This weekend marks the 71st Monaco Grand Prix, an event that has put and kept Formula One on the international map. Its very low speed corners and small pit boxes close to the Mediterranean make it a unique challenge.
The Formula One teams have already arrived, partly because free practice kicks of on Thursday, instead of the usual Friday.
The history of Grand Prix racing on this track stretches back to 1929. It is the 60th Formula One race here, with the principality making its debut on the first Formula One calendar in 1950. It then took a break until 1955 but has featured on the calendar every year since.
Qualifying at Monaco is vital, with teams often opting to go for outright pace on Saturday, not worrying what could happen on race day, particularly because it is extremely difficult to pass someone on the narrow and twisty streets. This year however is expected to put more emphasis on the race, thanks to more wear on the tyres. Pirelli expects the race to be a 2-stopper, with a 1-stop a likely possibility for Lotus or perhaps Jenson Button.
The lowest position to win the race from is 14th, when Panis won the Grand Prix in dreadful weather. Since 2000 however, 8 winners have won from pole, and 2 from second place on the grid.
Turn 1 The first corner is very tight and has been the scene of many incidents over the years. The distance from pole position to Sainte Devote is just 140m – the shortest run to the first corner we see all season and the pole sitter will reach it in a touch over four seconds. From pole there is not enough time for KERS to be activated, but cars starting further behind may choose to use it. After braking down to 105kph for Sainte Devote, drivers get quickly back on the power for the climb up through Beau Rivage to Casino Square. The circuit gains over 30m in altitude in 10secs so engine maps will be designed to work with short gear ratios to maximise acceleration and hit the rev limit at the top of the hill. There is a possibility to use KERS on this climb, but the steep gradient will reduce its effectiveness. In fact, overtaking here comes down to who can get the best acceleration out of Sainte Devote so particular care is paid to pedal and torque maps in this corner.
Turns 4 + 5 The bumpy track between turns four and five [Casino / Mirabeau] requires drivers to modify their line to avoid unduly unsettling their car.
Turn 6 As the slowest corner on the circuit – and indeed the entire season – suspension and steering modifications must be made to the car just to make it through this turn.
Turn 9 Taken flat out, the tunnel is the fastest part of the track. The contrast of natural, artificial, then natural light is a big challenge for the drivers. Track temperature is also different from the rest of the circuit.
Turn 10 Exiting the tunnel into the chicane is the scene of many out-braking manoeuvres. This is a real opportunity to pressurise the car ahead, but also a place where mistakes are often seen.
Turn 14 The Swimming Pool – ‘La Piscine’ – is entered very quickly, before hard braking for turn fifteen.
Turn 18 Turn eighteen – La Rascasse – is the second slowest part of the circuit, with the cars running very close to the inside wall.
Start / Finish Straight With so few overtaking opportunities around the lap, a good exit from the final corner – Anthony Noghes – is essential leading on to the start / finish straight. There are high traction demands here.
Front Wing Front downforce is key. Teams tend to run maximum front wing with more balance to the front thanks to the understeer inducing characteristics of the circuit.
Rear Wing We will have a Monaco-specific ‘big’ rear wing to gain more downforce at the lower overall speeds seen here.
Suspension Monaco has the greatest undulations relative to any circuit on the calendar meaning a soft car is required; allowing the tyres to retain contact with the tarmac as much as possible. This means softer roll bars and springs; the aim being to maximise mechanical grip without losing too much aerodynamic grip.
Brakes Brakes are not a big concern. The low speed layout means drivers are not braking as significantly as they would from a long straight into a first gear corner, and it’s also a shorter race than most so wear is not an issue. Monitoring temperatures is essential as there aren’t any real high speed sections to cool the brakes, and the relentless stop / start nature can compound heat generation. The brake calipers tend to run hotter in Monaco than any other track, so more attention is paid to them than normal.
Tyres This race will see Pirelli’s red marked supersoft tyre appear for just the second time this season – Australia being the first – alongside the soft compound. Tyre wear is very low here due to the smooth track surface and low speed layout.
Engine An engine with very good response is essential, with drivability rather than ultimate power being the goal. You’ll never go slower with more power, but it’s the least power sensitive circuit of the year. The engine spends a relatively short amount of time at full throttle so the challenge is to deliver torque through the lower rev limits of the engine. With Monaco being such a bumpy street track, the engine also needs a good limiter setting so it is capable of digesting all the bumps. Finally, fuel consumption needs to be calculated very accurately, as the track gets quicker and quicker over the weekend.
Number of corners: 19 (8 left & 11 right)
Maximum speed (no DRS): 285 km/h
Minimum speed: 50 km/h
Corners below 100 km/h (qualifying): 9
Corners above 250 km/h (qualifying): 2
Average lap speed (qualifying): 160 km/h
Distance to from pole to apex of T1: 210m
Braking events: 12, 6 heavy
Pit-lane length under speed-limit control: 301m
Pit-lane time at 60 km/h: 19.9s
Pit-lane time at 100 km/h: 11.9s
Full throttle per lap (% lap distance): 53%
Full throttle per lap (% lap time): 39%
Longest period at full throttle: 7.5s
Average gear changes per race lap: 50 (3900/race)
Fuel consumption per lap: 1.5 kg
Fuel consumption: 64l/100km