Keeping off the barriers will be challenge enough as new F1 cars hit Monaco streets
Posted By: James Allen  |  19 May 2014   |  6:51 pm GMT  |  296 comments

Monaco is unique and it’s not and easy race to win, even with the fastest car. And this year could be very eventful.

There is a very high (80%) chance of a safety car, which can turn a race on its head and hand the advantage to a rival. This year’s cars are very loose at the rear-end and we may well see several safety cars coming out as drivers hit the barriers, like Bottas did in Australia.

For a team like Red Bull, this race presents a rare opportunity to challenge Mercedes for victory but this has to be done with perfect execution in qualifying, getting at least one car on the front row and preventing Mercedes from controlling the race with two cars at the front.

The supersoft tyre makes its 2014 debut and looks like the tyre most runners will prefer. It goes without saying that perfect execution in qualifying is critical for a strong race performance.

There is scope for teams that are kinder on their tyres than rivals, to pit early and attempt the undercut, at an early point in the race, knowing that their rivals will not be able to react and bring their car in because it will not make it to the finish from there on a single set of tyres.

Last year Mercedes were vulnerable to this, as they had high tyre wear. So they played a strategy of running at low speed, bunching the field up and protecting their tyres at the same time.

This year Mercedes has no such worries and if they get the front row of the grid, as they should with their current advantage, they will race off.

The track layout is tight, with no high speed corners, two short straights and the lowest average lap speed of the season at 157 km/h (99mph).

The only possible overtaking place is on the run between the exit of the tunnel and the chicane, but drivers must be careful as it is very dirty off line in the tunnel and they can lose grip by picking up dust and discarded rubber from the tyres.

Track characteristics – click on map to enlarge

Monte Carlo – 3.34 kilometres; Race distance – 78 laps = 260.52 kilometres. 19 corners in total. The slowest lap of the season at an average lap speed of 157km/h.

Aerodynamic setup – High downforce; Top speed 295km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 285km/h without.

Full throttle – 45% of the lap (lowest of year)

Time spent braking: 21% of the lap (high); 13 braking zones. Brake wear – Medium; 48 gear changes per lap.

Total time needed for pit stop: 25 seconds.

Form Guide

The Monaco Grand Prix is the sixth round of the 2014 FIA F1 World Championship.

Cars that go well in Monaco have plenty of low speed downforce but above all mechanical grip and traction, for good corner exit performance.

The Mercedes was the fastest car in Monaco last year and this year it has been unbeaten in the first five races.

However the Red Bull will be closer on pace here as the power deficit from the engine will be less significant. The Red Bull chassis is very nimble. Red Bull has won the race for the three of the past four seasons

Ferrari will have a few problems unless they can sort out their issues with traction. Ferrari hasn’t won at Monaco since 2001, a drought of 14 years.

Monaco requires a particular technique of driving close to the barriers and this is a venue where a driver can make a real difference. But the challenge will be even greater this year as the power delivery from the new hybrid turbo engines makes handling these cars a real challenge.

As far as drivers’ form is concerned at Monaco, all the world champions have won Monaco; Sebastian Vettel won in 2011, while other previous Monaco winners in the field are Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. Nico Rosberg won last year from pole.

Weather Forecast

The forecast looks good with temperatures around 20 degrees and a low chance of rain. Being coastal however rain can arrive quite suddenly.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Monaco: Supersoft and Soft.

Monaco is gentle on tyres, the track surface is smooth and there are no high energy corners.

This race sees the first appearance of the supersoft tyre, as Pirelli has been very cautious and conservative so far in its tyre choices. Last year, for example, it used the supersoft in Australia, but this year it has held it back until now.

The teams have done some testing on it, however, in Bahrain pre-season test and also in the two day test in Spain last week. Indications are that the supersoft will be a good tyre so one stop should be quite manageable.

