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)

  1. Go Renault 09" said on 18th May 2009, 10:13

    Lewis will have a rubbish result, go webber he will do well provided no-one else collides with him and the red bull proves to be reliable should be interesting gp as always.!!

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

      mark my words. mclaren will win this race. i’m damn sure of it. just look at their record. you’ll be left with a hollow feeling after the race, ur pinning high hopes on webber. webber will never win a race in his whole career. he along with nick heidfield are a liability to their teams.

  2. Patrickl said on 18th May 2009, 10:20

    I doubt Vettel is going to be a driver to watch. Last year he was even beaten by Bourdais. I’d say Webber is more likely to perform well at Monaco. Besides, Webber deserves a break. So far he’s had all the trouble on his car.

    Not sure about Barichello. Don’t remember him doing particularly well at Monaco, but then so neither did Button ever show something remarkable there.

    Hamilton should do well. The car should be doing well there and Hamilton loves the track.

    In fact Rosberg has been doing well at Monaco too.

    I’d also watch Raikkonen. The Ferrari should be well suited to this track and Raikkonen is also one of the drivers who generally does well here.

    Another thing to watch is who are going to crash into the barriers. Obvious choices would be Piquet and Nakajima since they crash out so often already. Rosberg and Hamilton do like to take a lot of risks here and both already had an encounter with the barriers (Rosberg a pretty hefty one).

    • Smitty said on 18th May 2009, 10:42

      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.

    • hitchcockm00 said on 18th May 2009, 13:08

      You can probably add Buemi to the list of casualties this weekend. He’s done a great job so far but I wouldn’t be surprised if he slithered into the barriers at some point.

    • Patrickl said on 18th May 2009, 17:48

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

      True, but I was talking about qualifying. The race results can vary greatly according to safety car appearances and crashes.

      Still, indeed good that he kept out of trouble.

  3. Dr Jones said on 18th May 2009, 10:36

    Go RBR! We need a new winner this season. Season is a bit (or more) lopsided this year. Also hope Barichello can win & revive his F1 glory. ;)

  4. Chalky said on 18th May 2009, 10:53

    If KERS system is light enough not to disadvantage your setup, you will be using it at Monaco.
    Only McLaren seem to have this at the moment.
    Maybe Massa can convince Ferrari to let him keep his too.

  5. ajokay said on 18th May 2009, 11:03

    I think it’s going to be far too close to call at Monaco, making the predictions game very tricky this weekend. If Trulli can get his Toyota on pole and have hassle free pit stops, he may very well lead a Trulli-Train home.

  6. Woffin said on 18th May 2009, 11:23

    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 ;)

  7. Clay said on 18th May 2009, 13:12

    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.

  8. Daniel said on 18th May 2009, 13:20

    seems like alot of RBR fans here.

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

    bebo.com/redbull-f1

    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!

  9. DanThorn said on 18th May 2009, 13:36

    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!

  10. Chaz said on 18th May 2009, 14:26

    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…

    • Chaz said on 18th May 2009, 14:30

      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…

    • CJD said on 18th May 2009, 17:05

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

    • CJD said on 18th May 2009, 17:07

      Oops, wine not win or whine

    • persempre said on 18th May 2009, 17:14

      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.

    • 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.

  11. William Wilgus said on 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.

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 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.

  12. Bigbadderboom said on 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!

  13. 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…

  14. Luca said on 18th May 2009, 16:54

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

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 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.

  15. Dan M said on 18th May 2009, 16:56

    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?

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