The world’s most famous street circuit re-joins the FIA Formula E championship this week, as the series returns to Monaco.
|2016-17 FIA Formula E Championship – Monaco ePrix|
|Date||13 May 2017||Lap Length||1.765 km / 1.097 mi|
|Free Practice Session 1||Sat 08:00-08:45||Free Practice Session 2||Sat 10:30-11:00|
|Qualifying Group 1||Sat 12:00-12:06||Qualifying Group 2||Sat 12:10-12:16|
|Qualifying Group 3||Sat 12:20-12:26||Qualifying Group 4||Sat 12:30-12:36|
|Super Pole||Sat 12:45-13:00||Race (51 laps)||Sat 16:00-17:00|
Session times quoted in Central European Summer Time (GMT +02:00)
Formula E will again use a shortened version of the historic circuit, taking a tighter line through Sainte-Dévote – effectively a hairpin with Turn 2 being a left-hand corner on exit, with the cars remaining down on the waterfront elevation rather than climbing the hill towards Casino Square. This tight first corner provides a heavy braking point, and also a challenge on race start – the 2015 event was notable for Bruno Sienna’s Mahindra riding over the rear of Daniel Abt’s car.
The run down to Turn 3 brings the field up to the harbourfront chicane at the exit of the Grand Prix circuit’s iconic tunnel, the first section of which becomes a hairpin for the Formula E competitors. From here, the balance of the lap is identical to the Grand Prix circuit, through the left hand corner at Tabac, the fast Swimming Pool chicane complex, with La Rascasse and Antony Noghes bringing the cars back to the start/finish line.
Sainte Devote and Turn 3 are the key passing locations on the circuit, being heavy braking zones into sharp corners. Heavy defending on the inside of the former can sacrifice exit speed and exposes the leading car to another challenge into Turn 3, so passing battles can extend right through the first third of the lap.
Monaco is also the shortest lap of the season at just 1.765 kilometres, giving the ePrix a race distance of 51 laps.
The Form Guide
The first running of the biennial ePrix (which alternates years with the Monaco Historic Grand Prix) was won by Sébastien Buemi, in what was the Swiss driver’s first Formula E victory and the first ePrix to to be won from pole position.
Buemi’s dominance of that race was a sign of what was to come over the following two seasons, as the Renault e.Dams driver has become consistently the man to beat on the way to nine race wins, six pole positions, seven fastest laps and the 2015/16 Championship title.
Of the twenty drivers on the grid for the Monaco ePrix this week, twelve also competed in the inaugural event two years ago. Only Venturi’s Maro Engel – who is a Monaco resident – has never previously raced around its streets in any category.
Buemi’s start to the season current season has been dominant, winning the first three events, before an uncharacteristically quiet performance by the Swiss in Mexico saw long-time rival Lucas di Grassi take victory and close to within five points of the championship lead.
In 2015 Buemi’s Monaco win came as he bounced back from a tough start to the season; he will be looking to do the same again again after his Mexico performance, while di Grassi will be targeting the championship lead this week.
The form of the Techeetah team has also been on the rise, as the new-for-Season 3 Renault customer team finds its feet. Jean-Éric Vergne has scored two podiums in the past two races to sit fourth in the championship behind Buemi, di Grassi and the second Renault e.Dams of Nicolas Prost. His new teammate Esteban Gutiérrez also scored points on his debut with Techeetah in Mexico City, and the signs were there that he will become a competitive force in Formula E. The Mexican driver will be aiming to take another step forward in Monaco.
Jaguar scored its first points in Formula E in Mexico, and in doing so jumped ahead of Venturi in the Teams’ Championship standings. On its home turf in Monaco, Venturi are aiming to regain their lost ground and will do so with an updated look. Reflecting the team’s new partnership with battery technology firm Farasis, Engel’s car has red highlights added to the nose and front wing, while these highlights are blue on teammate Stéphane Sarrazin’s vehicle.
There is a slight injury cloud surrounding Robin Frijns. The Andretti driver recently missed the Blancpain GT Endurance series at Monza due to a knee ligament injury suffered whilst training, but returned to the cockpit for last weekend’s Blancpain GT Sprint series event at Brands Hatch. Where the injury may cause a problem for the Dutchman in Formula E will be during the car swap process, however he is confident that it can be managed. Formula E car swaps are usually completed well within the minimum permitted pit stop time, giving Frijns a bit of breathing room to ensure he can complete the change without issue. The team do have placed reserve driver Alexander Sims on standby in Monaco, in the unlikely event that car swap practice proves to be too much for Frijns.
Also under a potential medical cloud is DS Virgin’s José María López, who will take part in the opening practice session to prove his fitness before FIA medical delegates give him the ‘all clear’ to continue for the remainder of the day’s running. The Argentine driver crashed heavily on his World Endurance Championship debut for Toyota at Silverstone, damaging two vertebrae in the impact. He sat out the season’s second round at Spa-Francorchamps as a precaution. Should he not gain clearance, the team will install reserve driver Alex Lynn in his place.
The 2017 Monaco ePrix begins with Practice 1 at 08:00 local time (UTC +2:00). Practice 2 follows at 10:30, ahead of Qualifying and Super Pole from 12:00. Race start is scheduled for 16:00.
Images via FIA Formula E Championship