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. PJA said on 18th May 2009, 17:01

    For technical articles on the RB5

    General article on the car

    Development blog index of articles

    Autopsort technical analysis from when it was launched

  2. Damon said on 18th May 2009, 17:47

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

    • Bigbadderboom said on 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!!!!!!

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

      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.

  3. TommyB said on 18th May 2009, 18:59

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

  4. Stacey said on 18th May 2009, 22:00

    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 :)

    • persempre said on 18th May 2009, 22:09

      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.

  5. Adam Tate said on 18th May 2009, 22:21

    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.

  6. pSynrg said on 18th May 2009, 22:39

    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…

  7. Brawn4Constructors said on 19th May 2009, 1:52

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

    He will win again (barring an accident).


  8. m0tion said on 19th May 2009, 2:40

    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.

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 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.

  9. Cristian Fenichi said on 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.

  10. Chalky said on 19th May 2009, 13:41

    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.

    • pSynrg said on 19th May 2009, 19:13

      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…

  11. rob from inverness said on 19th May 2009, 19:02

    Every Monaco qualifying, commentators stress how vital pole position ( or a front row slot ) is. But I have an impression that the winner rarely comes from the front row. It is always such an eventful and high risk race. Is there a statistician on this site ( or you, Keith) who can list the grid positions from which winners have come since, say, 1990?

    • persempre said on 19th May 2009, 19:40

      With the usual disclaimer that I am totally capable of a c*ck up!

      Pole sitters won in 90, 91, 94 (although the first 2 grid slots were left empty in respect to Senna & Ratzenberger), 98, 04, 05, 06 & 07.
      Senna won from 3rd in 92 & 93.
      95, 97, 99, 2001 – MS from 2
      96 – Panis from 14 [Don`t even ask ;) ]
      2000 – DC from 3
      2002 – DC from 2
      2003 – JPM from 3
      2008 – LH from 3

      Make of that what you will :)

    • pSynrg said on 19th May 2009, 19:40

      You may be onto something Rob from Inverness. Since 1956, 20 races were won from pole (that’s in 52 races) so a ratio of just over 2 to 1 in favour of not being on pole :)

    • People normally state the rule as “starting from the front row”, but as persempre’s statistics show, a win from 3rd is not that rare either.

      It actually makes sense — in many circuits, starting 3rd is better than starting 2nd, due to being on the racing line and having better grip. And even though the pole sitter has less than 50% chance of winning, it’s still the best position to be in — the statistical chance of 2nd is less than that, and 3rd even less still.

  12. Luc said on 20th May 2009, 7:49

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

  13. rob from inverness said on 20th May 2009, 9:01

    Thanks, guys. I thought I would get my question answered on the Intellegent Fans’ Website. The 50% wins from pole is more than I guessed at. And the remaining winners come from 2nd or 3rd slot exclusively (apart from Panis.) More “front loaded” than I expected.

  14. Chalky said on 20th May 2009, 10:31

    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.

    Thanks for the info. Sorry for confusing anyone.

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