Insight: How do you win the Formula 1 Monaco GP?
Monaco Grand Prix 2015
Posted By: James Allen  |  24 May 2016   |  5:10 pm GMT  |  132 comments

This weekend the F1 cars race on the streets of Monaco, one of the oldest and most prestigious races in all of motorsport. To win it at all is a considerable feat, but to win it three times consecutively, as Nico Rosberg has done, is quite something. This year he goes out to join a very select group that has won it four times in a row.

So what does it take to win Monaco? How much of it is the car, the driver or the engine? And how influential is the race strategy in the outcome of the race?

Darren Heath

Narrow, with short stretches of track between corners lined with barriers, Monaco is unique and it’s not an easy race to win, even with the fastest car. The driver plays a larger role here than at many venues and those in the know say that it’s a track that favours drivers building up to their maximum, rather than trying to push too early. The engine has less influence than at many venues, but the best engine is still the best engine and driveability out of the low speed corners is very important.

There is a very high (80%) chance of a safety car; it can turn a race on its head and hand the advantage to a rival. That happened last year when Lewis Hamilton threw away the chance to win due to a request to his team to make a stop under the safety car near the end of the race and the team’s miscalculation of the shrinking time gap back to the next car, Rosberg, as Hamilton was held up by the Safety Car in the final sector.

Everyone tells you that to win Monaco you need to qualify at the front, but it’s not the case 100% of the time. In the last ten years we have had two drivers who qualified on pole but didn’t win the race; Hamilton last year and Massa in 2008, when ironically Hamilton won after pitting for a puncture he caused himself, but it was the ideal moment to stop.

Also we have seen drivers come through the field from the back to finish in the top six, like Michael Schumacher famously did in 2006 after he crashed at Rascasse in qualifying.

But just in case the lap in qualifying isn’t good enough for pole, is there anything that can be done on race strategy?

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.

In 2013 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. It was the slowest race anyone can remember!

Pirelli F1

This year we will see the first ever appearance of the Pirelli Ultra soft tyres (with purple sidewall), which will be the favoured qualifying tyre. Strategists say that even the supersoft, which will be one of the two alternates, along with the soft, was too hard last year so the Ultra Soft should be the ideal tyre for the low grip Monaco track. The grip level comes up over the weekend significantly, so the lap times fall by multiple seconds from practice to qualifying.

This is the only race of the season where you prioritise track position over the fastest strategy; so you can have a mighty drop off in pace and still hold position on worn tyres, for example, which you can’t get away with one most F1 venues.

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.

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.

Monaco pitlane

The pit lane at Monaco is long and slow at 60km/h 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 fewer, rather than more stops.

Teams will try to 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.

Monaco – the key numbers

Monaco Grand Prix 2015

Qualifying is always important in F1, but the narrow nature of Monaco’s streets means pole position is perhaps more significant that at any other circuit. Since the 2004 race, the driver starting in first place has led 819 of 933 laps (88 per cent).

Lewis Hamilton, who was on pole in Monaco last year and last time out in Spain, could still tie Michael Schumacher’s all-time F1 record of 68 poles later this season, but he needs to take all of the remaining 16 poles to match that feat, starting this weekend.

One streak Hamilton will want to change as soon as possible is that on all three occasions on which he has started from pole so far in 2017, the world champion has lost the lead at the first corner.

Spanish Grand Prix 2016

Nico Rosberg is also hoping to bounce back from the lap one collision with Hamilton in Barcelona, which ended his streak of seven consecutive wins, that tied him for the second best in F1 history alongside Schumacher (from 2004), and two behind the out right record of nine, which is jointly held by Alberto Ascari (1952-1953) and Sebastian Vettel (2013).

Monaco is where Rosberg has his best track record in F1 and the German driver has won the event for the past three years, which made him the first driver to do so since Ayrton Senna won five Monaco races between 1989 and 1993.

Michael Schumacher Monaco 2001

One team that is hoping to improve its Monaco form is Ferrari. The Scuderia has not won the race there since 2001, and has only won it three times in the last 37 years. That 15-year streak is the longest that Ferrari has gone without a win at any of the current circuits on the F1 calendar.

Max Verstappen stats

In recognition of his first ever F1 win, and the records he broke in the process, Max Verstappen has earned his own special stats breakdown.

The Dutchman’s win in Barcelona, which he won aged 18 years and 227 days, meant he broke the records for youngest driver ever to lead a race (previously held by Sebastian Vettel at 20 years and 89 days from Japan 2007), and made him the youngest ever podium finisher and youngest winner – also previously Vettel at 21 years and 73 days, from his win at Monza in 2008.

