Welcome to Formula 1's jewel in the crown Maranello, May 11 - Round 6 of the Formula 1 World Championship sees the teams set up camp at the most famous, glamorous and charismatic venue on the calendar -- Monte Carlo. However, the street race's...
Welcome to Formula 1's jewel in the crown
Maranello, May 11 - Round 6 of the Formula 1 World Championship sees the teams set up camp at the most famous, glamorous and charismatic venue on the calendar -- Monte Carlo. However, the street race's status as the sport's jewel in the crown comes at a price, namely that logistically it is the hardest to deal with. This has always been the case for a variety of reasons: the fact the paddock and pit facilities, despite improvements, are still the most basic of the year, the length of the race weekend, which stretches from Thursday to Sunday, the fact that additional spare parts are required because the risk of damaging the cars is so much higher on the twisty street circuit and a myriad of other minor irritations. However, this year, these difficulties have been compounded in that the race follows on just one weekend after the Spanish Grand Prix and with free practice starting on Thursday, that makes it the shortest back-to-back in the history of the sport. When the calendar first appeared, the Scuderia's logistics staff predicted a difficult time and that has indeed proved to be the case.
The majority of the team and of course, all the equipment, travelled by road from the last race and although the distance is not that great the amount of work involved is much more intense than it would be at some of the back-to-backs outside Europe. In those cases, equipment and cars simply have to be packed into boxes and they are delivered to the next venue, where the only set up work involves building the interior of the pit garages. However, here all the trucks have to be got into position and the motorhome set-up crews, independent of the actual team members, have to rebuild the entire team "village" in the space of just thirty six hours. Fortunately, the reappearance of the infamous Icelandic ash cloud did not impact on the team, as those engineers who were supposed to return to Maranello in between races, were able to take their scheduled flights, carrying out the post-race debrief on Monday in the factory, before driving to the Principality on Tuesday. The conclusions from that debrief were that the actual race result was satisfactory as was the fact the overall performance of the F10 had improved in Spain, when compared to the previous race, however, that performance level was still inadequate when compared to the quickest cars, at least in circumstances similar to those of Barcelona. The one weak point in the package that stands out is the lack of downforce. Here in Monaco, the situation could be better, chiefly because of the tyre choices provided by Bridgestone, namely the Super Soft and Medium.
The performance difference to the fastest cars in Barcelona was less significant in the race than in qualifying but the Monaco race result depends even more than others on Saturday's grid-deciding session. This race has always been described as a lottery and it will be even more of a truism this weekend, given that on a track that barely seemed to have room to accommodate twenty cars, it now has to find space for twenty four. Q1 on Saturday afternoon will be really problematic in terms of traffic. And 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 backmarkers will start to be lapped, which in Barcelona was a factor as early as the 14th lap.
From the technical point of view, the two F10 cars were prepared at the Catalunya Circuit after the Spanish Grand Prix and the only change in terms of specification is that they will not be fitted with the blown rear wing, used for the first time in Barcelona, as the low speed Monaco circuit means the system has no great value, as maximum downforce is required at all times. Setting up an F1 car to drive on roads not designed for racing is not straightforward and in the past two years, the Ferrari engineers adopted a different approach, running the car with softer settings than in the past, with positive results. As for the cars themselves, this race usually involved building bespoke "Monaco-spec" machines, however the new regulations forbid making such major changes, so apart from different downforce levels, the only significant change is to the steering, giving the driver more leverage and a tighter turning circle to cope with corners such as the hairpin.
Although a Prancing Horse has been first past the chequered flag a total of eight times here, in more recent years, Lady Luck has chosen not to look kindly on our efforts and Ferrari's last Monaco victory dates back to 2001. And those most heartbreaking podium positions, second and third have featured in our Monaco history no less than seventeen and twenty one times respectively. As for our current drivers, Fernando Alonso has won twice with his previous teams, in 2006 and 2007, while Felipe Massa has one third place podium finish to his name.Even when the team was the dominant force over the season, winning in the Principality has proved impossible, either due to bad luck such as the 2004 collision in the tunnel between Montoya and Schumacher, or down to the weather such as in 2008 when Massa had started from pole. In the past decade, the Scuderia has set more fastest Monaco race laps than any other, including last year, when generally the car was not so competitive, even if Raikkonen started the '09 race from the front row.