Preview: Monaco GP

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Monaco, Monte Carlo Circuitmc

The Monaco Grand Prix is probably considered one of the most prestigious sporting events of the year, and often named within the same sentence of the Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 hours race.

This weekend, Formula One is racing again in the tiny state near the Mediterranean sea. As glamourous ships arrive to fill the otherwise quiet port, so are the barriers in the streets of Monaco, effectively disrupting any normal traffic in the Principality.

Monaco is the shortest and slowest circuit on the Formula 1 calendar, but it’s also one of the most demanding. The proximity of the barriers means there’s no room for error, and, with more than 4,000 gear changes during the 78-lap race, there’s great emphasis on reliability.

The track layout has remained largely unchanged since French entrepreneur Antony Nogues first proposed the idea of a race to Prince Rainier in 1928. The first Monaco Grand Prix was staged in April of the following year and the race was subsequently included on the inaugural World Championship calendar of 1950. It has been a regular F1 fixture since 1955.

Most of the 3.340km track has been re-surfaced since last year, so the teams can expect the new, super-smooth asphalt to be slippery when practice gets underway on Thursday. That’s in direct contrast to the old, abrasive surface at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, scene of the Spanish Grand Prix earlier this month.

With the emphasis on traction and low-speed mechanical grip, Pirelli are taking their two softest compounds to Monaco: the Soft (Prime) and Supersoft (Option) rubber. This is the first time that the Supersoft tyre has been raced this season, but the teams already have plenty of experience with the new-for-2014 Soft compound tyre from the Australian, Bahrain and Chinese Grands Prix.

Quick facts

Track abrasiveness: Low. Monaco has a slippery, low-grip surface and traction is king
Fuel consumption: Low. Only 40 per cent of the lap is spent at full throttle, so most cars will start with less than the maximum 100kg of fuel
Brakewear: Medium. There are 13 braking zones around the lap, but only two of them are from high speed
DRS zones: One – on the start/finish straight
Turbo effect: High, due to lots of slow speed corners. Managing the torque around such a narrow track will be crucial for the drivers.
Safety Car likelihood: High. Statistically, there’s an 80% chance of a Safety Car
Grid Advantage: The racing line is on the left, holding a slight advantage.
Pitlane time: 24s