Monaco… the race everyone wants to win. But what are the key ingredients needed to be successful around the famous streets of Monte Carlo? Let’s find out!
How important is the driver?
Very important. The Circuit de Monaco is a driver’s track. Its tight layout and close walls mean that there is no margin for error and every mistake is punished. Braking as little as two metres too late can ruin the entire weekend. If you’re lucky, you end up on an escape road. If you’re unlucky, the car is wrecked. To be successful in Monaco, the driver needs to find a perfect rhythm.
What can the team do to help the driver get into the rhythm?
The driver needs to be able to trust the car from the beginning, to then carefully approach the ideal lap. So, the team tries to hit the ground running by providing a car that inspires confidence from the moment the driver first leaves the pits on Thursday. At other races, the team might bring new items to be tested on a Friday, but in Monaco every minute of the Free Practice sessions is devoted to finding the ideal car set-up. The way the team approaches the set-up process also differs from other races. The front ride height, for example, is usually a little higher on the first run in Monaco than it would be at other races. This makes it easier for the driver to choose his braking points as it limits the risk of heavy bottoming. The front ride height is then lowered more and more over the course of the sessions as the driver gains confidence once he’s found where the bumps in the track are. Making the most out of the practice sessions is particularly important because he can easily complete an entire session and only get a handful of clear laps, where he’s not in traffic. It’s up to the team to plan accordingly and find a good moment to leave the garage, enabling the driver to get in consistent laps. It also means that the driver needs to manage his position on track on Thursday and Saturday. Four or five seconds to the car in front is usually enough room in Monaco whereas a three-second gap makes the car in front a hindrance.
What else do the drivers need to be successful in Monaco?
While finding the rhythm is extremely important in Monte Carlo, it is not the only key to success. Another one is concentration. Monaco sees around 80 significant changes of steering direction and 50 gear changes per lap. When you add the constant throttle and brake paddle inputs, you can see just how hard the drivers are having to work on every one of the race’s 78 laps. If one considers wide open throttle (WOT) time as a moment where the driver has a chance to “have a break”, then Monaco does not offer a lot of time to rest. WOT time in Monaco is about 24 percent of the entire lap time, compared to over 50 percent in Barcelona. And even those 24 percent aren’t actually “time to relax”, as for the most part the WOT sections aren’t straight in Monte Carlo. So, while Monaco has both the shortest lap (3.337 km) and the shortest race distance (260.286 km) on the F1 calendar, it still requires the drivers to be laser-focused the entire time.
How important is Qualifying in Monaco?
Track position is everything in Monaco because overtaking is so difficult, making it the most important qualifying session on the calendar. So, the drivers need to get their qualifying lap absolutely perfect. That’s no easy feat – but when it does happen, it will be remembered for years to come.
Does the track create any specific challenges?
The track layout is so different from any other F1 circuit, the teams bring components specifically for Monaco. The famous Fairmont hairpin – you know, the one that everyone, including us, still calls Loews hairpin – is the tightest turn of the year and requires more steering lock than any other corner. Compared to the hairpin corner in Montreal (Turn 10), an extra 40 percent of lock is needed for Loews Hairpin (Turn 6). The team will therefore bring a special front suspension to Monaco, allowing for a bigger road wheel angle. This means that the driver doesn’t have to turn the steering wheel multiple times going into the corner. Loews Hairpin is also the slowest corner of the calendar with a minimum speed of 50 km/h.