I have been following your postings, comments and analysis from way before jamesallenonf1. IMHO, your work is excellent and definitely the best source on f1 anywhere. Congrats.

I think it is time to stop bashing on Monaco. Monaco will not get out of the calendar. At least not in the near future. There are to many created interests behind.

I agree with everybody here who has said that the race is just a procession and that year by year it is becoming more and more of a boring race.

The point is that it will not change whatever tires are available at any time. The problem is that there are no overtaking opportunities, so we get drivers like Perez attempting maneuvers that in any other track no other driver would risk making when there are other places in the track that provide overtaking opportunities.

So, I think that it is time to start thinking constructively and propose ideas on how to increase overtaking opportunities in Monaco. The track has changed a lot since 1955 and specially after 1973, when the construction of the pool after Tabac resulted in four additional corners. Obviously, that there is no way that such part of the circuit will come back to its original configuration of a long open left corner, but there are maybe other things that can be changed.

For example, and I am no expert, but:

1) Why don’t the Nouvelle Chicane goes back to its original configuration – fast left right – or, even better, just eliminate it and make that section coming out of the tunnel continue without interruptions until the Tabac corner. The Nouvelle Chicane was included in 1987 because of safety concerns by the drivers, but time has passed and I don’t think those concerns should be an issue now that cars are far more maneuverable and safer.

2) If the above changes are made, what about making Tabac a flowing fast left corner – I think there is space for making the change – that will result in a long straight and fast corner going from the tunnel to the corner 13 (pool). If there were to be safety concerns, then just don’t make this change, but definitely eliminate the Nouvelle Chicane.

3) What about changing the Anthony Noghes corner (keeping the run-off area) and create, as much as possible a fast right wide corner that would go from La Rascasse to Sainte Devote, resulting in a long run crossing the finish line that could maybe provide a real overtaking chance in S. Devote. A problem though of this idea is that it will probably result in some shortening of the pit lane and I don’t know if that is possible.

Obviously, my thoughts are dependent on the existence of available land to make any changes, but the idea is to move the focus of the discussion and point towards how to create new overtaking opportunities in Monaco that will result in better racing and really showcase the abilities of the best, like in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

Sorry, for the long post, but, James, I would like to hear your opinion, and the ones from everybody here, on this matter.



I agree that changes to the track would be desirable. Maybe the FIA or Bernie could open a design competition with big prize money for ideas on how to change the track.


Thanks. It’s tough to do much with the tight space there.


But wouldn’t it be possible to at least eliminate the Nouvelle Chicane and bring it back to its original design?

More to the point, do you know if anybody involved – organizers, FIA, etc. – is concerned about how the Monaco GP has become a procession and are looking for ways to improve the racing or is it just not an issue?



James Will Mercedes do well at Canada? or will this be a Acid test of them solving their tyre woes?

Mclaren seemed to be getting grips with their race pace only time will tell.


Hi james, do you have any information on Lewis Hamilton situation with his car brakes, as he is quoted by the media of struggling with the brakes. I do know that he used Carbon Industries brakes as it suited his aggressive drivingv style i.e. late braking. He nearly did it with Webber at Ratcas corner (sorry for the spelling).

Now James, will Mercedes be using the Brakes he used to use at Mclaren or any upgrades for Canada?.


Thanks James



Any reason we keep seeing Sebastien Loeb at the races? Could he be thinking of a Red Bull drive next year or is he just enjoying the atmosphere?


He’s moving into circuit racing and enjoying the Porsche experience. He’d be more likely to go WSC than single seaters


Thanks. That sounds more right. He was saying that WTCC with Citroen was a chance next year on the Catalunya grid so I guess that shows where he is focusing


I for one, love the Monaco GP.

Yes it can be a little boring, but it is also a glamorous, prestigious and historical race.It is in a beautiful location and some of the images and footage of the race are simply stunning!

Perhaps they could make some “slight” mods to the layout so as to open up a passing opportunity? (Not really sure where, but since the cars have outgrown the circuit, perhaps a slight treak may help?)

Also why didnt Vettel go for the win?

After Malaysia he was talking about how he is “paid to win”, and its all about winning?

Why didn’t he attempt to pass Nico Rosberg?

If he is as good as he thinks he is, why didnt he at least try?



