Unique Monaco offers opportunities for Brawn’s rivals (Monaco GP preview)

Lewis Hamilton isn't likely to repeat his 2008 win

Lewis Hamilton isn't likely to repeat his 2008 win

With a great sense of timing the F1 world, torn apart by rows over how much the teams should be allowed to spend, heads to round six at Monaco – where conspicuous consumption is a way of life.

Whatever F1 does to itself, the Monaco Grand Prix will hopefully always remain one of its great races. On a calendar of increasingly bland and interchangeable circuits, Monaco is narrow, slow, glamorous, dangerous and – best of all – unique.

Heading into the weekend one of the main questions is whether anyone can disrupt Jenson Button’s growing advantage in the drivers’ championship. Their best chance of doing that is by getting ahead in qualifying.

The qualifying trap

Monaco can turn the slightest mistake into a race-loser. (Very occasionally, as we saw last year, it can also do the exact opposite). To begin with the drivers will be desperate to avoid the Q1 trap, and find themselves stuck on the rearmost rows of the grid.

That trap has worked very well this year, claiming some big names:

Malaysia - Felipe Massa, Ferrari
China - Robert Kubica, BMW
Bahrain - Mark Webber, Red Bull
Spain - Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari and Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren

Will we see another big name have their race ruined early on Saturday?

Red Bull’s diffuser

More and more teams are adding their versions of the ‘double diffuser’ to their cars. Red Bull had set a target of the Monaco Grand OPrix as being the earliest time they could get one on their RB5.

The complication for the team and designer Adrian Newey is that the unusual pull-rod suspension configuration of the RB5 gives them little room to exploit the thinking behind the double diffuser.

It’s tempting to think that simply bolting the double diffuser design onto Newey’s already highly effective car will turn it into a Brawn-beater overnight. But it’s not likely to be quite as simple as that.

Tyres and KERS

At the Circuit de Catalunya Ferrari and McLaren were the only teams left still using KERS. Monte-Carlo’s longest flat-out section is just 510m – the shortest on the calendar – and as a result the maximum speed reached is 286kph (177mph), lower than at any other track. (Read more: 2009 F1 tracks compared)

KERS doesn’t even look likely to offer much of an advantage at the start here. The run down to Ste Devote is short and narrow, offering little opportunity for overtaking.

Unless KERS can give drivers enough of a boost to make overtaking possible into the harbour chicane, it’s hard to see why anyone would use it this weekend.

Monaco is also unusual in that it is the first event this year where Bridgestone are bringing two compounds of tyres that are adjacent to each other on their scale of hardness – the soft and super-soft tyre. The teams are likely to favour the super-soft, and once again preserving as many sets of those as possible through qualifying for the race will be crucial.

Drivers to watch

Sebastian VettelOne way or another, he must finish ahead of Jenson Button.

Rubens Barrichello – One way or another, he must finish ahead of Jenson Button. A third consecutive strategy blunder would look decidedly dubious.

Lewis Hamilton – Has raced five times at Monaco, scoring four wins (1x F1, 1x GP2, 2x F3) and a second (F1). Can he drag the MP4-24 onto the podium (legitimately) here this year?

Jarno Trulli – Qualifying specialist with an affinity for Monte-Carlo – could add up to Toyota’s best chance to win a Grand Prix so far.

Read more: Championship standings after the Spanish Grand Prix

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75 comments on Unique Monaco offers opportunities for Brawn’s rivals (Monaco GP preview)

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  1. Dane said on 18th May 2009, 7:32

    GO RBR!! I hope Webber gets his 1st win this weekend

  2. Marks another one of those drivers that goes well at Monaco.

    Remember 2007 in the Williams?

    He could have won it if the Cosworth hadn’t given up…

  3. Guys, how to if a particular car goes faster on a certain type of track compared to rest of the cars?

  4. I take it as 2006, TIMMY…

  5. Ace said on 18th May 2009, 8:44

    Yeah, I think Webber will be one to watch also..

  6. scunnyman said on 18th May 2009, 8:48

    I believe the unique properties of the monaco street circuit may offer lewis a chance of a podium this weekend. I’ll stick my neck out early and say that we may have a new winner this weekend. Maybe Glock or Webber.
    We have yet to really see the BrawnGP cars at a slow circuit like Monaco. So we’ll see if the superior diffuser works as well.
    The ferrari’s could well but at the forefront also.

    I’ll predict 3 front running drivers out in Q1.

  7. mp4-19 said on 18th May 2009, 8:53

    its going to be a repeat of 1992

    williams fw14= brawn gp 001
    mclaren mp4/7A= mclaren mp4-24

    jenson button = nigel mansell
    ayron senna = lewis hamilton

    brawn gp leads the first 70 odd laps before jenson suffers some mech problems,pits lewis meanwhile takes over the lead. jenson catches hammi at the rate of 3 sec/lap. but hamilton will eventually prevail to win the race.

    link
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CC5AWV8wV_Y

  8. LOL,MP4-19…….IMPOSSIBLE

    • mp4-19 said on 18th May 2009, 9:23

      man there is no need for a lol there. u’ll be left sulking after the race. mclaren have won the 15 times in the last 25 years, even with some pig cars like 1986,1992,1993. the lack of high speed corners will certainly help them. in fact mclaren should have won every race here since the turn of the decade.

