Having practice sessions on Thursday makes it much easier for us to preview the Monaco Grand Prix easier. With what we have learned from yesterday on board, let’s have a look at this weekend’s race:
There is little doubt that the Monaco track is the most difficult and punishing of the F1 tracks. This is mainly because of the barriers, which drivers are forced to scrape every single lap as they struggle for pace. The slightest mistake will result in their car flying into the barriers, putting them out of the race instantly. We saw this in practice to Kamui Kobayashi.
The Snt Devote corner is one of the most challenging corners on the track. At the start of the race, it is notorious for a pile-up at the back of the field, though oddly enough this hasn’t happened in recent years. Expect that to change though, as the heavy fuel loads and cold tyres at the start, paired with inexperienced drivers at the back, could well mean several drivers could get taken out. If they do, the safety car will be a certainty.
Next up is Massenet, or Turn 3. This is a long blind entry left hander, which requires good turn-in of the car to take it quickly. Understeer would be preferable here, as oversteet would result in the car spinning and hitting the outside barrier, as Karun Chandhok did yesterday.
Another difficult turn this year will be the Harbour Chicane, Turn 11. This is after the tunnel straight, and enters a heavy-braking area, where the track also goes downhill. Then, a quick left, then right, and the car is on the way to Tabac corner. The biggest danger here is losing control in the braking area, and possibly hitting a car in front. We saw loss of control here many times in practice, most noticeably by Jaime Alguersuari, who did very well to stop the car from crashing. This is also the only opportunity for overtaking, but don’t expect to see much of it.
The next difficult turn is the last one, Anthony Noghes. This is a bumpy right-hander, which requires maximum speed to keep going quickly on the pit straight. Several drivers went very close to the right barrier here yesterday.
As usual, Red Bull have their own analysis of the Monaco street circuit:
Bridgestone are supplying the super-soft and medium tyres for this race. By the data we got yesterday, some teams are struggling with tyre wear on the super-soft compound. The medium compound, on the other hand, is quite a bit slower in terms of pace, though we are not sure by how much. However, there is not too much difficulty with warming them up either.
If drivers do opt for the super-soft tyres for the first stint, then they will only last for about 12 laps. After this, medium tyres will be the preferable choice, but it is unknown if they will last the distance.
A few days ago, many people were predicting rain for Thursday, but very little for the weekend. So far, we have only seen very slight rain on Thursday. Most weather services are only predicting for a chance of rain on Sunday, but not much of a chance. Therefore, it will probably be a dry weekend.
Air temperature will be around 20C, track temperature around 25C. There will be a slight wind on Saturday, which may cause problems with the drivers in places, but it will slow down by Sunday.
Drivers to watch
Fernando Alonso – After topping both Friday Practice sessions, and the Red Bulls being not as competitive, I would tip Alonso for the pole and win this weekend. The Ferrari has good pace here, despite the lack of the F-duct, due to good mechanical grip. Felipe Massa will only pose a threat to Fernando if he qualifies in front of him, which I doubt.
Michael Schumacher – There’s no denying that the Mercedes team are slowly working the car in Schumacher’s favour rather than Rosberg. Regardless of our opinions, it means that Michael will have a better chance this weekend, thanks to the chronic understeer being mostly fixed. A win is still out of the question, but I think it is within the car’s ability to challenge for a podium. Just as long as he doesn’t forget how to take La Rascasse.
Robert Kubica – Monaco is a circuit that often brings the gap down between the teams, since aerodynamic grip has very little effect here. Because of this, having a slower car won’t disadvantage Robert Kubica too much. He is still the outsider in the title race at the moment, and a good performance in Monaco would certainly help his cause. I’d saty that he has the ability to get a podium this weekend.
Adrian Sutil – Like I said about Kubica, the Force India’s disadvantages are made smaller at the Monaco circuit. In practice, we have seen Sutil do quite well, whereas team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi has been in the lower end of the midfield pack. His skill is undeniable, and he is improving in terms of keeping the car out of the barriers. A few points wouldn’t be too bad here in Monaco.