Although it is usually faster on paper to do two stops, in reality many teams shy away from it for fear of losing out in traffic or with a safety car.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

For the last two years we have seen the majority of the top ten finishers all doing a similar one stop strategy. The benchmark time to stop is usually around laps 27 to 30. A car trying an undercut may come in a lap or two earlier than that.

The pit lane at Monaco is long and slow at 60km/h speed limit so the time needed to make a stop is quite long at around 25/26 seconds. This, and the risk of losing time on slower traffic, encourages teams to make less rather than more stops.

Teams will do whatever strategy they believe is the quickest and will allow them to run in as much clear air as possible.

The first lap is always very costly for the midfield and back of the field. With having to follow through the tight corners, it’s common for the cars in the bottom third of the grid to do a first lap which is 20 seconds slower than the leader, who is running in clear air.

This was not the case last year, when Mercedes deliberately slowed the field up in the opening stint.

Chance of a safety car

Very high; there is an 80% chance of a safety car and if it falls at the right time it can make your race. But if it falls at the wrong time, your victory plans fall apart – as they did for Jenson Button in 2011, who was trying to drive flat out uninterrupted on three stops, a risky plan given the likelihood of the safety car.

Recent start performance

The run from the start to the first corner at Monaco is very short and always chaotic. The first turn, St Devote, is tight and slow and cars go through it in single file.

In 2012 now fewer than 13 cars ended the opening lap in a different position from their grid slot.

As far as 2014 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season, on aggregate (places lost over year offset against places gained), as follows –

Gained places

11- Maldonado

9 – Massa
8- Ericsson, Bottas, Hulkenberg
7 Kobayashi, Gutierrez

4 – Sutil [See notes], Bianchi, Perez [See notes]
2 – Alonso
1 – Grosjean

Net Held position
Ricciardo,Chilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen

Lost places

11 – Vergne
5 Button
3 Magnussen
2 – Vettel, Kvyat, Hamilton

Melbourne Notes: Kobayashi, Massa eliminated in a first corner accident; Perez, Gutierrez pitted at the end of Lap 1; Bianchi, Grosjean started from pit lane.
Malaysia Notes: Perez started from pit lane, Bianchi pitted at the end of lap 1
Bahrain notes: Vergne pitted at the end of lap 1 after contact
China Notes: Sutil lost power at start and dropped 8 places, retiring soon after.

Pit Stop League Table
Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two seconds by F1 teams.

However with tighter rules on unsafe release and on wheels coming loose, teams prefer to go for a target time, which is error-free and thus slower than in 2013. Nevertheless we have seen occasional stops of 2.3 seconds this year.

The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the Spanish Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it.

1. Red Bull 21.599s
2. Ferrari 21.664
3. McLaren 21.768
4. Lotus 22.024
5. Mercedes 22.254
6. Force India 22.282
7. Williams 22.304
8. Marussia 22.568
9. Toro Rosso 22.703
10. Caterham 22.789
11. Sauber 23.063

The UBS Race Strategy Briefing 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.

For a cool, at-a-glance guide to all the strategy considerations in Monaco click here

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Formula 1, please bring these visor cameras! That would be epic in Monaco!


Kimi whats your favorite breaking zone in monaco?

KR: No, I don’t really have one favourite one. Any of them. You can choose.

Lol ice man is awesome


The Adrian Newey cars are always as they say “Subtle” around Monaco! Who’s willing to bet on a Daniel Ricciardo win?

Ferrari weaknesses are gonna be exposed again I am guessing. Hopefully that won’t be the case. Kimi’s been improving, let’s see what he can so here!

With regards to Mercedes, I want Rosberg to stop Lewis’s winning streak here! However you look at it, there’s no stopping Lewis to take another win at Montreal next month!


The key to Kimi doing well here is a good friday. If he can have a trouble free FP1 and FP2 he will do at least as well as Alonso …. who as we all know has been delivering miracles.

If Kimi’s track time is lost on friday for whatever reason there is often a mountain to climb.

