Formula One heads to the streets of Monte Carlo for the next round of the Formula One world championship.
The talking point after the Spanish Grand Prix was of course Formula One’s brand new race winner – Max Verstappen. He drove a faultless drive and capitalised when the Mercedes duo broke the cardinal rule of F1 – don’t crash into your team-mate. The Silver Arrows’ race came to a very premature end when Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton made contact at the fourth corner, spearing them both into the gravel trap and into early retirement from the race.
The prestigious Monaco Grand Prix is like no other on the calendar and is considered the jewel in the Formula One crown. Taking place on the tight and twisty streets of Monte Carlo, with Armco barriers just inches away, it is a race drivers particularly want to win. Like the Spanish Grand Prix qualifying is crucial around here although, while difficult, overtaking is not completely impossible.
Circuit: Circuit de Monaco
Number of Laps: 78
Circuit Length: 3.337km
Number of Corners: 19
Lap Record: 1:14.439 Michael Schumacher 2004
Previous Monaco winners still on the grid: 6
Most Successful Team: McLaren (15 wins)
DRS Zones: 1
Pirelli Tyres: Soft, Supersoft and Ultrasoft
As Jenson Button explains Monaco requires a unique set-up like no other. The track requires “more traction, high downforce, more steering angle [and] softer suspension” for the cars. With the close nature of the barriers drivers require 100% focus because one little mistake could cost a retirement.
Pirelli are bringing their new Ultrasoft tyre compound to this race and it has been favoured by all teams and drivers in their selections.
Nico Rosberg is the form man in Monaco winning the past three events there. He also won the first four races of the year and could have made it five last time out in Spain. While Lewis Hamilton had sat in second place in the championship, that spot is currently filled by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who finished second in Spain. Rosberg leads on 100 points with Raikkonen on 61 and Hamilton on 57. Last year in Monaco Hamilton had built up a significant lead before a pit-stop gaffe cost him the victory as well as second place.
Monaco is a race which can see the order mixed up moreso than at any other circuit during the year. This means there is an opportunity for points for teams who may not necessarily always be fighting for them. Sauber and Renault are the only two teams yet to score any points so far this year.
Max Verstappen became the youngest ever winner in Formula One history when he crossed the line first at last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.
The 18 year old – who only swapped to Red Bull Racing from Toro Rosso in the lead up to Spain – held off Kimi Raikkonen to secure his first victory in the sport. Raikkonen, who has also raced against Max’s dad Jos Verstappen, is the oldest driver on the grid and led Ferrari’s charge on the day.
Sebastian Vettel joined Verstappen and Raikkonen on the podium on a day which saw Ferrari take over 30 points over Mercedes championship lead. The Mercedes duo, who had started first and second, made contact at the fourth corner resulting in them both retiring from the race. It was deemed to be a racing incident by the stewards with blame being apportioned to both drivers, rather than one in particular.
This left the door open for a fight for the lead which was contested by four drivers throughout the race – both Red Bull drivers and both Ferrari drivers. There was a mix in strategies as Verstappen and Raikkonen made a two stop work and held on on older tyres at the end. Vettel and Ricciardo on the other hand went for three stops which left them unable to close the gap to their team-mates.
Thankfully for Ricciardo they had built up enough of a gap to Valtteri Bottas in fifth, meaning he was able to pit following a puncture in the closing stages of the race.
On a day when his former team-mate was vindicating the early team switch, Carlos Sainz also impressed with a sixth place finish. He had run third in the opening stages of the race as well entertaining his fans at his home race. Sergio Perez picked up more points for Force India ahead of Felipe Massa and Jenson Button. Daniil Kvyat set the fastest lap of the race on his way to tenth on his first race back at Toro Rosso.
Outside the top ten were Esteban Gutierrez and Jolyon Palmer with Felipe Nasr 14th. Kevin Magnussen was penalised ten seconds after forcing his team-mate off the track on the final lap. Pascal Wehrlein and Rio Haryanto were the final two classified finishers.
Romain Grosjean was just one of five retirements, while a software issue brought Fernando Alonso’s home race to a disappointing end. Nico Hulkenberg pulled off at the side of the track with a smoking car. The Mercedes duo were the first two retirements and their incident brought out an early safety car.
The European F1 season kicks off this weekend with the Spanish Grand Prix. Teams are particularly familiar with the Circuit de Catalunya as it hosts pre-season testing. Nico Rosberg currently leads the pack on 100 points – four out of four wins so far this season.
Due to the familiarity of the circuit and the fact it is ‘closer to home’, teams traditionally bring their first real big upgrades to the Spanish Grand Prix. Mercedes’ upgrades include a new pointier nose, while Force India have a new front wing along with rear and floor updates. Haas and Sauber will receive upgrades to their Ferrari engines with Haas also set to debut a new front win. McLaren are bringing the second iteration of their new front wing as well as a significant aerodynamic configuration change. Renault are another team to upgrade their front and rear wings as well as a new chassis for Jolyon Palmer. Manor have a number of tweaks to their car planned, including bodywork.
Circuit: Circuit de Catalunya
Number of Laps: 66
Circuit Length: 4.655km
Number of Corners: 16
Lap Record: 1:21.670 Kimi Raikkonen (2008)
Previous Spain winners still on the grid: 7
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (12 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Soft, Medium and Hard
The big news ahead of this weekend’s race was the surprise move by Red Bull to switch Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen. Red Bull felt that Kvyat was struggling to find form and so, from the Spanish Grand Prix onwards he will drive for Toro Rosso. This means Verstappen has been promoted to Red Bull much earlier than expected. All eyes will be on the pair this weekend as they face new challenges – Verstappen to prove he deserves the promotion, and Kvyat to show that he can find form.
The Circuit de Catalunya is notoriously a difficult circuit to overtake on meaning qualifying as far up the grid as possible is more essential than at other tracks. It features a mix of low, medium and high speed corners – the focus placed on the latter two, with only three taken at less than 100kmh. There is a long pit straight as well which provides probably the best opportunity for overtaking. Grip levels are high and brake wear is medium with 63% of the lap spent at full throttle.
Rosberg is the form man and his team-mate Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to finally beat him this weekend. Elsewhere the Ferrari boss has said that he expects his team to start winning in Spain and they weren’t far off in 2014 but Kimi Raikkonen ran out of laps. Williams finished solidly with both cars in the points in Russia to capitalise on their main rivals Red Bull finishing outside the points. McLaren were another team to take a double points finish – their first of the season, although not their first point but it certainly boosted their position. Renault scored their first points of the season thanks to Kevin Magnussen meaning just Sauber and Manor are left to score any points.