The Formula 1 field heads to the Mediterranean coast for the sixth round of the 2015 season, the iconic Monaco Grand Prix.
|Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco 2015|
|Date||21-24 May 2015||Lap Length||3.337km|
|Free Practice Session 1||Thu 10:00-11:30||Free Practice Session 2||Thu 14:00-15:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 11:00-12:00||Qualifying||Sat 14:00-15:00|
|Race (78 laps)||Sun 14:00-16:00||2014 Winner||Nico Rosberg|
Session times quoted in Central European Summer Time (GMT + 02:00)
This has to be the most iconic Grand Prix circuit in the world, and the Monaco Grand Prix has been a mainstay on the sporting – and social! – calendars since its inception in 1929.
Held on the tiny principality, Monaco was once famously described by author Somerset Maugham as “a sunny place for shady people”, and it’s certainly true that the glitterati flock to this hugely popular event. It’s a place for flesh to be pressed, deals to be struck and sponsors to be schmoozed – simply put, there is no other place like it.
The barrier-lined street circuit is impossibly narrow and its tight confines present a unique challenge to drivers, who either love it or hate it.
The track is a completely different beast to anything else on the Formula 1 calendar. Iconic corners just roll off the tongue: Casino Square, Loews, Tabac, Swimming Pool – all are well-known turns on one of the most thrilling pieces of tarmac on the sport’s calendar.
Overtaking is next to impossible and it’s a track that rewards patience, accurate driving and plenty of luck along the way. It’s a drivers’ track: plenty of great drivers have managed to haul seemingly-impossible results from bad cars in the years gone by. And it’s also a car-breaker: there are inevitably few finishers and a car still circulating at the end of the 78-lap race is likely to be in the points.
The inaugural modern-era Monaco Grand Prix set the pattern that hasn’t changed since: ten cars were wiped out in an opening-lap pile-up caused by a freak wave washing onto the circuit!
The list of winners reads like the ultimate roll call of Formula 1: Ayrton Senna is the outright record holder with six wins (including five in a row from 1989-1993), while Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher claimed five wins apiece.
The Form Guide
With a fresh contract extension in his pocket and a healthy lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings, Lewis Hamilton is well positioned to avenge last year’s defeat at the hands of teammate Nico Rosberg.
The often bitter stoush for the championship title threatened to explode on Saturday afternoon, when Rosberg – who held provisional pole – clumsily slid into the run-off at Mirabeau on his final flying lap. The yellow flags were thrown, and Hamilton was denied a shot at claiming pole position for himself.
Many – including Hamilton – were quick to suggest that Rosberg had emulated the feat of his countryman Michael Schumacher (who famously blocked the track at the 2006 event in a blatant attempt to claim pole for himself), but the FIA Stewards cleared the German of any wrongdoing. He went on to dominate the race and reignite his championship hopes, while Hamilton’s defeat started a sequence of errors that almost threatened to derail his own title bid.
Rosberg beat Hamilton last time out in Spain, so it remains to be seen whether Hamilton can quickly bounce back and claim a fourth win of the 2015 season.
Despite coming into Formula 1 with a reputation as a Monaco master – with victories here in Formula 3 and GP2 – Hamilton has not enjoyed an enormous amount of success here. He claimed a rather fortuitous win here in 2008, but has finished on the podium just one time since.
Rosberg, meanwhile, could become the first driver since Ayrton Senna to claim three consecutive wins on the streets where he spent much of his childhood.
“Simply put, Ferrari has had a shocking record at Monaco in the last fifteen years.”
Behind the leading Mercedes’ sits Ferrari, although the Scuderia was worryingly well behind the Silver Arrows last time out in Spain – it was the biggest performance deficit between the two marques all season, despite a wealth of upgrades developed by both teams.
But Spain and Monaco are two extremes at opposite ends of the spectrum; the former is heavily aero and temperature dependent, while the latter relies on mechanical grip.
Conditions aren’t necessarily expected to favour either team, but the statistics certainly suggest otherwise: simply put, Ferrari has had a shocking record here in the last fifteen years, with Michael Schumacher’s triumph in 2001 marking the team’s last triumph around the streets.
But there are reasons for the team to be hopeful: the Soft and SuperSoft Pirelli tyres will be more to the liking of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen, while the recent resurfacing of much of the track layout should provide more grip.
Speaking of the tyres, Pirelli’s modified SuperSoft compound will have its first outing of the season. The ultra soft compound will give the drivers peak grip performance at the expense of heavy degradation, and in combination with the track resurfacing it could present major strategic headaches for the teams up and down the pit lane.
Monaco has had a history of throwing up some surprise results, and this year’s event could prove the greatest opportunity for a third team to challenge for victory – or even a podium – if the right cards fall their way.
This weekend could be a windfall for the likes of Red Bull Racing, Toro Rosso and McLaren – who are all suffering with engine power issues from their respective Renault and Honda units – who could find themselves much higher up the order than their previous pace has suggested. All three outfits had rather nightmarish weekends last time out in Spain, but all are confident that their respective issues have been solved.
It will also be an emotional weekend for the Manor Marussia squad, a year on from the team’s sole points’ finish at the hands of Jules Bianchi, who continues to remain comatose in a nearby hospital in Nice some six months after his accident in Japan.
While miles off the pace, the cars are, importantly, reliable – could the team luck into a top-ten finish for the second year running? No one would begrudge the hard-trying outfit that achievement.
Image via Daimler AG, Sutton Images and XPB Images