Sorry that should read thursday, not friday!


Aaaaand we do have a disrupted Thursday for Kimi! But has he lost that much to be honest? Yep a Qualifying trim run on SuperSofts! But he’s not that much in the backfoot as Ferrari confirmed the GearBox that failed was not a race one so no grid penalties!


Looking forward to see how Daniel goes.

He has had form at this track winning in 2010 in Formula Renault (think it was the 1st time that 2 Aussies one at the track in the same year)

If I remember correctly, in regards to his F1 career there, he did not race it with HRT and had 2 attempts with Torro Rosso.

2012. I am pretty sure that the team got the strategy call wrong in regards to predicted rain and he ended up behind Button for most of the race

2013 was the year that Romain punted him off the circuit.

Anyway, 3rd time lucky and he certainly has been a breath of fresh air by way of his serious race pace (Mercedes obviously have much quicker package) and his demeanor with the public.

I would love to see him on the top step this year.


While I agree it will be closer initially at at least, and the safety car will no doubt have at least one go at bunching up the grid. Despite all that I still think the Mercs package will reign supreme, yes it’s quite likely Red Bull have very good downforce, but I think the the Mercs driveability particularly torque control and delivery will tell.


this is an insane car! check it out.


James,did you hear what the Venezuelan Minister of Sports has declared?

. That very soon,there will not be, even a dollar more for Pastor’s support?


They probably have just received the latest repair bills..

David in Sydney

Link to source please – this would be interesting and, perhaps, sad.

Any driver who loses a drive over money I feel sorry for.

(And every driver who wins a drive over money I feel envious of.)


I think there are many ppl tht are glad to hear tht


Monaco is funny. Senna won 6 times; Clark, none. Graham hill, who was good but not the best of his time, won 5 times…. I would say that Monaco has enough unpredictability to be a fun race regardless of the low speed and low overtaking options.


Didn’t Sutil and Kimi pull off passes in turn 6 last year? Seems to be safer than the chicane, which is generally mentioned as the only passing point.


Rosberg has been decent here even in his Williams days but does Lewis have another gear that he has yet to use?

Interesting battle for pole but I’m going to say Nico will get the upper hand on quali.


Q for wine buffs….

What do they put in cheap import Montepulciano wine these days?

Two glass and a short nap. I watched a whole GP on the new Free To Air “James Allen F1 Channel” presented by James Allen and Martin Brundle {with some help from Kravitz and Jenny Gow}.

Nobody else, no DC no Herbert no buffoons and no endless fast cuts and music. It was great.

Race was good too.


we are all wine buffs, but nobody ever heard of “Montepulciano” 🙂

kenneth chapman

montepulciano is montezemolos cousin!


I’m a little confused, can someone clear ths up for me… We know tht monaco demands high aero and doesn’t ask much of th engine but buttons latest interview suggests that ths year th superior merc PU gives them an advantage. What is he referring to? Thanks


how the energy is transferred to the rear wheels. not torque at all because all the engines have a lot of torque that’s is why they all suffer from oversteer. mercedes transfers the energy more progressively to the rear wheels than the renault and ferrari but that lotus is quick out of slow corners. i can’t wait to see how they go on the streets of monaco. in fact am so keen, i might just fly out there to watch it.


Driveability. The way the power kicks in and it how the harvesting affects the brakes (stability in the braking zones) should be vital. The Renaults are said to suffer from a less smooth electronic braking/harvesting system, making the rear a little more unrealiable under braking.

The Mercs seem to have a very efficient MGU-H, so they could probably live with a little less harvesting on the MGU-K (which gets charged under braking), that could give them a slight advantage in the braking zones.

David in Sydney



Opportunity for Maldonado.


To do what? Hit a wall?

That ship has sailed my friend 🙂


Hi James,

I would recommend you start ranking team on pitstops by average time throughout the season thus far rather than just at the last race.

This would be a better indicator of performance IMO.


