Two weeks has proven barely enough for everyone to catch their breath after an enthralling Spanish Grand Prix. Will the championship’s jewel in the crown, the Monaco Grand Prix, deliver another exciting chapter in the 2017 Formula 1 season?
|Circuit de Monaco|
|Location||Monte Carlo, Monaco||Circuit Length||3.337 km / 2.074 mi|
|Opened||1929||First Grand Prix||1950|
|Turns||19||Lap Record||1:17.939 – Lewis Hamilton (2016)|
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 incredibly narrow and its tight confines present a unique challenge to drivers, who either love it or hate it.
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 the greats 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 in 1950 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 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.
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 have five wins apiece.
|Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco 2017|
|Event Dates||25-28 May 2017||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:00-11:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 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|
|Driver Steward||TBC||Pirelli Tyres|
|2016 Pole Winner||Daniel Ricciardo||2016 Race Winner||Lewis Hamilton|
Session times quoted in Central European Summer Time (GMT + 02:00)
Rewind to 2016
Tensions were high coming into last year’s Monaco Grand Prix, following the opening-lap crash between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the preceding Spanish Grand Prix. With neither driver having scored, Rosberg – winner of the first four Grands Prix of the season – maintained his lead in the Drivers’ Championship, 39 points clear of Ferrari’s Kimi Räikönen.
Both drivers were targeting a return to the top step of the podium. Should Rosberg win, he would become the first driver since Ayrton Senna to win four Monaco Grands Prix in a row, while Hamilton – whose sole win at the Principality came in 2008 – desperately needed to turn the tide in his favour having been winless for eight races.
Red Bull Racing was expected to give the Silver Arrows a run for their money this weekend, given the Monte Carlo circuit’s tight and twisty layout would not punish the Milton Keynes’ squad’s comparative lack of horsepower. Daniel Ricciardo read the script to perfect and claimed the first pole position of his career, three-tenths of a second clear of Rosberg. Hamilton had yet another troubled qualifying session and could only manage third – by contrast the second Red Bull of Max Verstappen crashed out at the Swimming Pool in Q1, marking a major fall to earth for the Dutch teenager after his victory last time out in Spain.
A rain shower lashed the circuit just before the race, prompting it to be started behind the Safety Car. The race began in earnest on Lap 7, with Ricciardo quickly building a gap ahead of Rosberg, who was struggling in the slippery conditions and fell over 10 seconds behind the Australian in the space of six laps.
The championship leader was ordered to let Hamilton by on Lap 16 so he could chase down Ricciardo. With much of the field having switched to Intermediate rubber, Ricciardo followed suit on Lap 26. Hamilton tried to stay out until the track had dried enough so he could switch to dry tyres, but he was rapidly being hunted down by Ricciardo.
On Lap 31, Hamilton peeled into the pits for dry tyres, followed a lap later by Ricciardo who looked like he would get the jump on the Englishman and emerge ahead. In a cruel twist of fate, Ricciardo’s mechanics didn’t have his tyres ready, leaving the furious Australian stranded haplessly in his pit bay while they scrambled for the right rubber.
The delay proved enough to ensure Hamilton would keep the lead, and despite Ricciardo’s superior pace and the interruption of a number of Virtual Safety Cars, the Australian was unable to find a way past.
Force India’s Sergio Pérez finished a superb third with teammate Nico Hülkenberg in sixth – the pair sandwiching Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso – while Rosberg finished seventh after a poor race.
The Form Guide
Lewis Hamilton’s victory at a thrilling Spanish Grand Prix helped him close to be just six points behind championship leader Sebastian Vettel. Victory at Monaco would move him to the top of the Drivers’ Championship standings.
Monaco has proven to be a bogey circuit for Ferrari. The Italian team hasn’t won here since Michael Schumacher claimed his fifth win at the street circuit in 2001; given the squad’s strong car and vastly improved strategic nous, could that duck finally be broken?
Hamilton and Vettel’s respective teammates, Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen, will both need strong weekends after each retired in Spain. The pair now lie 35 and 55 points adrift of their teammates and may soon be forced into playing ‘number two’ roles.
With its TAG-badged Renault engine expected to be much less of a handicap at Monaco, Red Bull Racing could be able to split the Mercedes-Ferrari battle and play something of a spoiling role this weekend. Its heavily-upgraded RB13 proved, however, to be something of a fizzer in Spain and there’s no clear indication that its fortunes will dramatically improve in the space of a fortnight.
Keep an eye out for Force India, which lies in a clear fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship and just 19 points behind Red Bull Racing. The Silverstone squad has once again punched well above its weight despite the clear limitations of its car, helped by its combination of a great driver pairing and outstanding mechanical reliability. Sergio Pérez claimed a podium here last year, and could well spring a surprise in 2017.
Scuderia Toro Rosso should be another team in the midfield mix. It leads a tight scrap with Williams, Renault and Haas, while the Sauber team managed to get itself off the mark with points for Pascal Wehrlein in Barcelona.
That leaves McLaren embarrassingly languishing at the bottom of the championship ladder. Fernando Alonso will be Stateside this weekend attempting to become a rookie winner of the Indianapolis 500 – and he will be well-placed to do so after qualifying fifth-fastest – which has paved the way for 2009 World Champion Jenson Button to make a one-off return for the team. The Englishman is a former winner here, but it would be a miracle if the MCL32 lasted long enough to see him get the team a points’ finish this time around.
|Monaco Grand Prix Weather Forecast|
|Thursday||18°C – 26°C||Saturday||18°C – 25°C||Sunday||18°C – 25°C|
Images via Formula1.com, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team, Red Bull Racing