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

  1. Scott Joslin said on 19th May 2008, 13:06

    Nathan & Keith, I think Milos is correct. Melbourne is a street track. It is used everyday of the year but the public. It incorporates car parks, bus stops, cycle lanes and man hole covers – how is that not a street track? What? just because of where the walls are placed? In which case Canada is definitely a “street track” I was in Melbourne a few years back as they were putting it together and it is as much a street track as Monaco. In fact I would say Melbourne requires more work to make it race ready that Monaco – which I have been too as spends a lot of the time of the year with barriers and kerbs in place. I think it is wrong to classify a street circuit a street circuit because it is point and squirt, like Phoenix, Adelaide and Monaco.

    Drivers who are prepared to hang it all out are the ones that generally get rewarded on street tracks. Drivers like Senna, Schumacher, Rosberg, Alesi are drivers who used to be rewarded through their bravery. Therefore I think Alonso, Lewis and Kubica are going to ones to watch this weekend. That will be inbetween Piquet slamming into the barriers that is….

  2. Jonov said on 19th May 2008, 13:44

    How about Sebastian Bourdais?

  3. Alexander said on 19th May 2008, 13:46

    25th May 2008- Kubica’s first win.

  4. Sush said on 19th May 2008, 13:57

    Kubica gets to change his gearbox for this race!, i’m surprised no ones mentioned that, new rules this year.

    Monico being the most demanding track on a gearbox we could see a lot of problems for some of the cars that aren’t allowed to change them this race.

  5. Sush said on 19th May 2008, 13:58

    Monico? :-(

    Monaco!

    I have put shame on my house

  6. Sav722 said on 19th May 2008, 14:36

    Bourdais could spring a surprise at Monaco, he was excellent at driving bumpy, tight, twisty street courses in Champ Car. Plus he was always quick to learn.

  7. Dan M said on 19th May 2008, 14:58

    Thats pretty much all Champ Car raced on…. The Long beach setup was very similar and he always blew away his rivals (not F1 material but all we can compare him to).

  8. theRoswellite said on 19th May 2008, 16:16

    Possible definition of a real street circuit: one in which you can sit in a…bar, pub, cafe….and watch the race live…suggest earplugs as a first choice on the menu.

    My fingers are always crossed for a first time winner at Monaco…maybe Webber & Red Bull…you can have a “successful” career with just this win.

  9. Jeff said on 19th May 2008, 17:00

    I agree with the drivers everyone has listed, but the man who is going to get their maiden win is going to be quick nick. Don’t ask why, I just have a gut feeling.

  10. Gman said on 19th May 2008, 21:45

    Good topic, and one that we will all have more info on after this season’s races are complete. Until then, we’ll need to work with info such as the Champ Car races for Bourdais, etc. It will indeed be interesting to see how he performs in Monaco, perhaps this will be the breakthrough race many of us have been looking for from him.

    In any event, it’s always a pleasure to see a first-time winner, and perhaps someone who has been strong on this circuit in the past- Fisi, Webber, Hamilton- will set themselves up for a stunner.

  11. Terry Fabulous said on 19th May 2008, 23:02

    Wouldn’t it be awesome if someone other then a Ferrari or McLaren driver took the win.

  12. Wesley said on 19th May 2008, 23:44

    @ Terry Fabulous

    I watched the video of Fernando’s run in with Ralf in ’04 on YouTube….and I can’t stop laughing,he flips off Ralf while he is still spinning out of control..ha,ha,ha !!!

  13. teamorders said on 19th May 2008, 23:45

    Living in Melbourne, I can confirm the Melbourne track a street circuit run on public roads.

    I also thought all, or at least part, of Spa was public roads??

  14. Toby said on 20th May 2008, 0:32

    I wouldn’t rate Trulli as a Monaco master, but he is a supreme qualifier – which is how he got in the position to win (that and keeping a cool head).

    I’d definitely put Webber in there, with Heidfeld (remember his pass on Alonso in ’05?!) and the unproven Rosberg (no real evidence for this opinion, I just rate him highly overall). Interestingly, Kazuki Nakajima is all but admitting that he’s going to nerf it at some point. Reckon the bosses are impressed?

  15. I know I am chiming in late, but I can 100% confirm Melbourne is a street circuit – am looking at it as we speak (my office overlooks Albert Park and I have a great view of probably 60% of the track). Same goes for Montreal – it’s definately public roads, as I have driven it ! Both are similar in that the public roads are situated more in parkland than an actual city-scape which may be where the confusion comes into it. So by my count there are 5 street circuits on this years calendar.

    In regards as to who is the man to watch in Monaco, I’d have to say Alonso. If he were in a better car I’d put money on him winning. As it is, he may still be able to pull something out of the bag and I fully expect to see him on the podium.

    But I also think Hamilton, Kubica and Webber will be ones to watch as well. Their style of driving will suit the turns and twists of Monaco.

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