This weekend Formula 1 heads to the glitz and the glamour of Monaco for the sixth race of the 2018 calendar. A race track famed for its narrow streets, fast speeds and spectacular crashes, the circuit has seen nineteen safety cars in the last eight races. Will we see another one this weekend? With the safety car having made an appearance in every race so far this year – the first time that’s happened in F1 history – I’d bet it all on yes.
What Happened at the Spanish Grand Prix?
Having finally found a setup that suited him Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas second on the grid. At race start the front half got away fine, though some elbows-out racing saw Fernando Alonso off the track at turn two. Up front, all help was about to break loose…
Haas F1 Team driver Kevin Magnussen, on cold tyres and struggling through the long right of turn three, had a wobble. Team-mate Romain Grosjean, who was just behind Magnussen, saw the wobble and overreacted, heading off the track.
Rather than apply brakes and rejoin the race safely, as many other drivers would, Grosjean floored the throttle. This did two things – speared him sideways back onto a live race circuit, and created a smoke screen that hid where he was on said circuit.
Nico Hulkenberg, first on the scene and with nowhere to go, slammed into the front of Grosjean, demolishing part of his own car and ripping his rear-left tyre from the chassis. Pierre Gasly, also with nowhere to go, did much the same, smashing his car on Grosjean’s and facing retirement. Three turns in, three cars out and three penalty points for Grosjean, though given what could have happened, you could argue he got off lucky.
With three cars lying in several hundred pieces across turn three, the safety car was released. Seven laps later it came back in, with the top three going Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Bottas.
Lap 18 saw Scuderia Ferrari pit an under-pressure Vettel, trying to save him from a potential under-cut from Bottas. This gave the Finn the impetus to punch in some qualifying laps before pitting a few laps later.
Fine margins are discussed in Formula 1, and we saw another example of one here, as Bottas emerged from the pits just metres behind Vettel, who retained his lead over Bottas as they headed into turn one.
Further down the grid, Esteban Ocon was having a race to forget. A long pit stop held up the Frenchman, before a power loss on lap thirty-eight saw him retire at the side of the track (and the release of a virtual safety car to remove it).
We saw Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport use a virtual safety car at Catalunya last year to pit and make up time, and we also saw Ferrari pit under VSC earlier this year to snatch the lead. Trying to recapture these successes Ferrari brought in Vettel. Far from giving him a shot at the win, a slow pit stop saw him not only lose second, but fall to fourth behind Max Verstappen. Ferrari strategy once again lost them a podium finish.
From there the race settled down, ending with an imperious win for Hamilton, Mercedes’ first 1-2 of the season and Verstappen’s ninth career podium.
What happened at the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix?
As the circuit is so thin and overtaking opportunities so few, the Monaco Grand Prix is often won in qualifying. By this, Kimi Raikkonen should have won the race, the Finn taking his first pole in nine years. Unfortunately for Raikkonen though, as usual, Ferrari had other plans…
We’re seeing more and more races won – and lost – due to strategy, and last year’s race was no different. Having started on pole Raikkonen set about building a lead, and up to the pit stops had been leading team-mate Vettel comfortably. The pit stops came, and Ferrari brought Raikkonen in. Vettel stayed out.
Not only did Ferrari leave Vettel out, but they gave him five clear laps in which to build a gap to Raikkonen – giving him the opportunity to over-cut his team-mate and snatch the win from the Finn’s grip. It worked, too, as Vettel emerged from the pits ahead, and went on to take the top step of the podium next to a decidedly fiery Iceman.
Ferrari had clearly shown who their favourite was, damaging one of their driver’s races to flagrantly help the other, and it wouldn’t be the last time they did it either.
The story of the race wasn’t just at the front though. Further back Jenson Button, who was making a one-off appearance replacing Alonso whilst the Spaniard was at the Indy 500, went for an ambitious move up the inside of Pascal Wehrlein – the result of which was Wehrlein sideways against a wall and an ignominious retirement for the Brit.
Rounding out the podium with Vettel and Raikkonen was Ricciardo, who took third by the time the flag fell whilst Hamilton, who had qualified fourteenth, drove a decent recovery race to seventh place. He left the race with a twenty-five point deficit to Vettel, and a lot of head-scratching to do.
What’s the Schedule?
Thursday 24th May
10:00 BST – Practice One
14:00 BST – Practice Two
Saturday 26th May
11:00 BST – Practice Three
14:00 BST – Qualifying
Sunday 27th May
14:10 BST – Race
Where can I watch it?
Bad news, streaming fans. Formula 1’s race streaming service, F1 TV Pro, isn’t available to fans in the UK, so Sky remains the only place to watch all races live. Some good news though: Monaco is one of the races Channel 4 is showing live, with coverage of the race starting at 13:45 on 4. Sky Sports F1 will, as usual, be showing coverage of the race and support races leading up to it.
How can I keep up with the action?
Whilst we don’t have F1 TV Pro, we do have F1 TV Access – a live timings and tracker solution. In case that’s not enough for you, we’ll be providing news, updates and quotes throughout the weekend too, to keep you up to date with the action.