The right strategy will be hard to chose. If you go for the super softs in the start to get rid of them early, in case of a safety car and drive it to the end then you’ll be fine, but if it comes too late (after your scheduled stop), you’ll chances are you get undercut by those who started on primes.

But if you chose the primes on the start, hoping to get a good undercut in the end and a SC comes out too early, you’ll run out of tires in the end.

Or what’s about the very high risk strategy of not stopping in case of an early SC to get in front, hoping for a second SC or on being able to build a gap (against peeps with fresh tires? Good luck!) for a proper scheduled stop?


They all have to start on their tires from Q2, so I’d say most of the top 10 will be starting on the supersoft.

Kenneth M'Boy

I’d love to see Grojean surprise everyone this weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see Dan pole and win but something tells me to keep an eye on the Frenchman in the worlds fastest forklift.

Also hoping both Mercs blow up or take each other out or just pull over or something…..anything, please!!!!!


There shall be carbon fibre fragments!

We could have big surprises in this race due to the torque/power delivery unstability.

With these risk factors, I expect at least one Mercedes to NOT finish in the top two; that will be refreshing.


And nothing against Hamilton, but if it’s him it will be even more refreshing.


Huh? How is that not against Hamilton?! Rosberg’s yet to DNF, right? So let’s share the, uh, “wealth”, ok?

Would be a little much to have to spot someone 50 pts, don’t you think?


No worries Dr Lewis 🙂


Its ok Random 79 – no harm done – I appreciate you have been usually positive hence my reaction. All good.


Arrrgh that was meant to be “he has *done* an amazing job this season”.

PS while I’m still here, I agree with what you say about Mercedes having done the best job also.

In fact if you go back and read some of my comments you’ll see that I’ve been saying that for the last few weeks or so.


@Dr Lewis

Read my reply to KRB.

I wasn’t running down Hamilton and you’re right, he has an amazing job so far this season.


No, I don;t think it would be too much for Lewis to spot Nico 50 points, based on what we’ve seen so far, he’ll need it to keep the show interesting (if you can call one team’s total dominance the least bit interesting).


Absolutely – well said!

I find it incredible that people are still ‘running down’ the achievements of LH this season. He has provided an astonishing level of performance to claw back a 25 point deficit in so few races along with some great racing. Nico has had everything on his side and is still moaning!

Equally all we hear is how the Mercedes is dominating and that the engine/PU whatever its called this week is the sole factor in this.

First off – 20% of the season is not even close to say just one example of RB domination like last year once the tyres were more durable, let alone three or four other years

There are also a multitude of cars using the exact same Mercedes engine including MacL! Where are they?

The fact is Merc have produced a better car as a total and for a few races are giving us the fans the benefits instead of implementing team orders and making a mockery of the term ‘race’

This is nothing like other years and it is not a domination yet by any shot.

It is however one of the best F1 seasons I have seen in 35 years.

Stop moaning and fussing because just perhaps your fav team/person is not the one ‘dominating’

Renault pushed for these changes. I for one am glad someone in Mercedes said ‘ok if that’s what you want because it suits you and your requirements, we will show you we can beat you there as well’ instead of throwing their toys out the pram and stomping of like so many others did a few years ago.

They deserve some success in this.


Maybe I could have worded it better.

When I said “nothing against Hamilton”, first of all I was saying that I have nothing against him winning and if he does win then well done to him and he will have deserved it.

But Hamilton has won the last four races in a row and has just taken over the championship lead from Rosberg, so if he does win in Monaco he will just extend his lead – and again it will be well deserved – so when I said if one of the Mercedes drivers retires it would be refreshing if it was Hamilton all I was saying is that would keep them closer on points, Rosberg would lead the championship again and that would make things more interesting in the long run.

Generally I don’t like seeing any driver retire – I’d rather see them stay out and fight on track.


yeah, I guess you’re right.

the brit-O-centric media carpet-bombing praise upon their blink champion-in-waiting, does make it a bit tougher to get with it.

