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

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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

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

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  1. I see a Webber vs Trulli battle on the cards. Trulli will ace it in qualifying but the amount of downforce the RedBulls produce will keep Webber right behind him, as he tends to go well at monaco. Vettel will put it in the wall I have a feeling and Barichello will get ahead of Button and hold him up (team can’t be seen to be favouring button now, can they?). Since downforce is key here then I don’t really see the McLarens doing that well tbh.

    Anyone got a weather forecast though? Rain will change everything, guarantee a RBR win in my opinion and Sutil would be one to watch out for too ;)

  2. I agree – it is a pull rod suspension, not a pushrod. Webbo might finally give all us long suffering aussies a cause for celebration and convert his good form into a win.

  3. seems like alot of RBR fans here.

    For those of you who have a bebo, go here:


    Biggest and best RBR page on bebo!

    as for the race, i really do hope webbo finally gets his lucky break and the monkey off his back!

  4. In 2004 it was Trulli who led home Button by half a second, and Webber has always gone well here. A battle between those 3 would seem a logical choice. Vettel went well last year too but we’ll have to see if he can match the others. I don’t seem McLaren doing anything special, just because of past success it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be good this year. Points again are probably the best they can hope for, likewise Ferrari. Then of course there are drivers like Alonso and Rosberg who could likely snatch a decent result. I’m looking forward to this race, should be a good’n!

  5. Frankly I hope we get too see some real clear close-up’s of the new Red Bull diffuser. Does this mean the Torro Rosso will have this same new diffuser as well? I’ve started my rain dance already, or else we’ll be even moreso in for the usual boring Monaco train.

    Incidentally, has anyone else been missing Gerhard Berger this year…

    1. Oh, and I meant to ask does anybody know why exactly the Monaco GP weekend has a Thursday but not Friday practice. I realise there are other support races throughout the weekend but then thats the same at any other GP race weekend…

    2. Chaz
      Friday is for the locals to get the baguettes and win in. It’s a very small area. with few back streets

    3. Oops, wine not win or whine

    4. No reply button for your post below so…
      Monaco runs Thursday parctice because the Friday is traditionally a rest day. The actual reason seems to differ in people`s opinions. Some say it`s religious & others that it`s more commercial.
      The race programme (but not F1) soes on in the morning but, in the afternoon, the roads are re-opened.

    5. From Wikipedia:

      Also, earlier the event was traditionally held on the week of Ascension Day.

      Given that Ascension Day is Thursday, this would suggest the reason for having a day off on Friday is indeed to allow access to local residents, rather than a religious reason — the latter would rule out using Thursday for racing.

  6. William Wilgus
    18th May 2009, 14:34

    My 2 cents:
    1) providing that the tires don’t spin because of it, the 80 hp KERS provides would be more advantageous on a track with slow corners than one with fast ones; i.e., faster acceleration.
    2) Baring accidents / break-downs, the race will be decided by qualifying. To suggest that Monaco is a great race is to presume that the word `race’ has been synonymous with the word ` parade’ over the past few decades. It does remain a great social event for the rich and famous, of course.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      18th May 2009, 14:52

      KERS is impractical at Monaco; grip and downforce are a thousand times more important than outright speed. Consider this: KERS can only be activated from 100km/h But the start of the race. But where are you by the tim you get to 100km/h off the line? You’re in the braking zone down at Ste. Devote and there’s nowhere to move because of the narrow roads and all the cars around you. KERS will be useless off the line, and the Main Straight is simply too short for it to be of use. The only place where it might be viable is through the Tunnel, but even then it will count for very little indeed if you don’t have the grip or downforce. It might be used to defend, but you don’t need to defend at Monaco; you just need to drive.

      Haven’t you noticed how every time the BBC brings up the telemetry of a KERS-equipped car (actually, any car, as the only cars they have the telemetry for are running KERS) and the driver uses it, they’re on a straight? They never use it straight out of a corner; I believe Alonso had a go early in the practice sessions in Melbourne, but he soon reverted to unleashing it on the straights instead. Monaco is so tight and twisted that by the time you’ve pressed down on the KERS button and gotten a bit of juice out of it, you’re already in the braking zone for the next corner.

  7. Bigbadderboom
    18th May 2009, 14:46

    Considering Red Bull and Brawn are bringing upgrades to Monaco, I doubt if McLaren are going to find the pace needed to compete at the front, I do agree that they are likely to find some pace and may well be the best of the rest but that is the best hope i give them. Lewis may get 4th/5th, Heikki probably wont finish, driving as lewis’s number two seems to have killed the poor blokes spirit!

  8. I doubt Vettel is going to be a driver to watch. Last year he was even beaten by Bourdais.

    Didn’t Boudrais crash out of the Monaco race last year, while Vettel finished in the points.

    Yeah, Bourdais crashed into the back of Coulthart and Vettel drove a pretty invisible but solid race and finished 5th, just behind Webber who was in a better car at the time.

    I think it’s too close to call for any favorites among the stonger teams. I’m interested to see what Ferrari will do here, as their qualifying pace was pretty impressive considering how heavy Massa was on fuel in Spain. Rain would actually be welcome here, but I have a feeling Qualifying will again be the most exciting part of the race weekend.

    By the way, does anybody have a link to a site / article where the 2009 Red Bull car is technically analyzed? Back when all cars were released all technical interest went out to the double diffusers, but I’ve always wondered exactly what makes the Red Bull so incredibly fast. I’ve heard there was something clever about their suspension, but the information I’ve found so far on the car is shallow at best…

  9. Against Mosley with this petition: http://www.mosleygohome.0fees.net

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      19th May 2009, 1:25

      Won’t work. No-one from FOM, the FIA or FOTA will see it before the closing date for 2010 entries, by which time the regulations will have been sorted.

