PREVIEW: 2019 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix – Circuit de Monaco

by Sudha Sundararaj

The sixth round of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship will take place this weekend around the twisting and narrow streets of Monaco. The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the oldest and most prestigious races on the Formula 1 calendar.

This tiny principality on the French Riviera is the playground of the rich and famous. The presence of celebrities during the race weekend adds to the big quotient of glitz and glamour that surrounds this unique Grand Prix.

Monaco is a constitutional monarchy ruled by Prince Albert II from the House of Grimaldi. The first motor race was held in Monaco in 1929 and the first Monaco Grand Prix was held as part of the very first season of Formula 1 in 1950. After a brief break (1951 to 1954), the race resumed in 1955 and since then has been run 64 times in a row uninterrupted.

The inaugural Grand Prix held in Monaco was won by Juan Manuel Fangio, the first-ever Grand Prix win for the great Argentine driver. The wackiest Formula 1 race ever is probably the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix which saw only three cars finish the race.

Many Formula 1 drivers reside in Monaco as it is considered a tax haven. This is the true home Grand Prix for Charles Leclerc who hails from Monaco.

In contrast to other Grand Prix weekends, the first two free practice sessions are held on Thursday, not Friday. The yachts of the rich and famous are anchored in the Mediterranean harbor and are the venues for a beehive of social activities for most of the week.

What happened at the Spanish Grand Prix?

Lewis Hamilton scored his third win of the season at the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix. The Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team scored a historic fifth consecutive 1-2 finish of the season.

Once Hamilton made a good start to lead his pole-sitting team-mate Bottas into Turn 1, he was in command. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen finished on the podium as he got the better of both the Scuderia Ferrari drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.

Vettel and Leclerc finished in fourth and fifth position respectively in another disappointing race for the Ferrari team. Pierre Gasly finished in sixth position as drivers from the top 3 teams completed the first six positions.

Kevin Magnussen finished in a creditable seventh position as the Haas F1 team finally got back in the points. Carlos Sainz finished in eighth position and scored points for the second race in a row.

Daniil Kvyat finished in ninth position with bold overtakes and a determined drive. Romain Grosjean held off a determined challenge from Alexander Albon to hold on to tenth position and score his first point of the season.

Hamilton also took the extra point for fastest lap when he put in a scorching lap to keep the race lead after the Safety Car restart in the final laps. With his third win of the season, Hamilton regained the lead in the drivers’ championship.

What happened in the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix?

The 2018 Monaco Grand Prix was won by Ricciardo in dramatic fashion after he hit trouble during the race. Ricciardo was on pole for only the second time in his career. Vettel joined him in the first row. Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen were on the second row.

Bottas and Esteban Ocon lined up on the third row. Fernando Alonso, Sainz, Sergio Perez and Gasly lined up at the front of the grid. Verstappen started in twentieth position at the back of the field, after he missed qualification due to a crash in the final free practice session.

Ricciardo led Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen and Bottas into Turn 1 at the start. On this track on which it is hard to overtake, everybody was just holding position. Verstappen continued to battle and move forward from last place.

On lap 29, Ricciardo reported that he was losing power. Even as the Red Bull pitwall looked on anxiously, Vettel closed in on the leader. On this track without long straights and very few overtaking spots, Ricciardo was able to handle the problems caused by an MGU-K failure. Even as Vettel closed within a second, Ricciardo was able to hold him off for lap after lap.

Ricciardo crossed the finish line to an ecstatic reception from his Red Bull Racing team. The team had let him down badly in 2016 when a botched pit stop denied Ricciardo certain victory. By the halfway point of this race, it appeared that the Renault engine would scupper his chances again. But the Australian held on with a heroic drive and clinched his first victory at Monaco.

Vettel claimed second spot comfortably.  Hamilton completed the podium places in Monaco. Räikkönen finished fourth, as Bottas completed the top 5 positions. Ocon, Gasly, Nico Hulkenberg, Verstappen and Sainz rounded off the top 10 positions of the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix.

Circuit Guide

The 3.337 kilometer street circuit demands high precision driving. The narrow, bumpy circuit surrounded by Aramco barriers does not allow even the tiniest of errors from the drivers. The twisty, slow nature of the corners demands a high-downforce aerodynamic package on the cars. This is a low fuel consumption circuit with medium brake wear.

The average lap speed is the slowest at any Formula 1 venue at approximately 160 km/h. Unlike most of the modern Tilke-built Formula 1 circuits which are featureless and corners are named as Turn 1, Turn 2 and so on, the corners on this circuit have distinct names and great history. The nineteen slow and medium-speed corners on the circuit include some of the most iconic corners in the sport.

