Monaco Grand Prix 2012: Race Preview


Monaco: Sunshine, yachts, and a twisty narrow track - Photo Credit: Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Monaco: Sunshine, yachts, and a twisty narrow track - Photo Credit: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

 

About two weeks ago, just a few days before the Spanish Grand Prix, a friend with a passing interest in Formula 1 commented on the fact that there had been four winners from the first four races.

'Wouldn't it be good', he said, 'if this trend continued for the rest of the season, and that there was a different winner in every race'.

'Definitely!' was my reply, 'but there are twenty races this season. For a different winner in each, drivers like Pastor Maldonado would have to start winning, and that's never going to happen.'

Fast forward a few days and, in Barcelona, the Williams driver was standing on top of the podium, the Venezuelan national anthem was ringing-out around the Circuit de Catalunya, and I was forced to eat my words.

So there have now been five different winners in the first five races, including two drivers – Maldonado and Nico Rosberg – who have claimed their first victories in F1. Not only is it five different drivers winning, but also five different teams.

The last time this happened was in 1983. At the sixth race of that season, which took place in Belgium, it was Alain Prost, winner of the third race in France, who became the first driver to win two grand prix that year. If, by some amazing coincidence, history were to repeat itself, then Rosberg can expect victory this weekend in Monaco.

Keke Rosberg leads Patrick Tambay on the way to victory in the 1983 Monaco Grand Prix. Rosberg became the fifth different winner in the opening five races that day - Photo Credit: LAT Photographic/Williams F1
Keke Rosberg leads Patrick Tambay on the way to victory in the 1983 Monaco Grand Prix. Rosberg became the fifth different winner in the opening five races that day - Photo Credit: LAT Photographic/Williams F1

 

It would be foolish to completely rule out a sixth different winner in 2012 though. Remarkably, despite being one of the most impressive drivers this season, Lewis Hamilton is yet to join that list of 2012 race winners. This is largely through no fault of his own – he can justifiably blame McLaren who, with a series of dodgy pit stops and the inability to put adequate fuel in the car during Q3 in Spain, have cost him a number of points already.

Hamilton likes Monaco. He took a brilliant win in 2008, and has also won races in the principality while competing in junior series. Hamilton is definitely 'on it' in 2012, even though his team have struggled. If they can step up this weekend, the Brit will definitely be the favourite for the win.

Hamilton had a torrid time in Monaco last year, enduring several trips to the steward's office throughout the weekend which culminated in the now infamous 'maybe it is because I am black' comment. We have seen a more mature Lewis Hamilton so far this season though, and we are unlikely to see a repeat of this behaviour on Sunday.

Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean should not be discounted either. If one of these Lotus drivers, both of whom have looked fast in recent races, can pull off victory, it will be six different drivers from six different teams winning the first six races.

Another team that cannot be ruled out completely when it comes to predicting the victor is Sauber. Kamui Kobayashi was fifth in Monte Carlo last year, and fifth at the last race in Spain, and Sergio Perez came so close to winning the second race in Malaysia. The team are confident of having a good car around the streets of Monaco and maybe the success of partners Chelsea FC, who won the Champions League final over the weekend, can rub off on Sauber.

Monaco was a difficult race for the team last year, however. Sergio Perez had a nasty accident coming out of the tunnel in qualifying last year, and concussion forced him to sit out both the race in Monte Carlo, and the next event in calendar. However, the Mexican is determined to show what he can do around these famous streets this year.

Lewis Hamilton is probably favourite for victory in Monaco, but plenty of other drivers will think that they can take the win on Sunday - Photo Credit: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton is probably favourite for victory in Monaco, but plenty of other drivers will think that they can take the win on Sunday - Photo Credit: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

 

Michael Schumacher is the most successful of the current drivers around Monte Carlo, with five victories to his name. However, the last of those was way back in 2001, and he has a five-place grid penalty this weekend after crashing into the back of Bruno Senna in Spain.

The German is unlikely to feature at the sharp end of the field come race day, but with the unpredictable events so far this season, it is not possible to rule out the seven-time world champion altogether. Mercedes are optimistic that they will be quick around Monaco.

Of course, this run of different winners cannot continue all season. Okay, the Maldonado example given above made me look silly, but for 20 different drivers to win a race that would mean at least two drivers from Caterham, Marussia and HRT would have to claim victories. That is not going to happen.

The above paragraph is a roundabout way of saying that this run of different winners will end soon, and the likes of Sebastian Vettel (last year's winner), Fernando Alonso (2006, 2007) and Jenson Button (2009) know how to race around Monte Carlo, will be most likely to become the first driver to win two races in 2012. One cannot rule out Maldonado either – the Williams car is clearly good, and the Venezuelan has an impressive record around Monaco in the junior series. In fact, he was on course for an impressive fifth place last year before Lewis Hamilton unfairly barged him off track in the closing laps.

Maldonado visited the Williams factory last week to show of his Spanish Grand Prix winner's trophy. He can't win again in Monaco, can he? - Photo Credit: Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic
Maldonado visited the Williams factory last week to show of his Spanish Grand Prix winner's trophy. He can't win again in Monaco, can he? - Photo Credit: Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic

 

Put simply then, it is impossible to predict who will win on Sunday. You could genuinely make a sensible case for about half the field winning this round. If that is not a good enough reason to pay attention to events in Monte Carlo, there is more.

The Monaco Grand Prix is always an excellent weekend, and undoubtedly one of, if not the, showcase event for Formula 1. It is not just the things that come with Monaco. There are, of course, the yachts, the scenery, the glamour, the beautiful weather, the ostentatious demonstrations of vast wealth, and the narrow street circuit surrounded by unforgiving Armco barriers that grab the attention. Monaco also usually provides some exciting races.

Barely a grand prix in Monaco goes by without some sort of spectacular crash or the odd silly mistake, all of which liven up race day. It is true that in Monaco it is difficult to overtake unless you have a huge speed advantage, and getting pole position is (normally) the key aim of anybody serious about taking victory. In fact, the only winner in the last eight years not to start from pole position was Hamilton in 2008.

  • Qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix begins at 13:00 BST this Saturday with the race starting at 13:00 BST on Sunday.
  • Live coverage in the UK is available on Sky Sports F1 HD, BBC One (HD) and BBC Radio 5 Live
  • There will be reports on events in Monaco throughout the weekend here on thecheckeredflag.co.uk
  • Note: The first two practice sessions in Monaco are held on Thursday rather than Friday.
  • Mrcjcullen

    Excellent break down of what, I hope, will be an excellent race :)