      And even if they did see it, they’d probably laugh at it.

  10. Monaco can turn the slightest mistake into a race-loser. (Very occasionally, as we saw last year, it can also do the exact opposite).

    Turn a race loser into a mistake?

    1. Turn a mistake into a race-winner.

  11. For technical articles on the RB5

    General article on the car

    Development blog index of articles

    Autopsort technical analysis from when it was launched

  12. Piquet might get in trouble with the walls.
    That’ll be interesting to watch.

    1. Bigbadderboom
      18th May 2009, 17:58

      I don’t think there is much doubt Damon, with a bit of luck it will into the run off after the tunnel and he’ll stay out of the way!!!!!!

    2. He came a cropper in practice right in front of me at Ste Devote last year. Mind you, so did Alonso. It gave me some good footage of the Monaco marshals at their finest, though.

  13. Jenson first, the Trulli train in 2nd blocking everyone else

  14. off the topic a bit, but does anyone know of any sites that gives good deals on tickets for races other then the main f1 site. Want to buy boyfriend tickets for the Monza race but need some direction!

    Thanks :)

    1. Hi Stacey
      I find the best way of buying tickets is direct from the circuit.
      Monza has an English site which will give you details.
      Hope this helps.

  15. A win for Webber would be fantastic!!! I agree that Trulli, Button, Rubens and others will do well too. I’d like to see Massa get a good result, he so terribly deserved one last race.

  16. I so wish this could be an all weekend battle between Vettel & Lewis. Vettel is of course the only driver that can match Lewis. I just so want to see them get into a scrap.
    But… Jenson on pole for the win…

  17. Brawn4Constructors
    19th May 2009, 1:52

    No one is talking about Button. He’s kicking EVERYONE’S ASS.

    He will win again (barring an accident).


  18. I hope RBR give webber and vettel the same car. Mechanical grip bias could turn many of the results upside down and driver performance the most crucial factor of any race in years due lack of traction control and no really high downforce aero special Monaco packages. I see Kimi and Massa and Trulli and Barrichello as all being right on it and believe even Hamilton could surprise (and be ragged and desperate). i have all the fingers and toes crossed for Webber.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      19th May 2009, 4:15

      Red Bull might be powered by Renault, but that’s where the similarities end. They’re not being run by Flavio Briatore. A blind test of the diffuser might be the order of the day, but it was obvious Braitore was favouring Alonso when the Spaniard got it in Shanghai and Piquet didn’t. Red Bull are a serious contender for both titles this season, so tey’ll be mking sure both Vettel and Webber are armed with it.

  19. Cristian Fenichi
    19th May 2009, 8:03

    As I said a few weeks ago this will be the first race that we will probably see a non-Brawn car win: China was the exeption that confirmed the rule. If Brawn wins this one we will have to wait for another 2-3 races for Newey to catch up.
    Hope Kimi can win this one, even though I doubt it.

  20. KERS is impractical at Monaco; grip and downforce are a thousand times more important than outright speed

    Have to disagree with this. KERS is not impractical. Way back in the 1000bhp qualifying engine days, drivers would always take more power.

    If adding KERS does not effect the balance of your car you keep it. It does not add more weight, but it just reduces the ballast available for adjusting the setup.

    KERS at Monaco will be critical for qualifying, but maybe less important for the race due to traffic. However, Monaco is all about qualifying. Having that extra 80bhp for some sections on a Q lap could push you those few places further up the grid. This is paramount given the close lap times in qualifying we have seen over the first few rounds.

    Haven’t you noticed how every time the BBC brings up the telemetry of a KERS-equipped car (actually, any car, as the only cars they have the telemetry for are running KERS) and the driver uses it, they’re on a straight?

    Please also remember that we see a delay transmission on these captions against the real view. Therefore the driver could well be using it before we see it being used. They are just a guide and are not accurate. I was surprised that Martin Brundle missed this in the last race, slating Massa for using his KERS too late at the start. I know he had to wait until he’d hit 100km\h but he would have used it earlier than we saw it.

    I’m sure some drivers will have the skill to use it around Monaco. I’ll be disappointed if Lewis doesn’t give it a go as I’d like to see at least one driver give it a go.

    The other thing about Monaco is that it’s a low speed grip circuit, unlike Barcelona. So the McLarens that struggle under high speed corners should be further up the grid. Add in KERS for qualifying and maybe Lewis \ Massa can edge a front row slot.

    1. I’m afraid you are totally wrong here Chalky. The view of revs, throttle, brakes and now KERS is as real-time as the camera feed itself. It may be a few hundredths out or at a worst lag scenario a tenth or two but not enough to discern when viewing. The telemetry data is transmitted in the same data stream as the image and the audio – revs, throttle, brakes and KERS data is all part of the regular data stream that the cars emit and then converted into pretty images that we see. There are problems with the audio streams and these are down to a ‘Quality of Service’ algorithm that has the audio at a lower priority than video & telemetry. The inappropriate change in engine note we hear is down to the interpreting software filling in losses with incorrect estimates. It’s a software glitch – or bug if you like.

      The only things really delayed are the radio transmissions which are cherry picked live by producers/directors after the event.

      Brundle was kind of right when Massa clearly didn’t use KERS as much as he maybe could or should have done. However I also feel that he was holding some in reserve expecting to be able to use it later in the lap as cars ahead would of course still be relatively close. Maybe…

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