Sectors, Corners, and DRS Zones

Sector 1 (Turn 1 to Turn 4) begins with a quick uphill sprint on Albert Boulevard into Turn 1 (the Saint-Devote corner). This is a 90 degree right-hand turn into the Avenue d’Ostende, followed by a long left-hander at Turn 3 (Massenet). Coming out of Turn 3, the cars sweep past the famous casino into Casino Square ending in a short straight.

Sector 2 (Turn 5 to Turn 12) starts with Turn 5, the tight Mirabeau corner that leads to the tighter Fairmont hairpin bend. The double right-hander at Portier takes the cars into the only tunnel on an Formula 1 circuit. The light change going in and coming out of the tunnel is dramatic, while the cars experience a 20-30% downforce loss in the turbulent air in the tunnel. The cars decelerate out of the tunnel into a tight left-right chicane, a scene of many accidents, as is Turn 1. This also offers a rare overtaking spot on the track. A short straight leads to Turn 12 (Tabac).

Sector 3 (Turn 13 to Turn 19) starts with a series of a left-right and right-left chicanes which leads to Turn 14 (Piscine) and past the swimming pool, another unique feature on this circuit. Piscine leads to a short straight, followed by a sharp left turn leading to the tight turn at Rascasse. From here, a short straight leads into the final Antony Noghes (Turn 19) corner, a tight right-hand corner leading into the start-finish straight.

The Monaco Grand Prix has a single DRS zone, with the DRS detection point located after Turn 16 and the DRS activation point located after Turn 19. There is a huge premium in taking pole position in the Principality. The narrow circuit does not allow for overtaking and historically has been won from the front of the grid.

Credit: Pirelli Media

Tyre Strategy

The white-striped hard tyres (C3), the yellow-striped medium tyres (C4) and the red-striped soft tyres (C5) nominated for this race are the softest tyres in the Pirelli range of tyres. The soft compound tyres are roughly equivalent to the 2018 hypersoft tyres.

The drivers have chosen nine or more sets of the soft compound tyres (C5) in the thirteen sets allocated to them.  The Ferrari and Red Bull drivers have taken an aggressive approach and chosen eleven sets of the soft compound tyres. The Mercedes drivers have chosen ten sets of the soft compound tyres.

The track has been resurfaced in some places with the same street asphalt used on the rest of the street circuit. The track offers low grip through the race weekend.

It is normally a one pit stop race with low tyre degradation. Track position is very important on this narrow track where overtaking is very difficult. A Safety Car is highly likely given the narrow circuit with the barriers in close proximity which penalizes driver errors.

Credit: Pirelli Media

What should we look out for this year?

Mercedes has struggled at this track relative to the other tracks in the five seasons since the V6 hybrid-engine era started. The Brackley-based team has won three of the last five races here. The dominance the team has shown so far this season with 1-2 finishes in the first five races might be challenged in Monaco. Red Bull mainly through the now departed Ricciardo has performed very well at this track in recent years.

The narrow track with slow corners neutralizes engine power and favours cars with greater downforce. These track characteristics has aided both the Red Bull and Ferrari teams to perform well in recent seasons. But the performance of the Mercedes W10 challenger this season suggests that the Silver Arrows finally has the car to dominate at Monaco, a track that has been an Achilles heel for the team in the past.

Verstappen has with his aggressive driving style always lived on the edge at this track. This season, the Dutchman has shown more patience and harnessed his great talent more effectively. Given current form, he is going to be the main challenger to the Mercedes drivers.

Hamilton (112 points) is now leading team-mate Bottas by seven points in the drivers’ championship. Verstappen (66 points) sits third in the championship after a strong start to the season. Vettel (64 points) and Leclerc (57 points) are in fourth and fifth position respectively to round out the top 5 positions in the drivers’ championship.

Mercedes (217 points) is leading the constructors’ championship with a huge 96-point lead over Ferrari. Red Bull Racing (87 points) sits in a strong third position. McLaren (22 points) and the Racing Point team (17 points) complete the top 5 positions in the constructors’ championship.

Will a non-Mercedes driver be able to stand on the top step for the first time this season at Monaco? Will the Silver Arrows be able to extend their streak of five consecutive 1-2 finishes? An interesting race weekend lies ahead around the streets of Monaco.

What’s the schedule?

Thursday 23 May

09:00 GMT / 11:00 Local Time – Free Practice One
13:00 GMT / 15:00 Local Time – Free Practice Two

Saturday 25 May

10:00 GMT / 12:00 Local Time – Free Practice Three
13:00 GMT / 15:00 Local Time – Qualifying

Sunday 26 May

13:10 GMT / 15:10 Local Time – Race

How can I keep up with the action?

Follow all the action at the Checkered Flag with our extensive coverage, quotes and analysis of every session of the Monaco Grand Prix.

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