Return of the street fighters

Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2007, 470150

For the first time since the 1980s Formula 1 has a trio of street circuits on the calendar. Monte-Carlo this weekend will be followed by the Valencia and Singapore street circuits later in the year. And Bernie Ecclestone has indicated he wants more street circuits in the future, including moving the French Grand Prix to Paris.

When street tracks were more common in F1 some drivers were considered particularly good street racers – Ayrton Senna, for example, who excellent at the likes of Monte-Carlo, Detroit and Pheonix.

So who are the best street drivers in F1 today? Here are a few of my picks.

What makes street circuits different to regular tracks? For starters there’s very little room to make a mistake. Plus the tracks are usually bumpier and there are obstacles like kerbs, camber and manhole covers to contend with. And the track surface is usually low on grip compared to a normal racing circuit.

Here a four of today’s F1 drivers who I think are particularly good on street tracks – who do you think are F1′s new street fighters?

Fernando Alonso

He won the Monaco Grand Prix in 2007 and 2006. Last year he did the treble of winning from pole position with fastest lap. He’s been in the top five for the past five years except in 2004, when he crashed while lapping Ralf Schumacher.

Lewis Hamilton

He won at Monaco in the F3 Euroseries (2005) and GP2 (2006) and probably would have won last year had he not lost a few vital tenths on his qualifying lap while passing Mark Webber. And he and team mate Robert Kubica were hugely quicker than the field in the Macau F3 race in 2004….

Robert Kubica

BMW’s Polish star has said in the past how much he enjoys street circuits and it’s not hard to see why. He was twice runner-up in the Macau Grand Prix and finished fifth at Monaco last year.

Giancarlo Fisichella

Fisichella splashed his way to sixth in the pouring rain at Monaco in 1997 and finished in the points there on his next three visits. Last year he scored his best result of the season at Monaco, fourth.

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41 comments on Return of the street fighters

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  1. cyanide said on 19th May 2008, 7:51

    Agree with your opinion about Hamilton. Watched last year’s Monaco GP and it was one of those races which turned me into a huge Hamilton fan (only love his driving though, hehe). Perhaps it was just recklessness and he was lucky to not bump into anything, but watching him drive like that was incredibly fun!

  2. I think Kimi is one of the best street driver.In 2005,his performance was very good.Last year,he hit the wall at Swimming Pool,so we don’t know the Iceman can do what if he didn’t hie the wall.

  3. and do we count Albert Park as a street track or not ? if yes, then we have 4 on calendar this year

    I would mention also two other Monaco winners that will be on start this weekend – Coulthard and Trulli. DC won there twice and finished 2nd once, for Trulli it is still his one and only F1 race win.

    Kimi Raikkonen’s 2007 performance perhaps also deserves some respect. Starting from 16th to finish 8th is not that easy on the track like that

    And then do not forget Michael Schumacher and his ability to park the F1 car right there in La Rascasse :-)

  4. Milos – good question, and I think the same goes for the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. I would’t consider those as street circuits though because they aren’t roads that traffic drives on, and even though run-off is tight at Melbourne and Montreal, there’s a lot more than there is at Monaco.

    It looks like Valencia and Singapore will be much closer in character to Monaco, in fact I understand some team’s simulations for Singapore call for even more downforce than Monte-Carlo.

  5. oh, in Melbourne the traffic runs on those streets all year, except the F1 days … I was there few years back 2 weeks before the race and almost got hit by cars that I did not expect to be there :-)

  6. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 19th May 2008, 10:00

    Really? I didn’t know that! When I’ve seen pictures of it when F1′s not there it just looks like a park that they’ve happened to drop some tarmac into. I thought that was why there was such a fuss about them making it into a track in the first place?

    It’s a kind of semi-street track really isn’t it? Street surface but with room for a mistake (most of the time!)

  7. Nathan said on 19th May 2008, 10:02

    lol Milos!
    i wouldnt call melb or montreal as ‘real” street circuits!, guess we have recently as monaco is only true one we have had for years!

  8. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr said on 19th May 2008, 10:04

    i agree with your choices i think monte carlo is 1 of the few tracks where the driver can make a real difference. Fisichella always runs well here so i wouldnt be suprised if force india finally get into q2 like theyve been saying they would all year.

    I think this is alonso’s best chance all year to get on the podium too.

    my faviourate for the race is hamilton, he was awesome last year and i think he’ll win it this year. kovalaeinen struggles last yar so i wouldnt be suprised if he didnt make it onto the podium again.

    Intresting to see how ferrari go here, they struggled lastyear but they seem to ave improved the cars performance through slow corners for this year.

  9. Lore said on 19th May 2008, 10:11

    what about Webber!! hes always gone well there, and qualified 2nd once, running with Alonso and Raikkonen!

  10. Melbourne, the grip of a street circuit and space more like a full-time circuit. I think of it more as a third category – a parkland circuit.

    As for who’s good between the barriers, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Fisichella and Coulthard this weekend. A good chance for a best result of the season for both of them. I’d love to see the old Jordan boys come away with a point or too and DC needs to get on the scoreboard more than ever.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what Bourdais can do too. Granted he’s in a whole new world now, but he must have more street circuit experience than anybody.

  11. Terry Fabulous said on 19th May 2008, 10:15

    Firstly, I agree with Keith, Melbourne and Gilles Villeneuve may technically be street circuits but they all have a fair bit of run-off and right hand blind corners. Wheras Monaco, Valencia and Singapore all have them in spades.

    Secondly, I would place Webber in there as a Monaco master. He has always excelled around the principality and would have won in 2006 had his car stayed together (Big call I know but review the footage, he was on for the win).

    Thirdly, When Fernando hit Ralf in 04 he was coming out of the tunnel at full speed and spinning around in circles while bouncing off the barriers. AND HE STIL MANAGED TO FLIP RALF OFF!!! That is the moment that I became a Fred fan.

    And Fourthly, Sutil was fastest in the wet last year… Just throwing that in there.

  12. Terry Fabulous said on 19th May 2008, 10:18

    I meant to say that Albert Park and Gilles Villeneuve have FEW right hand blind corners.
    Idiota

  13. Robert McKay said on 19th May 2008, 10:25

    DC always goes well round Monaco.

  14. Nathan said on 19th May 2008, 11:49

    i doubt MW was gonna win in ’06!
    Alonso had speed in abundance and only needed to push during stops phase!
    if anyone, kimi could have beaten him

  15. Daniel said on 19th May 2008, 12:34

    well both RBR drivers love this circuit.

    mark scored a F3 or F3000 win here in 2001 and had a great race in 05 and 06-coulda won

    DC is a past winner and has been on the podium here several times in his mclarern days and in 06, we can all remember that.

    im quite suprised Jarno Truli hasnt been chucked into the mix also, 04 winner, was first to brake schumi’s back to back wins in the begining of the 04 season.

    id put DC, mark and Jarno into the mix for best of the rest.

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