This is freaking hysterical. Why wasnt this broadcast??

77 Guillaume Rocquelin Sebastian Vettel Vettel set the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate lap, a 1’16.577, which was over two seconds faster than any other lap he did during the race.

OK two laps to go. Bring it home.

77 Guillaume Rocquelin Sebastian Vettel Alonso P7, Raikkonen out of the points.

77 Jonathan Eddolls Valtteri Bottas Raikkonen had to pit with a puncture with eight laps remaining. Lapping over four seconds quicker than those around him, he caught and passed Gutierrez, Bottas and Hulkenberg in the final two laps.

Raikkonen just passed Gutierrez so look out for Raikkonen behind but push to get past Hulk.

77 Guillaume Rocquelin Sebastian Vettel Sebastian you know the score, don’t take any risks.

78 Guillaume Rocquelin Sebastian Vettel Alright, that’s enouogh. You’re not getting any more points for that.

78 Sebastian Vettel Guillaume Rocquelin But satisfaction rather than going slow for 77 laps.

78 Guillaume Rocquelin Sebastian Vettel There’s no satisfaction for us in that one though. You might enjoy yourself, we don’t like it.

78 Sebastian Vettel Guillaume Rocquelin Let’s discuss this after the race.



I can’t imagine why F1 still goes to Monaco other than the obligatory entertainment of sponsors, to conduct business deals and to put on a show for the rich and famous. There is the whole history and racing heritage of the place too, which back in the day when cars could actually overtake each other, provided challenging and entertaining racing. Now, as people have said, it’s just a procession. It’s BORING!

F1 needs to be what it was like in the 90s and earlier. Do away with all this aero and rely more on mechanical grip. I know F1 is all about innovation, engineering excellence, pushing the boundaries etc, with a long term view that such innovations will trickle down to road cars. But seriously, is any road going car going to benefit from the extreme down force generated by an F1 car? Where in the world are you going to safely be able to take a corner on a public road at 160 mph? Pointless! Yes, it’s impressive and an awesome sight to see an F1 car take a corner at a seemingly impossible speed, but it doesn’t make good racing. At the end of the day, this is supposed to be racing; cars in close proximity, jostling for the same piece of tarmac. Current F1 cars don’t lend themselves to this. Wake up!


They have already! That’s why they are big regulation changes for 2014.

A lot of people also forget that strategy plays a much bigger role in F1 than in other motosports, not only during the race but during the whole championship. There is already a series that has plenty of track action, GP2.


The Mercedes controlled the race. They picked up pace when needed to cover those behind them. They ran just as fast as they needed while keeping the pack bunched up and protecting themselves from undercut. My suspicion is that Mercedes could have lapped at a quicker pace and still pulled off a one stopper, yet they chose to keep everyone bunched up for reasons James pointed out.

roberto marquez

In my opinion cars should start in the same positions they were before a red flag. I am sure some drivers go much faster than others in this lap to the grid or pits that others who are more respectfull about security .For instance Vettel. And also the position relative to the pit entrance is completely ramdom ,so THEY SHOULD START IN THE SAME ORDER THEY WERE BEFORE THE FLAG. James Could you conment on this please. To me it is not fair that Lewis ,which kept Vettel from passing Nico in the first 40 – 50 laps only made 4 th place.Thanks in advance.


Vettel passed Hamilton during the first safety car period, not the red flag, when, I believe, the race is neutralized emidiatly.


Congratulations to Mercedes on a well controlled race and win. I can’t help but draw the parallels between a two-leg match match in football. Mercedes got a single goal at home in qualifying then followed it up with a super defensive “every man behind the ball” approach in the race on Sunday.

People keep complaining about the tires but the way the teams choose to use them is a large part of the problem. You can’t blame Merc for the way they ran the race, they played to their strengths and with the exception of Singapore this is unlikely to work for the rest of the season.

Monaco might have been perceived as boring in some circles, but I think it is great to have such a big diversification in tracks and the opportunities that offers. It also helps to remind how successfully track design, DRS, KERS and Aero Regs over the last 10 years have given tracks where overtaking is possible!


Thank you James for an enlightening report.

Could you tell us some more about how exactly is it possible to go 10 seconds per lap slower than possible – without getting overtaken by the guys behind?

