The sixth round of the 2019 Formula 1 World Championship takes the teams and driver to the streets of Monte Carlo for a race that best encapsulates the sport’s heritage, glamour, thrills and precision.
|Circuit de Monaco|
|Location||Monte Carlo, Monaco||Circuit Length||3.337 km / 2.074 mi|
|Opened||1929||First Grand Prix||1991|
|Lap Record||1:14.260 – Max Verstappen – 2018||2018 winner||Daniel Ricciardo|
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 2019 – Schedule|
|Event Dates||23-26 May 2019||Free Practice Session 1||Thu 11:00-12:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Thu 15:00-16:30||Free Practice Session 3||Sat 12:00-13:00|
|Qualifying||Sat 15:00-16:00||Race (78 laps)||Sun 15:10-17:10|
Session times quoted in Central European Summer Time (GMT + 02:00)
Rewind to 2018
An emotional Daniel Ricciardo claimed a breakthrough victory in a tense 2018 Monaco Grand Prix, putting to rest the demons that plagued the Red Bull Racing driver after he saw a certain victory here slip through his fingers in 2016 thanks to a botched pit stop.
Ricciardo started his weekend as he meant to finish it. Not since last year’s United States Grand Prix won by Lewis Hamilton has a driver been quickest in every practice and qualifying session, and then led every lap of the race to claim victory.
On Saturday afternoon he scorched the opposition by becoming the first ever driver to lap the circuit in under 71 seconds. He was a clear favourite to win the 78-lap race, provided he could make a good start, there were no pit stop fumbles and his car could hold together.
His first task was achieved as the lights went out, holding off Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari on the short run to Sainte-Dévote to lead the 20-car field.
He paced himself through the early laps, extending the life of the high-wearing Hypersoft tyres before pitting to cover the early-stopping Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. The tyre change was completed without a hitch, completing the second critical task.
Only an error or mechanical issue could deny him from here, and while the race was largely processional it would not be without drama.
On Lap 28, Ricciardo felt a sudden loss of power – his MGU-K was showing problems. He couldn’t use seventh or eighth gear and had to wind the brake balance forward to stop his rear brakes from overheating.
With a near 200bhp loss of power, this would be game over at almost any other circuit. But Monaco is so narrow and near-impossible to overtake. Ricciardo ran a tactical race thereon, nursing his car around every lap, harvesting as much energy for his battery as he could and carefully placing the RB14 at each apex to counter a possible attack from Vettel.
The remaining 50 laps were a flawless display of car control and mechanical sympathy, later compared by Red Bull Racing team principal to Michael Schumacher’s incredible drive to second place at the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix with his Benetton stuck in fifth gear.
A late Virtual Safety Car – brought out by a heavy collision between Charles Leclerc and Brendon Hartley at the Nouvelle Chicane when the former’s brakes failed on his Sauber – provided some respite. Vettel was unable to get temperature back into his tyres to have one last roll of the dice in the final laps to the chequered flag, slipping back to finish over seven seconds behind.
Incredulity, elation and exhaustion were etched across Ricciardo’s face when he pulled up on the start/finish straight at the end of his cool-down lap to receive the plaudits of his team and the Monegasque royal family. When the champagne was uncorked he managed to convince the RB14’s architect, Adrian Newey, to partake in the customary ‘shoey’ – victory has perhaps never tasted sweeter, or sweatier.
Tyre Compound Selections
Monaco is an anomaly on the Formula 1 calendar – but it is also the most famous race of the year. Its origins from the 1920s are evident, with a slow and narrow track that twists through the centre of the principality, with the famous barriers leave no mistakes unpunished. As usual, Pirelli is bringing the three softest compounds to Monaco, with the C3 being the Hard (White) compound, the C4 being Medium (Yellow), and the C5 the Soft (Red) designation.
Not surprisingly, there is an overwhelming preference for the Soft compound tyre among the drivers, with a number selecting the maximum eleven sets available to them.
The Monaco Form Guide
Fresh from his victory at the Spanish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton heads into the Monaco Grand Prix with a seven-point advantage over Mercedes-AMG teammate Valtteri Bottas in their Drivers’ Championship battle. Thanks to his podium finish in Barcelona ahead of the two Ferraris, Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen now sits third in the standings, two points clear of Sebastian Vettel.
With Mercedes aiming to break its own record of five consecutive 1-2 finishes, the ‘Silver Arrows’ (217 points) sit a mammoth 96 points clear of Scuderia Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship.
With the Monaco Grand Prix being such an unique event, the race could well present Mercedes with its toughest challenge yet to continue its unbeaten streak this season. Chassis aerodynamics and engine horsepower play the least significant role here, with the focus on set-up being about extracting as much mechanical grip and traction as possible. Historically this has been an event that has favoured the likes of Red Bull Racing – as evidenced by Daniel Ricciardo pole position and win here last year – and a number of midfield runners could equally spring a surprise.
|2019 Monaco Grand Prix Weather Forecast|
|Thursday||14°C – 18°C||Saturday||14°C – 18°C||Sunday||16°C – 20°C|
Images via FIA, Pirelli Motorsport, Red Bull Racing