2010 Monaco GP preview Only a few days after the Spanish GP, the Formula One teams have already arrived at the Principality of Monaco in Southern France for the sixth round of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) Formula One World...
2010 Monaco GP preview
Only a few days after the Spanish GP, the Formula One teams have already arrived at the Principality of Monaco in Southern France for the sixth round of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) Formula One World Championship, the Grand Prix of Monaco. The race in Monaco is one of only four current races to have formed part of the original 1950 Formula One World Championship, the Monaco Grand Prix this year makes its 57th appearance on the Formula One calendar. This Monte Carlo street race can trace its origins back to 1929, before the formation of the Formula One World Championship, when an Anglo-Frenchman known only as "Williams" won the first Grand Prix de Monaco in a Bugatti 35B.
Monaco's uniquely challenging layout traditionally provides incident and drama, thanks to the bumpy nature of the track surface and circuit-lining crash barriers that allow little margin for error. New-for-2010 regulations that have banned in-race refueling and brought in narrower front tyres are likely to make car preservation more important than ever this year.
The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most prestigious races in the world, and forms together with the Indianapolis 500 mile race and the 24 Hours of Le Mans the so-called "Triple Crown". Legendary Formula One racer and two times World Champion Graham Hill, who won the Monaco Grand Prix five times, was the only driver who won the Triple Crown, other racing legends like Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti and more recently Jacques Villeneuve have tried to win the Triple Crown as well, but never succeeded because all three of them never won the race at Le Mans.
The FIA has appointed four stewards who will make up the F1 Stewards Panel for the race in Monaco: Swiss Paul Gutjahr and Mexican Jos? Abed will represent the FIA, Dr. Christian Calmes represents the hosting country Monaco, and ex-Formula One driver and 1996 World Champion Damon Hill will represent the drivers.
Damon Hill, the son of the late Graham Hill, who was a double world champion himself, was active in Formula One from 1992 to 1999. He participated in 122 Grands Prix, drove for Brabham, Williams, Arrows and Jordan. He won 22 races, scored 20 pole positions, visited the podium on 42 occasions and gathered 360 world championship points during his seven-year Formula One career. Damon Hill is also the president of the BRDC (British Racing Drivers' Club), the owner of the Silverstone circuit. He is also known for the numerous clashes he had with Michael Schumacher, the most notable one was the 'Schumacher move' during the 1994 Australian Grand Prix, when Schumacher didn't 'see' Hill, resulting in a very controversial collision, which decided the championship in favor of Schumacher.
McLaren found the bug
McLaren has found the cause of the crash of Lewis Hamilton during the Spanish GP, as already suspected, McLaren confirmed the crash was caused by a wheel rim failure, but the team does not know why the failure occurred. McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh: "The rim failure is being investigated. It could be debris-related, it could be that a lack of tightness of the wheel nut allowed some flexing. What we know is that the rim failed, probably a human error somewhere in the process to cause it, and that led to the deflation and the accident."
McLaren has a history of problems with wheel rims, in 2007 Hamilton crashed during the qualification of the European GP at the Nurburgring because a loose wheel nut had damaged the rim, and in 2008 Heikki Kovalainen crashed due to a rim failure on lap 22 of the Spanish GP, and was knocked unconscious after he had plunged into the tyre wall at high speed.
McLaren wants to put the crash in Spain behind them, and have warned their rivals they are determined to take the victory in Monaco. McLaren has won the Monaco GP 15 times, including a six-year lockout between 1988 and 1993. Hamilton, who won the race on 2008: "Qualifying will be more important than ever: while we're still working hard to improve our qualifying pace, I think that Monaco is a place where the input of the driver is more important than at any other track, so I'm pretty confident that we'll be able to do a good job."
Mercedes back on track?
Mercedes has been struggling with their car all season, but the B-spec car has put the team back on the right track again, although Nico Rosberg finished on 13th place because of his pit stop problems, Michael Schumacher finished the race in 4th position. But there is also criticism about the new car which suits Schumacher better. BBC commentator and ex-Formula One team owner Eddie Jordan, commented in the German media: "This [approach] is a mistake. The first four races showed entirely clearly who is able to keep up with the new generation of drivers such as Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton; namely Nico Rosberg."
But Ross Brawn and Norbert Haug think the car will suit the streets of Monaco better than Spain and also think the unpredictability of the race could favor the Mercedes team. Schumacher, who won the race five times, hopes for more improvement in Monaco, but at the same time is cautious about his chances to win the race. Schumacher: "We should be careful to expect too much this time as we have seen in Barcelona that there is still a lot of work ahead of us. So, other than having achieved my best result so far this season, I have taken with me a lot of motivation to work even harder with our engineers to improve the car further."
Red Bull Racing is another team who warned their rivals they want the victory in Monaco, and after their excellent performance in Spain, the other teams have every reason to be wary of the Austrian team. Red Bull has so far dominated qualification, and in Monaco a pole position could be the key to success. But with perhaps the brake problems Sebastian Vettel experienced in Spain still in mind, team principal Christian Horner also was cautious: "It is a circuit that we weren't particularly strong at last year, but we feel we have improved the car in a lot of areas compared to last season and we believe we can be very strong in Monaco."