I guess the fuel load is some of that, but still 10 seconds sounds massive! So where do they have the space to go that slow? Casino square corners, Rascasse?


Make it a TT, anything to prevent me wasting time watching this rubbish. They could learn from Indycar who contrive to produce much more interesting and entertaining street races than F1. This years race in Sao Paolo was a cracker. I would get rid of the one move rule, no blocking whatsoever should be the rule here. We are supposed to buy into the glamour of the place but sorry, a lot of chavvy billionaires and ladies of dubious professions do not glamour make


Like many others have said, I always have found Monaco to be a Pretty Boring Grand Prix, it’s the one of the Season that I’m actually quite Happy to Miss. The Pace is controlled by the Front Runner and generally it is just a precession of Cars going round the Track for 2 hours.

It bring a huge amount about Track Design into Question, a lot of the Herman Tiike Tracks now have large run off areas that don’t punish Drivers for Mistake, Monaco only punishes Drivers for Mistakes, and so as seen in Sunday’s Race, few take Chances.

I think a lot of Herman Tiike Tracks are starting to look the same, and there is not enough variety in track design, but at least they allow overtaking, or for you to Push the Guy in Front. The Monaco Strategy seems to be get the Place in Qualifying, hold it in the Race.

the Tyres have got a lot of Stick this season, but what they were trying to avoid was Precessional Races, however now after Monaco, everyone’s moaning about Processesional Races. The Tyres needs tweaking for next Season, but Monacomhas shown us why we don’t want to go back to 90s Races.


Ironically, in the case of Monaco the tyres actually contributed to the processional racing instead of averting it.

That said, I feel that “processional racing” gets a bit of a bad rap. Most F1 races were “processional” for most of the sports history. The idea that it’s terrible if the driver on pole wins the race seems to be of very recent origin. Senna would have torn his hair out at the notion!


It’s almost like you have to think differently about the tyres at Monaco – like making 2 pitstops for tyres manditory, where the 2 manditory tyre changes have to be from one compound to the other and giving everyone the medium and hard compounds. Like it has to be a very specific all out race compared to the other races, due to the track’s unique configuration. Otherwise, there’s only the input of unreliability to rely on (lol) for interesting races at Monaco from next years V6 turbo races…


Monaco could be a showcase hill climb time trial event like the Goodwood Festival of Speed- flat out, best time (out of six consecutive laps each), slowest to fastest car based upon a Saturday qualy.

Double WDC points for added incentive!


Alonso caught napping? At first appearances it would appear so, however the team later confirmed Alonso had a steering problem. The line he took at Loew’s hairpin wasn’t exactly normal.


A steering problem? I hadn’t heard that. Interesting.

It certainly would explain an uncharacteristic seeming lack of chutzpah.

Monaco’s a spectacle – and fun to attend as such – but not a ‘race’ in the normal sense.

They should just give a prize to the prettiest helmet and forget about the WDC or WCC.


Risk aversion? Sounds like something Ferrari and Alonso would say to spin their collective poor performance this weekend.


James, regarding Mercedes’ reaction to the safety car, you say

“Massa’s heavy accident which was always likely to trigger a safety car, but Mercedes were slow to react. Their cars were three corners away from the end of the lap when it happened.

But the Mercedes pair had crossed the line to start a new lap when the safety car was deployed.”

It actually took quite a lot time for the safety car to be deployed, and the Mercedes driver completed a whole lap while Massa was in the barriers (Hamilton did a 1m21.73 -backing off in the first sector – on lap 30). They should have pitted one, or both of their drivers on that lap (when Vettel also pitted).

Instead, they elected to stay out, which was a huge risk. If the SC had been deployed just as they were coming on the start/finish straight, they would have been picked up by the safety car, the only drivers still on old tyres, and they would have plummeted down the field.

As it was, they just cleared the safety car, and actually Vettel was briefly held up. It’s still a mystery to me why Rosberg and Hamilton both didn’t do their in-lap faster, as even if Hamilton had followed instructions he would probably still have come out behind Vettel.


“the surprising thing was that he did not seem to make any attempt to challenge Rosberg for the win. Like several of the championship contenders he was thinking of the points, rather than the glory.”

