Race preview ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Monaco, Monte Carlo Circuitmc

Following the cancellation of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Formula One heads to Monte Carlo this weekend for Round Six of the 2023 Formula One World Championship, the fabulous Monaco Grand Prix. F1Technical's Balazs Szabo highlights key facts on the illustrious race that is a mixture of daunting barriers, tight streets, precision, unique setting and celebrity.

After the first five rounds of the season saw the utter domination of the reigning world champion team, Red Bull, its rivals, Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin are buoyed to bounce back on a track that can throw up surprises.

A unique spectacle
The history of the Monaco Grand Prix predates the current World Championship. The event was called into being in 1929 when Anthony Noghes, the President of the Automobile Club de Monaco organised the very fist Monaco Grand Prix. Noghes managed to obtain the official sanction of Prince Louis II and the support of Monegasque driver Louis Chiron.

The first race was an invitation-only event. The then leading racing teams, Maserati and Alfa Romeo did not turn up in the Principality, leaving Mercedes and Bugatti battling on the track for the top positions. In the end, William Grover-Williams took the victory for Bugatti while Rudolf Caracciola finished second with his Mercedes.

The race quickly made its name with its unique setting. The next years saw Bugatti, Alfa Romeo and Mercedes taking the win in Monte Carlo before the race action came to a halt in 1938 because of the nearing war. The first post-war Monaco race was held in 1948, won by the future champion Nino Farina. The race appeared on the calendar of the very first Formula One World Champion as the second event. The race was not held in the following year while the 1952 Monaco Grand Prix was held to sports car rules. The Principality did not host any races in the following two years. The sport returned to Monaco in 1955 and has visited it every year since.

Monaco has made its name with its tight and twisty streets which test both men and machine, human concentration and reliability. The race is widely considered to be one of the most important and prestigious races in the world and forms the unofficial Triple Crown of Motorsport with the Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The most successful teams and drivers

With six wins, Ayrton Senna is the uncrown king of the Monaco street circuit. The Brazilian is followed by Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher, with both have achieved five victories in the small country. Alain Prost is the only driver to have four wins in Monaco to his name. Lewis Hamilton, Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart both won in the Principality on three occasions.

Nico Rosberg is on the same level as the two British drivers in terms of the wins in Monaco. The German has won three times. He claimed his victories in 2013, 2014 and 2015, all of them as the team-mate of Lewis Hamilton.

McLaren is the most successful team in Monaco. The British outfit has won on fifteen occasions, although they scored their last victory with Lewis Hamilton back in 2008. Ferrari is second on this list with Sebastian Vettel winning for the Italians in 2017 for the last time. Lotus is the third most successful team with seven triumphs followed Red Bull which has won six times in the Principality.

BRM and Mercedes have won five times respectively. Cooper, Tyrell and Williams are the three-time winners in the Principality. Maserati, Brabham, Benetton and Renault form the group of teams which have won on two occasions.

Despite not being a repeat winner, Alfa Romeo has an outstanding achievement in Monaco with having won the first ever Formula One race in the luxorious country.

An intense lap

The street circuit of Monaco is the shortest track on the calendar by far. Drivers have to complete a total of 78 laps on the 3.337km-long track during the race. Despite to the high number of laps, the race distance is only 260.286km.

The lap record is held by Max Verstappen. The Dutchman set a lap time of 1m14.260 during the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix, beating the previous record.

Not only the track, but the pit lane is also uncharacteristically tight which forces the governing body to reduce the speed limit in the pit lane at 60km/h during the entire race weekend.

Drivers reach a top speed of 280km/h at the end of the start-finish straight before slowing down for the tricky first corner. The exit from the Sainte Devote corner is important because drivers start climbing up a hill on the Beau Rivage section. After arriving the highest point of the circuit, the third bend, the Massanet requires maxmimum concentration, the slightest of mistakes can send cars into the barriers. In the next corner, Casino, the balance of the cars are thoroughly tested.

The Mirabeau corner opens the second sector. It entices drivers to be over-ambitious, but a lock-up can force drivers to take the run-off zone which could see them losing valuable time or a qualifying lap. Drivers then head towards the slowest bend of the track. In fact, the Grand Hotel corner is the slowest one on the whole calendar. The uncomfortably slow turn is followed by two other slow bends and the only tunnel of the calendar.

Turn 10 and 11 form a chicane where it is important to have a clean exit for the following straight. The next two corners are relatively fast, at least in Monaco terms. Turn 15 and 16 at the Swimming Pool build the last chicane of the circuit. Drivers have to be brave, but also presice to carry the maximum speed running over the high kerbs, but avoiding the daunting barriers. The Rascasse corner is another slow, 90-degree bend while drivers need to concentrate on the exit in the last bend, the Anthony Noghes corner as they arrive back to the start-finish straight.

The softest compounds in action
The three softest compounds in the Pirelli Formula 1 range will take to the track in Monaco: C3 as the P Zero White hard, C4 as the P Zero Yellow medium and C5 as the P Zero Red soft.

There’s very little grip and limited wear. The softest compounds offer a good level of adhesion when it comes to traction but mechanical grip is limited. This doesn’t prevent some sliding: a determining factor in surface graining.

Commenting on the forthcoming Monaco round, Pirelli's Motorsport Director Mario Isola said: "Monaco has written its own chapter in the history of Formula 1. The characteristics of this unique circuit, largely unaltered for more than 60 years, make it a true one-off that has often sprung surprises. No other track can allow a driver to compensate for any technical shortcomings of their car in the same way, and just one incident can shake things up entirely.

"The difficulty of overtaking can sometimes detract from the spectacle in the race, but that only makes Saturday’s qualifying all the more exciting, as grid position assumes a particular importance to the final result on Sunday. As is often the case on street circuits, Pirelli has nominated the softest tyres in the range.

"One of the peculiarities of Monaco is the fact that the track is opened to normal traffic every evening, which means that it's very hard for rubber to build up on the racing line, making the surface even more slippery. With Imola having been scrubbed, Monaco could now become the debut for the new Cinturato Blue full wet without tyre blankets, obviously depending on weather conditions: another potential random factor this weekend," Isola concluded.