Max Verstappen

Verstappen also became the first Dutch driver ever to lead a lap of the Spanish Grand Prix, and his fourth place on the grid at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya equalled Jan Lammers’ fourth for ATS at Long Beach in 1980 as the best qualifying by a Dutch racer in F1.

The Red Bull driver also equalled (and surpassed) his father Jos Verstappen’s claim to being the only Dutch driver to secure a podium finish for the Netherlands.

Verstappen’s win ended a run of 30 consecutive races in which the German anthem was played at some stage during the podium ceremony.

Max Verstappen

Until the Spanish race earlier this month, there had been no driver to switch teams in the middle of an F1 season and go to win on their debut for their new squad since Juan-Manuel Fangio went from Maserati to Mercedes and won the French Grand Prix back in 1954. The Argentinean driver went on to win that year’s world title.

As well as becoming the first driver to win in F1 with the number 33 on his car, Verstappen’s Barcelona triumph also made him the first driver to win a Grand Prix to have been born in the 1990s.

Monaco Grand Prix 2015

What do you expect from the Monaco Grand Prix? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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Yeah Monaco isnt one of my favorite GPs. F1 should skiP it. Maybe just make it a race for safety cars. 15 or so cars with flashing lights going for it could be quite a spectacle.


Conspiracy theorists beware, apparently Ricciardo is getting the new upgraded Renault engine for Monaco. Does that mean the conspiracy theory that Verstappen is the new “golden child” is debunked because he’s getting the old engine? Or is the conspiracy theory proven because Ricciardo is getting the new risky unreliable engine?


I am glad a few of them have questioned Monaco race being crowned as the best race in the season (or even one of the best). This race is interesting mainly for its overdose of glamour (a bit sexist as it’s usually women who are shown as objects of pleasure as seen in the picture in the article). Therefore, for people who are attending the race there like rich, elite, commentators etc it looks great – that’s why we hear those comments from them on TV wondering why it is so as we don’t get to see from their view up close (or attend parties etc as they do). For the driver too it is interesting as they have to be careful to drive within the track limits. For most of the TV audience, all they see is a tight track with a faster car stuck behind a slower car (usually) and not able to do much to overtake – it is not even defensive driving, it is just that there is no track left for overtaking! Anyway, I like to watch it, but I won’t regret if I miss watching it like I would do if it were Spa or Montreal.


Surely the best strategy for anyone who gets to the top 10 shootout. The moment quali opens, go out on a new set of ultrasofts. Go flat out for one lap. Pit and put on another new set. Go out and repeat one fast lap. Put on another new set of ultrasofts. Keep repeating this until you run out of tyres or quali time. One of those laps will be the best you can do, and might get you that all important one or two places up the grid.


I’m sorry to be a heretic .. but Monaco is such a dull non event race .. Qualifying is great, but the race is dull dull dull. I’m sure it’s great to be among the fabulously wealthy and watch it there, but on TV .. it’s a procession.

How to win ? … Qualify pole and don’t make an unnecessary pit stop.


Clearly HAM needs pole. He has been tardy off the start and if he’s 2nd behind ROS, he will need safety car luck to overtake him.

The only way it makes sense not to optimize the 1 stop strategy is if you’re a Red Bull in 3rd with a big gap to 5th (assuming other RBR is 4th), putting some new ultra softs on and then close on the mercs and try a bit of a risky maneuver – they have nothing to lose.

Monaco always good fun, can’t imagine how stressful it must be for the guys during the race with constant safety car threat, especially during the pit windows.


Let’s face it, the Monaco GP is just a PR stunt at best and a show for the rich and famous at worst. It’s not a race, it’s a procession. I hope someone from the back of the grid wins it after all the front runners have a massive stack on the first corner.


No it isn’t. I don’t know if you’ve visited the Grand Prix, but if you haven’t, you should. It is the ultimate test for drivers. It’s not for nothing, Senna won it so many times (and should have won it twice more.)


I’ve visited quite a few Monaco GPs over the years and what’s always surprised me is that Lewis doesn’t look particularly fast around this track. May have been due to the cars he was driving, but he never looked comfortable, haven’t seen him really attacking the course. All cars being equal, I would put money on Massa, Alonso, Grosjean, Maldonado, especially Maldonado as a matter of fact, or Rosberg to be quickest over a lap. Rosberg didn’t deserve 3 wins in a row, but he always looks a lot faster around Monaco than Lewis.


Schumacher pole at the ripe old age of 43 in not the best car against Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso and the rest. What a shame league 2 Bruno Senna broke 100 meters early in Spain the race before and caused the penalty for Schumi.


