Williams ready for the jewel in the F1 crown
Two weeks after the first European race of the 2009 Formula One World Championship season, the jewel in the F1 crown is on the calendar: the Monaco Grand Prix. The Williams F1 Team and drivers are already looking forward to the challenging street circuit in the heart of Monte Carlo.
Monaco in a nutshell
Fierce braking and acceleration are a major feature, and suit a lighter car, but the race distance is about 40 kilometres shorter than most, so drivers have less chance to capitalise. More pertinently, it’s essential to qualify well because overtaking borders on the impossible, no matter how quick your car might be. A little flexibility is required, Safety Cars are a tradition, but two-stop strategies are the norm. In 2008, though, Felipe Massa attempted a one-stopper….and would have won had the fluctuating weather not forced him to make a supplementary tyre change.
Average turn angle indicates the average angle of a circuit’s corners expressed in degrees. The higher the average turn angle, the more acute the corners in the circuit’s configuration and the greater propensity for understeer to compromise lap time. At Monaco, the average turn angle is 950, against a season average of 1100, ranking it as the circuit with the 5th lowest average turn angle across the Championship.
The end of straight (EOS) speed at Monaco was 286kp/h in 2008. Monaco ranks as having the slowest EOS speed on the 2009 calendar, and this is one indicator of the wing level typically selected to optimise the downforce/drag ratio. Meanwhile, Monaco has the slowest average lap speed of any of the tracks on the calendar.
Pitlane & refuelling strategy
The pitlane length and profile (i.e. corners in the pitlane entry) contribute to the determination of the optimum fuel strategy. The pitlane loss at Monaco is approximately 17.8 seconds, the 14th most penalising pitlane in the Championship. To complete a normalised distance of 5km around the Monte Carlo circuit requires 2.58kg of fuel against an average of 2.42kg per 5km across all circuits this season, making the circuit the 2nd most demanding track of the year in terms of fuel consumption.
Another key contributor to the determination of race strategy is the likelihood of safety car deployments, which are influenced by weather considerations, the availability of clear run-off areas that allow racing to continue while recovery takes place and the circuit profile, especially the character of the entry and exit into turn one at the start of the race. Since the 2000 Monaco Grand Prix, there have been 7 safety car deployments, making it statistically likely that the circuit’s character will induce safety car periods.
Temperature, pressure & humidity
As an example, it is a long observed tradition that drivers arriving at Interlagos complain about a lack of grip and an absence of engine power. Having become acquainted with a baseline of engine and aerodynamic performance during the season, the climb to 750 metres above sea level for one of the final races can, courtesy of the reduction in air density, rob a Formula One car of engine power, aerodynamic performance and cooling. The losses can come close to double digit percentages and thus have a very real impact on car performance. Air density is a factor of the prevailing ambient temperature, which varies most significantly by season, air pressure which is closely linked to altitude and, to a much smaller degree, by humidity. Thus if races are run at the same time each year, the factor that tends to have the greatest bearing on air density is elevation. Like half the races on the calendar, Monaco is close to sea level, ranging from 2m to 29m above, and has an average pressure (1,014 mbar).
* Please note these statistics do not take into consideration Abu Dhabi.
What the drivers say
Thoughts after Europe’s opening Spanish round
: “In general, Spain wasn’t easy for us. We struggled to get the tyres up to temperature for qualifying on Saturday and then I had a balance problem with the rear of the car at random stages during the race which affected my ability to really push when I needed to. As a result, we didn’t get the result we wanted in Spain, but coming home with a point is always positive, particularly as we haven’t collected any recently.”
: “Spain was another difficult race for me. The incident on the first lap and subsequent pitstop dropped me to the back and I really couldn’t recover. We need to move on from that though and look for something more positive from Monaco.”
Kazuki: “I hope we have a good car in Monaco, we normally do, and I need a better race this weekend. Although it’s not my favourite track to drive, I went well in Monaco last year going from 14th to 7th in my debut race to get two points for the team. With the new regulations this season, I think it will be quite a different experience in Monaco this year and the new slick tyres will really help with the grip levels. I just hope the race will be incident-free for me.”
Nico: “Monaco should be a good race for us. Our car has traditionally gone really well there in the past few years and I believe it will be strong again this year. As we haven’t managed to get the results that our car deserves yet it would be great for everyone in the team if we came away with something positive from the weekend.”
On the principality
Nico: “Monaco is my home town so all my friends and family will be there supporting me which will be great. Living within 100 metres of the track also makes life so much easier over the weekend as well.”
Kazuki: “I know I should be more excited about Monaco, but it really is just another destination for me. The glitz and glamour is all a bit too much for me to really enjoy myself there so I’ll be keeping my usual routine of working hard at the track during the day and then having quiet evenings at the hotel, probably some training and treatment followed by a quick supper and an early night.”
On the most glamorous track on the calendar
Kazuki: “Monte Carlo is an iconic destination for Formula One. The atmosphere is completely different to anywhere else we go and that can’t fail to make it a more exciting weekend than usual.”
Nico: “To me, Monaco is my home so I’m used to it but it is a completely different place when Formula One is in town. Normally it’s quite quiet, just like anywhere really, but the Grand Prix weekend brings a different atmosphere to the place and that’s really special to be a part of.”