      2000:david coulthard
      2001:shoemaker won, but coulthard started on pole but stalled his engine on the warm up lap.
      2002:coulthard won.
      2003: kimi was held up behind a backmarker or else he would have passed montoya.
      2004: we all know what happened to coulthard, kimi unfortunately retired with a engine failure.
      2005:raikkonen won.
      2006: kimi was right behind alonso & would have passed him in the pitstop. but illuck struck again & kimi caught fire 7 burnt his buttocks.
      2007: alonso driving a mclaren won.
      2008:hammi won.
      2009:hammi will win again.
      2010: bruno senna driving a mclaren will win.

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 18th May 2009, 14:08

      Wishful thinking at best. The lack of high-speed corners might help them, but that will be somewhat offset by the fact that the car has the turning circle of an oil tanker. Lewis Hamilton is by no means the Second Coming of Ayrton Senna; if anyone is, it’s Sebastian Vettel (and to a lesser extent, Button, who is very good on a drying circuit).

      McLaren are going to struggle here; both Catalunya and Monte Carlo require high amounts of downforce. In fact, Monaco needs more than Spain. And where did McLaren finish the last race again? I can’t remember because I turned the broadcast off – it was like 1am – after all the points-scoring cars had crossed the line.

      Just because McLaren have won it for the past eight years is no guarantee they’re going to again. It’s the gambler’s allacy: just because the roulette wheel has come up red forthe past nine spins doesn’t mean it’s going to keep going that way. Each spin is new, just as each race at Monaco is. Besies, even if McLaren somehow managed a from-behind victory – there’s simply no way they’re going to qualify high – it’s not like it’s going to put Lewis Hamilton anywhere near the lead of the championship. He’s pretty much admitted that it’s all over; while he still has a chance, he pretty much needs Button to retire from every race from here to Belgium.

      I think Brawn are once again going to be the team to beat, and I think Button is really going to show us what he can to. Martin Brundle and Jonathan Legard have both remarked that Button has one of the best driving styles on the grid: very smooth, only turning the wheel as much as he needs to and then straightening up in one fluid motion. It’s going to be a major advantage on the circuit where staying on the racing line is at its most critical.

  9. DGR-F1 said on 18th May 2009, 9:02

    Hmmm, I remember a past Monaco where a certain pair of McLarens wiped the opposition both in qualifying and the race because they had great downforce.
    Which cars have been able to get the best downforce this year?
    So I am expecting another battle between the Brawns and the Red Bulls, with a valiant Ferrari doing well until something breaks. The likes of Renault and McLaren need to bring a ‘C’ spec car with lots of improvements if they are going to get anywhere near the podium.
    But I’m bound to be wrong about all of the above :-)

  10. Skova265 said on 18th May 2009, 9:27

    Would be nice to see Hamilton and Ferrari in the front for a change, but i doubt it

  11. Patrickl said on 18th May 2009, 9:52

    The Red Bull is good at high speed downforce and stability. That’s not of much use at Monaco. The Brawn cars seem better at that.

    Several drivers have commented that the third sector at Barcelona is similar to the Monaco circuit. Especially during the race, the Brawns were fastest there with Massa and Hamilton close behind. Vettel was way off the pace, but Webber was close during qualifying.

    But then for Monaco, the Red Bulls will have a major update so they might be half a second ahead of everybody again as they were in China and Bahrein.

  12. carl said on 18th May 2009, 9:53

    I wonder if Ferrari and McLaren will be running their KERS this weekend?

    • mp4-19 said on 18th May 2009, 10:06

      mclaren have confirmed they’ll be using it. is kers of any help on this circuit??

      http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2009/5/9358.html

    • KERS is not just for overtaking or defending, it offers lap time advantage. People sometimes use it for only lap time and that give you a couple of tenth during stints or extra laps before pit stops, which would be an advantage.

    • persempre said on 19th May 2009, 17:02

      At present Ferrari intend to use KERS

    • It is used to improve laptime, sure, but given the minimum speed limit for using it (100 km/h), it is not going to be *that* useful in Monaco, with its slow corners and short straights.

      That being said, it’s probably a more efficient use of time to stick with KERS, if you already have it, otherwise the team would in effect have to understand two different cars with differing mechanical behaviors. Given the limited amount of testing, this is probably a more important factor, even if using KERS only give minimal potential advantage (or worse).

  13. Sush Meerkat said on 18th May 2009, 9:58

    unusual push-rod suspension

    Its a pull rod suspension.

  14. Bigbadderboom said on 18th May 2009, 10:03

    High downforce circuit, the Red bulls and the Brawns will run away with this, I cannot see any other outcome, a good points finish for Lewis and Glock, I fancy the Ferraris top finish in top 6 if Kimi can stay bothered!!

    I think we may see SC in first couple of laps, as the KERS cars try to make up places.

  15. mp4-19 said on 18th May 2009, 10:09

    i dont know why everybody is underestimating mclaren. if at all someone knows how to setup a car in monaco,its mclaren. this is going to be the turning point in the championship.

    • Given that this is a brand-new car, and their drivers are relatively inexperienced, and the car is known to be lacking in downforce, I don’t think people are actually underestimating them.

      As Prisoner Monkeys said, it’s gambler’s fallacy to extrapolate from past record without taking into account all the factors involved.

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