Yep, that was a terrific Schumacher-moment. Was never a big fan, but that was truly amazing.


Well 0.342 is a huge gap at Monaco, which was the gap between Lewis and Nico last year.

Nico’s gap to Lewis the previous two years was always less than a tenth.


It’s not a huge gap at all. I Monaco you could lose that in 1 corner. If I remember rightly Senna in some years was 1,5 seconds faster than Prost, who I rate more highly that Rosberg, in the same car.


The days where you could have such huge gaps between teammates like that, are long gone. Thank telemetry and data trace sharing for that. Those days, and those gaps, aren’t coming back.

Point remains, you said Rosberg looks faster around Monaco, yet he was beaten handily last year, he would’ve been beaten in 2014 without the yellow flag, and was only 0.091 up in 2013, in Lewis’ first year with the team.


@KRB, those gaps are gone, but not in Monaco. A really good driver can make more than a couple of tenths difference here. Some drivers have a feel for the track: the Monaco specialist. I rate Lewis much much higher than Nico, which is why I think he should be in a different league in the principality. Maybe this year.


@ james….on the eve of the monaco race weekend i have just read an article that purports to say that haas believe that they have yet to extract the full ‘potential’ out of their car. that begs the question…how do they know that? how do they guage the ‘potential’? if they already know what is lacking then why aren’t they doing what they need to do? i read this comment many times and it always amuses me somewhat.


It’s almost a Ferrari copy.. lots of Ferrari parts, Ferrari engine and dallara build Ferrari copyed chassis.
So, it should have the potential of a Ferrari.. almost 😉


How I would win Monaco in Manor.

Qualify at the back of the grid as normal. Since the advent of the Pirelli tyres the poll sitter always laps at least 6-7 seconds off the their ultimate pace until the first stop. The whole grid tends to keep on pace with lead car. Knowing this I would pit on the first lap stick on a set of hard tyres and go for it knowing i’ll still be able to stay in touch and possible gain a little, now just wait for everyone to pit and the inevitable safety knowing I don’t have to pit again and when it all filters out, I’ll be at the front and you can’t overtake, jobs a good’un.


If Max is the real deal, a Senna-like talent, which I think he is, he may win this weekend. All deliberations mentioned above are true, but ultimately Monaco is about the driver. True talents always shines in the principality. Max has a fast car; despite his crash he proved last year he knows how to pass; we may be in for something special. It’s interesting how some drivers can extract something more in Monaco. Sutil, Grosjean, Maldonado, for instance.


Hard to disagree, but keep it in perspective: the driver plays a lesser role compared to the days of Senna, so it will be tough, considering everyone he will be close to on the grid is also “the real deal” and two, perhaps four, will have better cars.

That said, if it can’t be Vettel, please be Max. Those are the two who I am gunning for.


I was painting my bedroom while watching the race last year via Sky Go. Someone at my work noted that I was watching paint dry twice….thank god for Hamilton’s hiccup towards the end that helped spiced it up.


Heavy rain and thunderstorms predicted for Sunday.
Should be an interesting race day…


Great news! Fingers crossed. All more reason to plonk some dosh on Ricciardo. Tasty odds.


After many many years of watching F1 iv never understood the fascination of Monaco, i’v tried i really have, but its no good. i have always found this race the least entertaining of the season and at times as dull as dish water. I can appreciate the skill and courage of the drivers hurtling around such a tight track at speed with little room for error, but thats about it. Iv never got the “one of the jewels in the crown” soundbites we often get from commentators, maybe you have to be there to immerse yourself in the whole event, to take in the location, the fancy restaurants, the architecture and the glamorous lifestyles. But for me, a common garden armchair spectator who justs wants to watch a great race on a sunday afternoon sadly Monaco just doesn’t do it. Roll on canada.


Monaco is unique. And it is about the glamour, the lifestyles, the fancy restaurants etc. I’ve never been, but the spectacle is what it’s about rather than the race itself. I love watching it but never go into it expecting a bunch of overtakes.


Joe Bloggs, I love Monaco! I see your point about the dull races, but even when there is nothing happening, the spectacle of the cars on those roads, and the history of the place makes it special for me.


How on earth do you work out “Lewis Hamilton threw away last years win”.
Simply put its poor. Journalism .
Everyone is entitled to an opinion but that is factually incorrect. He had an unpresidented lead and Merc miscalculated how long he needed to get out in front. They admitted it after the race.


The miscalculation was their fault, but coming in in the first place was partly Lewis’ fault.


