Monaco may be the most unique race on the Formula 1 calendar, but for the engineers the challenge remains the same: fine-tuning their car to achieve maximum performance around the demanding street circuit. It's an unforgiving place, and getting...
Monaco may be the most unique race on the Formula 1 calendar, but for the engineers the challenge remains the same: fine-tuning their car to achieve maximum performance around the demanding street circuit. It's an unforgiving place, and getting the most out of the R28 around the twisty streets will require an unusual set-up and commitment from the driver. As a street course, the track surface is quite low grip in the early part of the weekend, but come Sunday, the track will be nicely rubbered-in and will continue to improve until the final lap of the Grand Prix.
The roads in the Principality may feel billiard-table-smooth at the wheel of a road car, but they are incredibly bumpy for the rock-hard suspension of a Formula 1 car. To cope with the variations in track surface, ride heights are raised between 5 and 7mm relative to the norm.The public roads are also sharply cambered and very slippery - especially on the traffic markings that are dotted around the circuit.
In order to maximise the car's grip, the team will use softer suspension settings than normal. They help the car to ride the bumps and changes of camber. The surface also means that the wheels must be able to move independently to cope with the bumps, and we soften the anti-roll bars to achieve this. Special attention is paid to suspension camber angles too. The key objective is to give the driver a neutral, driveable car that he can have confidence in around the circuit.
Monaco demands the highest downforce levels of the season. Contrary to popular belief, the primary benefit does not come in the corners, as many of them are taken at such low speeds that mechanical grip is of greater importance. Rather, the gains from high downforce come under braking and acceleration, keeping the car stable into the corners and ensuring optimum traction on the exit.
The famous hairpin at the Grand Hotel is the tightest of the year - along with the sharp turn at Rascasse. Monaco therefore demands the highest steering angle of the season, some two times greater than anything required in Barcelona. Dedicated Monaco front suspension is produced to ensure the necessary steering lock can be applied.
Monaco is not particularly demanding on the tyres due to the slow nature of the circuit. As such, Bridgestone will supply the softest compounds in the range (soft and super-soft), which will help deliver good traction out of the low-speed corners.
Closely-spaced gear ratios are used at this circuit in order to optimise acceleration, and get the most from the engine at slow speeds. The gearbox will have to cope with 53 gear changes per lap - a total of nearly 4150 in the race.
Superficially, Monaco may seem the least demanding circuit of the year, with just 45% of the lap spent on full throttle. Appearances, though, do not reflect reality. The bumpy surface means the engine can easily over-rev if the wheels leave contact with the ground. A driveable engine and good traction from very low revs are extremely important.