But despite all that… whatever, it’s kind of special seeing a racer with all his mojo on; he is undoubtedly better than he has ever been before, and compares favourably with past champions and all current F1 drivers.

So right now is the golden age for Lewis Hamilton; people will refer back to it with awe.

But the machinery advantage is a bit scandalous.

I couldn’t help but notice that Niki won the first five of six one year, and ended up not winning the championship. He’s one of my all time favourites, and I expect him to be sharing the learnings with the team, right now.

To get points in Monaco this weekend, a driver needs to finish the race, and I expect the highest DNF figure so far this year because of the power delivery of the torque.

Expecting multiple safety cars as a base assumption could give some of the closer teams a reward to risking a race based on changing tires at the ideal safety car episode.

If I were principal of McL, Lotus, Force I, or even Ferrari, I would have one driver working this strategy.

Expect Vettel to show, at least and potentially Ricciardo, as well.

But I think we’ll be getting our first full look at the new Vettel, adapted to the new power delivery nuances and Renault-Red Bull having refined their power delivery specifically for this race.

Red Bull have to launch their attack, now or in Montreal, at the latest, to still have a hope to win either championships.

Rosberg simply must beat Lewis by Canada or be used to being second or lower.

It should be good.


Well, that year you’re referencing for Lauda was 1976, when he won 4 of the first 6 races. But of course he only lost the title b/c of his fiery crash at the Nurburgring.

I don’t think Hamilton’s better this year, compared to previous years. It’s just the car is there for him this year. When you have a great car, everything becomes easier for you. You don’t have to drive on the ragged edge. That was the case for Vettel the past four years, and now it’s the case for Lewis.

I don’t think Nico has to beat Lewis here or in Canada, as long as he’s coming 2nd. He can just hang close, and benefit whenever Hamilton has a problem. Of course, if Nico DNF’d, and Hamilton won, that could be a sizeable body blow for Nico to absorb. It was a big blow for Lewis to take, in the first race, but I think it’d be relatively worse for Nico if it happened.

I for one hope they crack down on people cutting Ste Devote on the race start. I’ve seen far too many people benefit greatly by cutting it at the start. Ok yes, one must avoid any accident, but some have cut it a little too easily, let’s say.


Yep – I saw it but still you think it would be good if LH retires? Again? Come on the guy at least deserves a level playing field with his team mate who it has to be said has had the good reliability, pit stop times and strategy on his side and still is coming second.

Further at least the front battle is interesting this year – nothing like previous years plus there is much racing back through the grid and its refreshing to see skill count amongst the racers again – not just who can drive slowly to delta times and make the tyres last or fanciful race wins due to a host of falsely engineered factors.

Its good to see F1 back to racing.

Preferably without wishing ill on those that are providing the show.


Agree with all that.

And when you say “If I were principal of McL, Lotus, Force I, or even Ferrari, I would have one driver working this strategy” I say they’d be fools not to – it’s probably their only (long) shot at beating the Mercs 😉


I think Mercedes will continue their winning domination this weekend, with Hamilton ahead of Rosberg. However, if anyone is going to beat them, they must out-qualify them, lead into Turn 1, and then use the track characteristics to keep them behind. Tough ask.


I was thinking back a few years to when Mansell lost the car into the barriers going into casino square I think. With the new tricky to drive cars i think that a repeat of that error is the most likely cause of a saftey car deployment though there is plenty of scope elsewhere. It would be great if after through incident-strewn race Maldonado were to come through to silence a few critics !

kenneth chapman

hahaha…now that i would like to see james. why not post a pic?


Tempus fugit! Had forgotten it was during his lotus days and that it was wet. Sorry Nige!


A few years? Try 30 !!


That’s scary….. 30….


dont show your age James ! 🙂


Weren’t you 17 James? Did you still have to wear children’s clothes then? 😉


Mmm. Yes probably was!