‘ The miscalculation was their
fault ‘. And according to you,miscalculation by a bunch of degree owning engineers,with all sorts of technological gadgets at their disposal,is a lesser crime than a driver requesting to come in.We hear the drivers requesting all sorts of things;it is the job of the team to agree or in a very clear way,overrule as unwise,which they regularly do.They didn’t in this situation. 100% team’s fault.


Really…….give that one a rest now. Hamilton started the whole incident last year by questioning the teams order to stay out. Thats it, what happened after that was set in motion by his decision.


The admitted it to save Lewis embarrassment. He made the call, because he was worried about the rest pitting. The pitwall at Mercedes is not good under pressure, this is true, but he pressured them.


Utter nonsense. so a bunch of highly educated engineers,with vast experience, don’t know how to decline a request from a driver,if they thought it unwise. All they needed to do was convey a firm message that he was in danger of loosing track position. They didn’t, because they got their calculation wrong. 100% the team’s fault.


ricardo C …have you forgotten that the teams original message was for him to stay out?


Kenneth, here we go again, trying to blame Lewis for the gap not being big enough was nonsense last year, and remains nonsense now. You might as well criticise Ricciardo for losing the win in Spain because of “his” poor strategy call!


It’s got nothing to do with blaming Lewis for not knowing the gap. They didn’t know Rosberg and or Vettel were not coming in, for all we know similar discussions were going on there. The team told him not to come in; a clever driver would not have come in because why risk it when you can fend off the chasing pack on your old tires (as Lewis discovered 30seconds later). What made this partly his fault is that he is somewhere in between making his own call and listening to the team. He questions their call to stay out, panicks, then comes in. It was as stupid as it looked, and I say this as a fan of the man.


Bernd, you make it sound like the team told him not to come in and he ignored them and came in anyway! They told him to stay out, then come in, then stay out and then finally they told him to come in. The idea of a pitstop was not a bad one, being on fresh hot tyres is better than cold worn ones, the important piece of information that the team had, but Lewis did not was if he could make that stop without losing track position.
P.S I’m pretty sure they would have known full well that Nico wasn’t pitting!!


Yeah, only the team could know the gap, and seriously if they didn’t have a pit window PLUS an extra 5-6 seconds, then it was ridiculous to do it. Plus the fact that the most pertinent information needed – that neither Rosberg or Vettel would be pitting – wasn’t conveyed to their lead driver, is simply astounding.


@ KRB…no it’s not. he questioned their instruction?


And? He questioned their call to pit in Mexico too, but then he came in. If the team knew Rosberg was staying out – which of course they would – then there was zero need to risk his lead by pitting.

“Lewis, you will stay out, all others remain on softs.” Easy, peasy.


Raikkonen overtook 5 cars in 3 laps in 2013. Inside/ Outside here there & everywhere and didnt touch anyone- THAT is Racing!. Yes it was on fresh super softs but this highlights opportunities for someone on fresh Ultra Softs compared to fron runners doing 50laps on softs. Still the worst circuit to watch but SC cause the dramas that mix it up a bit.


5 cars in 3 laps is good. But please see my post earlier where a driver passes 7 cars on the first lap.


Yeah, I remember that, but that was too late in the race, we wanna see that sort of thing possible at all stages of the GP. Kimi simply went for it because he was losing nothing!! he wasn’t in a point scoring position, however, the ones that are fighting for P1-2-3 or else getting a good haul of points aren’t going to make those moves….they rarely have all these years….


Sorry to say, but easily this is the most boring “race” of the year.
there is hardly any “race” as its a mere procession of cars following each other for the entire race distance….baring may be one or two cases..
Its a “race” were quicker cars get helplessly stuck behind slower cars rather easily….and any attempt of overtaking requires a bit of generosity from other driver, otherwise it always ends up in tears for either or both of them.

This comes from someone who was attracted to F1 after watching Monaco 2003….but after all this years it really is a boring GP…There is hardly any “race”.


Hear hear – again!


Is it true James? Is FIA working on a sound generator based on exhaust gases? Is this it?


Is this the opera or racing? Sure, sound has been part of racing – but sound is not racing. Isn’t the writing on the wall concerning sound? The more electric engines (great torque) are incorporated, the less sound there will be. Isn’t a 4 passenger road car like the Tesla (in upgraded mode) almost as fast as a Ferrari? How can this be? As a kid, I was shocked to go to the local race track in the States (Lyndale Farms), as see a modified Ford Falcon (terrible 4 seat road car) souped up, turn lap times as fast as a Ferrari. I thought, this isn’t ‘right.’ But it was a fact, the lap times proved it. Sound has been a part of racing because it was/is part of the ‘no limits’ part of the sport, which I love. IF F1 artificially creates better sound, I think this absolutely proves F1 IS struggling. Rather, it should be about going to the limits with driving and car design rather than drawing spectators with sound. I say all this and at the same time I say I do enjoy hearing a Ferrari blast by me on the highway. But with racing, the lap times win races, and pushing limits is the important thing.