Ferrari expects the qualification in Monaco will become a lottery. Felipe Massa is concerned about the pace of the new teams: "With four more cars out on track at the same time this year, and without wishing to be too critical, I would say [with] six rather slow cars out on track, Q1 can become a lottery." Ferrari about the race: "In the race, although you can plan your pit stop strategy around the traffic, if a driver gets caught behind slower cars, it will ruin his race, especially when considering how early the back markers will start to be lapped."
Pitstops and tyres
Expected pit stop schedule for Monaco:
For 1 Stop - between laps 44-51
For 2 Stops - between laps 25-32 and 48-55
For 3 Stops - between laps 18-24, 34-40 and 52-58
Bridgestone tyre report:
For the first time ever Bridgestone will bring a non-consecutive dry tyre allocation to the unique challenges of the Monaco Grand Prix. The Japanese tyre company will bring the Medium and Super Soft tyre compounds to Monaco, last year Bridgstone allocated the consecutive Soft and Super Soft tyre compounds for this race. The circuit is the shortest on the calendar, it is also the lowest average speed circuit, due to its tight and twisty nature.
Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima about the circuit: "Monaco is a difficult circuit for drivers and tyre engineers. The actual track surface is very smooth as it is polished by the use of road vehicles, and finding grip is a priority for drivers. After reviewing last year's data and because of the changes in positioning for our compounds this season, we can use the Super Soft and Medium at Monaco."
Williams and Renault
The Williams team is worried about the lack of speed, even the most experienced Formula One driver on the grid, Rubens Barrichello, has only scored seven championship points in the uncompetitive Williams. The team will bring some updates to Monaco, Sam Michael: "The circuit demands a softer set-up than usual and maximum downforce, so after a series of upgrades brought to the car in Barcelona, this is the second race in succession when we will be making some significant changes to the car."
Renault driver Robert Kubica enjoys the circuit, but doesn't want to make any predictions: "I always enjoy street circuits, especially Monaco, and I've always gone well there. There are aspects of Monaco that are both positive and negative for our car, so it's difficult to know how competitive we will be until free practice begins on Thursday."
The new teams
The new teams have unwillingly become the focus of attention even before the race in Monaco has started, other teams and drivers fear the race will become dangerous and a disaster with six very slow cars on track. The Monaco GP will be new for Lotus, Virgin and HRT, and it will be a technical challenge for them as well. The slower cars will pose an extra challenge for the top teams, but if the slower teams behave in a disciplined manner, and quickly respond to blue flags, the risks will be minimal.
Drivers are concerned about slower cars
Hamilton was one of the first drivers to voice his concerns over the slower cars of the new teams on the narrow street circuit. He's even worried the slower cars will block the road. Hamilton also complained about Lucas di Grassi in Spain last weekend: "I lapped Di Grassi four times. That's one of the biggest gaps I've had in Formula One." The McLaren driver, who will be wearing a diamond-encrusted helmet in Monaco (voila, a nice illustration of the difference between a fast and a slow team) continued: "You catch them so quick it's just unreal. When you see them you are thinking, when will they move out of the way? And then they move into the wrong position. Monaco will be very tough."
There was a proposal on the table for a two-tier qualification on Saturday, but the proposal needed the unanimous approval of all twelve teams. The FOTA discussed it with FIA safety delegate Charlie Whiting, but Lotus boss Tony Fernandes vetoed the proposal. Fernandes: "There was talk today at FOTA of having a split qualifying, going into a hat with 12 in one and 12 in another. I said no. We want the race to be exciting, we want to be unpredictable so let qualifying be the same as well." And there is something Hamilton and other drivers failed to see, not just the rookies can cause havoc on the narrow streets of Monaco...
Qualifying on Saturday
Most teams think flexibility is the most important virtue during qualifying. It is also important for teams to stay on track during Q1, respond quickly when others put in better lap times, and don't make the same mistake Ferrari and McLaren made during the Malaysian GP, when they didn't make it to Q2 because they thought they were in the safe zone. Complacency is not an option. It's also important to get at least one clear lap, and that is the joint task of driver and team, the team on the pit wall can help the driver to find a gap by keeping an eye on the positions of the other drivers and send him onto the track at precisely the right moment.
The Monaco circuit is 3.349 meters long, which means with a field of 24 cars evenly spaced (and as someone mentioned, they won't be evenly spaced), there will be a car roughly every 200 meters, and that is what makes it difficult to find a clear lap. So brace yourself, after the first free practice session on Thursday morning, there will probably be an avalanche of complaints about 'mobile chicanes' and 'cheeky rookies' who 'spoiled' the lap times of the top teams, and split-qualifying will without a doubt again be mentioned by many drivers. Charlie Whiting and the FIA stewards will have a busy weekend.
But no matter how difficult it will be, it is worth the effort, Monaco hosts one of the most prestigious, glamorous and most imaginative Grand Prix of the season, the names Beau Rivage, Sainte D?vote, Rascasse and Tabac sound like music to the ears of all Formula One fans, the engine sounds will echo through the streets for three days, and the driver who wins this race, truly wins the jewel in the crown.