Monaco Grand Prix 2013: Preview


Tired of tyres? Resentful towards rubber? Confused over compounds? Sick of slicks? Pissed off with Pirelli? (Allergic to arbitrary alliteration?)

In recent days, Formula 1 has been associated with criticism from the media, millions of tweets from disgruntled fans (and those who recognise a fuss about nothing when they see it), and a lot of bickering between teams.

And why?

Because at the last race there were 82 pit stops! You heard me right! A field of 22 cars made an average of around 3.7 pit stops in a 66-lap race. It was totally outrageous!

It gets worse though: race winner Fernando Alonso needed five sets of tyres to claim his victory!

And Lewis Hamilton moaned over his team radio!

But never fear dear reader, for after one less-than-stellar race, Pirelli has announced that they will re-engineer their tyres, and have different compounds in place by next month. Forget this insist-that-the-teams-rise-to-the-challenge-of-something-different’ malarkey, the sport that attracts some of the greatest engineering minds and thrives on innovation has decided it is all too difficult.

What a relief!

Bernie Ecclestone and Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery have a chat on the grid in Barcelona - Credit: Pirelli
Bernie Ecclestone and Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery have a chat on the grid in Barcelona – Credit: Pirelli

 

Navel-gazing, infighting, and knee-jerk reactions: Formula 1 excels at these. They are ‘qualities’ have been evident since the Spanish Grand Prix, much to the likely boredom and frustration of all but the major protagonists.

At least this back-this weekend, the sport will be able to showcase some of its other specialities, including speed, danger, glamour and, of course, ostentatiousness. For Round 6 of this 2013 season the F1 circus heads to the streets of Monte Carlo, and the Monaco Grand Prix!

Tyre discussions should, thankfully, be put to one side this weekend, with tyre wear expected to be much less prominent than in Barcelona. Pirelli will bring their two softest tyre compounds, yet many are expecting one-stop strategies to be the most popular choice on Sunday, due to the low-speed nature of the circuit and the resulting lack of degradation.

Instead the focus should be on the usual delights that come with the blue riband event in Monaco. The excitement of watching the drivers thread their cars around the Principality stupidly high speeds as they dice with the Armco barriers, missing them (most of the time), by millimetres; the beautiful sight of cars streaking alongside the harbour; the immense history that comes with an event that was first run in 1929.

The Monaco Grand Prix is regarded as the race that only the greatest drivers seem to win. Of the last 30 races, a world champion has won all but five.

It is also telling that some of the true legends of the sport – Graham Hill, Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna, have made Monaco their personal fiefdom.

Of the current batch of drivers, both Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso have two Monaco victories to their name, whilst Vettel, Button, Hamilton and Raikkonen have all won once. Red Bull will be looking for their fourth consecutive victory in Monaco this weekend, whilst Ferrari last won this race in 2001. McLaren are the most successful constructor at Monte Carlo with 15 wins.

Webber, pictured here in the famous Monaco tunnel, was the winner of last year's race - Photo Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Webber, pictured here in the famous Monaco tunnel, was the winner of last year’s race – Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

 

Based on current form, Vettel, Alonso and perhaps Raikkonen look the most likely to win on Sunday. These three are separated by just thirteen points at the top of the drivers’ championship, and are quickly edging ahead of the rest of the pack.

Having said that, Hamilton will be right back in contention if he can win in Monaco. There is nothing wrong with the Mercedes qualifying pace, as both he and teammate Nico Rosberg demonstrated in Barcelona. They just need to avoid slipping back through the field during the race, which is less likely to happen in Monaco given that nobody can overtake and those dreaded tyres are unlikely to be such a factor.

However, in addition to its Grand Prix, Monaco is also famous for casinos and gambling. This is apt considering the weather could (to paraphrase Martin Brundle) throw a double six this weekend. A well-timed shower on race day could throw the event wide open, and a surprise winner could emerge, just as it did in 1996 when Olivier Panis took one of F1’s most unlikely victories.

So savour Monaco and all its idiosyncrasies this weekend. Marvel at the racing, the immense amount of skill the driver needs just to make it round the circuit without knocking bits of his car, and while you watch television, reaffirm that pledge to yourself that ‘one year’ you will be sitting in the grandstands at this most iconic event.

And then at the next race, in Canada, we can go back to talking about tyres…

FORMULA 1 GRAND PRIX DE MONACO 2013
Timetable (All times BST)
Thursday 23rd May
Free Practice 1 09:00
Free Practice 2 13:00
Saturday 25th May
Free Practice 3 10:00
Qualifying 13:00
Sunday 26th May
Race 13:00
Coverage (UK)
Live: Sky Sports F1 HD, Highlights: BBC One, Radio: BBC Radio 5 Live / 5 Live Sports Extra