Good points.

My theory here is simple. People loved the sound of F1. They loved the V10. They enjoyed the V8. That sound was part of the identity of F1. Pure engine sound like we’ve known last 2 decades before PUs. No trumpets, wastegates or fake whistles that they are surely tuning now by what I’ve read.

The future is electric. Our kids will drive them. Or maybe even driving we watch in F1 will become an unnecessary skill. And so engine sound, especially crazy exotic sound like V10s will be different, exciting, an experience to be had, a way to touch the audience. Something they can’t have with their Tesla. After all, Formula E already has electric and automation series locked up. What will F1 become but a me-too at best? Look how me-too we view F1 against WEC with all this closing of cockpit halo thing.

Tesla? Already it is but a fraction of a second slower in a 1/4 mile than F12, and that’s the P85D not P90D – which likely matches the F12 in 1/4 mile race. What do you think happens to Tesla’s handling and track abilities with lighter more powerful batteries in a few years? Yeah…exactly. Where will this electric world leave F1 and it’s awkward hybrids no one will want in 2 year’s time? I pointed out that 372448 Hybrids were sold in US in all of 2015 and Tesla sold 400k with $1000 deposit of Model 3 in about a month! That’s just 1 electric car model. What does that tell you about where we’ll be by 2020? Will anyone be left to care about this hybrid F1 by then? If a tree falls in a forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it matter if it makes a sound anymore? F1 needs to sound like F1 before it’s too late.


True but surely driving a wailing Ferrari V8/V12 road car evokes more emotion than a dead silent Tesla. I would rather drive the Ferrari even if the Tesla is twice as fast. Which it isn’t.


Wasn’t Max Verstappen born in Belgium? Hence isn’t Dutch?


Mother is Belgian, father is Dutch, he grew up in Maaseik close to the Belgian-Netherlands border, and spent a lot of time karting with Dutch people, which is why he races under that flag.

TL;DR: He is both because of his parents, so he picked one.


It’s what licence he races under that matters. Same with Grosjean. He’s more Swiss than French but he has a French licence so he’s French.


Or Rosberg being German.


What does the place of birth have to do with your nationality?


Exactly, Swiss.


Generally speaking, quite a lot.


Or nothing at all, specifically speaking.

Is a dog born in a stable a horse?

I don’t think where you pay tax counts either.


Is a dog that lives amongst horses a horse? No, it’s still a dog.


I guess that was what his mom was saying.


I don’t believe Nico deserved either of his last two wins at Monaco.


100% agree with you Clive ????


Hear hear!


“… like Michael Schumacher famously did in 2006 after he crashed at Rascasse in qualifying.”

Oh, that leaves out so much, doesn’t it? ????

James, I hope you ask the tough questions of Rosberg tomorrow. Why was he in that setting at the start in Spain? Why was it diametrically opposite to the setting Lewis was in, or the one he himself was in two weeks earlier? What are Mercedes’ rules of engagement between the drivers when one car is considerably down on power?

Would be nice to know from the other drivers whether they would throw a block on their teammate as robustly as Rosberg did?

It’s a grey area that needs refining, before someone gets seriously hurt.

    ☺ ???? ????
????     ???? ???? ????


Give it a rest already! ????


Great questions.


simple as this, win pole and you win Monaco.


mostly true but not always, a badly timed safety car or a poor start can destroy someone’s chances.


The race I remember, is the one where Senna hit the barrier. It seems like he was trying to lap his second place teammate Prost to try to demoralize him – the track ended up humbling him. The barriers can bite you if you are not concentrating 100%. So, as I understand the article, the most interesting factors in the race will be turn 1 (again) and safety cars.


As a race Monaco is usually boring. However sometimes the truly great drivers, the really exceptional ones can overtake 2 or even three cars on lap one. But do you think any of the current crop could overtake 5 cars in half a lap, in dry, normal conditions? Alonso? Hamilton? Vettel? Or perhaps it was someone earlier, Senna or Schumacher perhaps? No none of these. In fact it was a driver that many of you don’t rate. Have a look at this: . Oh and it wasn’t 5 cars, it was 7. If you still don’t rate him after seeing this, please tell me why…..


Because he needs the racing line drawn on the track?


I love the AI of the other cars, they react in the way Hamilton expected Rosberg to in Spain.


That photo with the Ferrari and two beautiful women in bikini’s….now that is my kind of afternoon! 🙂





Knock knock…

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