James. Was this a Vettel decision or a team decision. I noticed further tensions in the radio conversations between Rocky and Vettel this race. I’m wondering if the strain is in relationship between driver and engineer or if it goes further than that. Has the golden child fallen out of favour somewhere down the line? We all talk about who might be replacing Webber if his seat becomes available, and the Vettel-to-Ferrari-for-2014 rumours have been very quiet lately. But the big cheese did say that contract or no contract, they couldn’t make Vettel stay if he didn’t want to. Could it be the triple world champion’s seat that ends up being up for grabs by the Torro Rosso boys or Raikonen?


“Was this a Vettel decision or a team decision.”

Both, I’m sure. Vettel can, and has, ignored team decisions when he thought he had a win in his grasp. So if he had felt he could take Rosberg he’d have gone for it. But the smart thing was to take the 18 points with his two rivals struggling.

Both he and Webber mentioned how boring they found the race.


I think it was Prost who said “always win in the slowest time”. Most people will have saved a lot of engine/gearbox where for a more demanding track.

I thought it was an excellent race with lots of sub plots, title contendors trying not to be taken out buy young guns. De-Reista carving through the feild into the points. Holding your breath as they all went through Lows wondering who was going to t-bone who.

But i prefer Test cricket to the rubish that is T20 or the just barible ODI’s. If you want drivers to stick there foot to the floor and keep it there for the whole race go across the pond and watch the crap they have there. F1 is a championship made up of 19/20 race weekends with different tatics needed at each weekend, it is not 19/20 induvidual races. Some people can only see the end of there noses.


“If you want drivers to stick there foot to the floor and keep it there for the whole race go across the pond and watch the crap they have there.”

If your referring to Indycar when you use the word “Crap” then you clearly have not watched an Indycar race the last 2 years.

Indycar has been getting a ton of praise for consistently putting on brilliant races the last 2 seasons.

With no silly tyres & no gimmicks like DRS or KERS its real racing where drivers push hard & where the overtaking is actually hard fought & exciting to watch (Instead of all the stupidly easy DRS highway passing we see in F1 now).

I used to be a massive F1 fan & never paid Indycar or anything else much attention. However im losing interest in F1 due to all these silly gimmicks now & for me the racing in Indycar is way better than anything you see in F1.

This is the sort of brilliant racing you get with proper tyres & no DRS-




Monaco is often a procession, but I usually enjoy it. Even with no, or minimal, overtaking there are still some great scraps, like Mansell trying to overtake Senna in 1992. But the difference was that drivers used to try to go as fast as they could. Mansell could go much faster than Senna and hound him to pass not because Senna was driving to a target lap time, but because Senna was driving flat out but his car was slower.

This year Monaco just highlighted the ridiculous situation with the current tyres in F1. I didn’t mind it too much earlier in the season, but this was a farce. Vettel’s lap at the end may have been petulant, but it highlighted the problem perfectly.


Hi James,

Nice report as always. I am trying to understand this graph. Theorectically, shouldn’t Rosberg be at the “0” point at the finish on the time axis? He is represented at -12 sec approximately. Maybe I’ve got it all about face.


A question about the graph … it shows VET and WEB going ahead of HAM on lap 38, but it was actually lap 32 when they went ahead.

Also, why are the finishing cars above the zero mark? I could see that they can go into negative territory during the race, but should always end up at the zero mark at the end, no?


The Monaco GP proved just how much of a joke these tyres are.

Everyone is driving around to a pre-set lap time, in order to “protect” their precious tyres.

F1 is meant to be the pinnacle of motorsport, lose the ridiculous aero packages on the current cars, bring back lower, wider cars with more mechanical grip, give them tyres that will last and LET THEM RACE!

There will be no need for this artificial rubbish like DRS and KERS, what we will see is pure driving skill and real overtaking.

The drivers will enjoy it, and the fans will enjoy it even more.

Everyone wins.


I agree with the above posters – Monaco is an extremely dull Grand Prix, but with all the prestige/history surrounding it I feel like it needs to stay.

Monaco qualifying is awesome however, why not put more emphasis on this and have a glorified quali session in which points are awarded? Half for quali and half for the race? The trouble is that this idea would probably flow into other track which I don’t want to happen. (not that it ever will :P)

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