I was in shorts…


I’m praying for rain and slidey mayhem.


no rain so far.


The exit of the tunnel isn’t the only place to overtake. I remember Alonso being passed at the hairpin. Hulkenberg I think?


Raikkonen – everywhere last 3 laps on fresh rubbet last year!


Schumacher overtook Hamilton and Rosberg there 2011 if i remember correctly


Alonso was passed by Sutil and somebody else at the hairpin last year.


Anywhere else other than the tunnel exit though requires the other driver to make a mistake.


Sutil it was last year.


As well as offering an insurmountably superior moral backdrop Vatican City could probably offer a better racetrack than Monaco. 1996 was the last time Monaco delivered anything other than a tragically boring race.

Drivers, teams and punters all know Monaco is not the bedrock-scraping examination of man and machine an F1 race is supposed to be. Instead it is a showground for an exhibition and normally a mindless procession.

Unsurprisingly nine of the last ten pole starters have won here because on-track overtaking is more impossible than unlikely. Bookmakers are all too aware of the correlation between pole-setting and the likelihood of winning and naturally they are not offering get-rich-quick prices about the pole-setter making a penalty-kick style conversion. As for a ‘safety car’, they are generally offering odds of 1/5 (equates to 83.3%) about it being deployed.

Six of the last seven Monaco F1 Grand Prix have been won by four seconds or less but, with the line hovering around three seconds the men with satchels – based in Gibraltar this modern low-tax online offshore day and age – have clearly done their homework.

Ah, Gibraltar. Another workable F1 venue? Population: 29,750. Area: 2.6sq-miles. Sounds so ridiculous it fits in nicely alongside Monaco as a sensible street circuit for my two-penneth.


Agreed, but only if the pope-mobile acts as the safety car 🙂


Yeah, 2008 was a total snooze-fest.


I’m not sure the Vatican City is morally superior to Monaco – on QI, Stephen Fry mentioned that the Vatican has the highest rate of crime per head/capita than any other western country in the world……..

Also, during the 1988 season the Pope visited the Ferrari factory and blessed the cars. That’s 1988, the same year Ferrari were smashed in the face race after race by Macca: the McLaren’s won 15 out of 16 races, Ferrari 1. Doesn’t say much for divine intervention………



I’m not sure the Vatican City is morally superior to Monaco…

There really is no stopping you! Religion, ethnicity, politics – nothing is out of bounds it would seem 😉


REC63: I was startled when Stephen Fry and the QI boffins revealed that fact – but it’s true -just type it into google.

Mind you, F1 is a bit dubious when it comes to morale superiority…….um, Mr E and his Munich court case for bribery, embezzlement and corruption?

Morals are a murky world…………


Yeah, but he quoted Stephen Fry so he’s covered 😉


Nobody told Sutil or Perez that overtaking was impossible last year.

Who are the “men with satchels based in Gibraltar”? I’m intruiged.


Gibraltar is the home of most of the EU’s online gambling and betting operations, put there to escape the tax man. William Hill, etc. all operate large operations on this tiny precipice to avoid paying any UK taxes on the massive amounts of money that take in via online gaming. They have cleverly sequestered the income streams from online from their storefront operations via various legal loopholes and contorted organisational alignments.

Hence, the “men with satchels”…full of money because I pay my taxes on what I earn, but they do not.


Last year’s race was the worst Monaco GP I’ve seen. Slowing the field down, argh!

The best was the 1982 event, even if I am a Prost fan 😛


Last years race was like driving miss daisy behind the mercs which eat the rear tyres, to be fair monaco race is never that thrilling, i actually look more forward to qually thats the real challenge


Monaco baby! Yeah!

I cannot see this race passing without a safety car or two. Maldonado is worth one and I can’t see everyone else making the chequered flag or being able to get to the pits in the event of a car failure.


The Maldozer is 11/1 first retirement with only Ericsson on shorter odds. Bookies have got it about right I think.

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