Ferrari aim to end nine-year Monaco drought (Monaco Grand Prix preview)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Ferrari last won at Monaco in 2001
Ferrari last won at Monaco in 2001

Can Ferrari win their first Monaco Grand Prix since 2001 this weekend?

With the teams using softer tyres for the race – the same compounds used in Bahrain, where Ferrari won – this could be their best opportunity.

But with a chance of rain and hectic qualifying session in prospect, we could be in for some unpredictable racing this weekend.

F1’s toughest track

As new F1 circuits become ever more alike, three cheers for Monaco’s cramped, slow layout and punishing lack of run-off.

Many of its corners offer zero margin for error, so the chance of getting through qualifying and the race without red flag or safety car interruptions are low.

Changes to the track and the cars will make Monaco extra-tricky this year. The second kerbs at the harbour chicane and the exit of the swimming pool complex have been raised to discourage corner-cutting.

About one-third of the road which comprises the track has been re-surfaced since the last race. The new section runs from the first corner (Sainte Devote) up the hill to the left-hander at Massenet, then from Casino all the way to Portier.

Drivers may find the grip levels in these sections different to what they are used to. But Monaco is a circuit where track ‘evolution’ – how much grip varies during a race weekend – plays a significant role.

The track gets faster throughout practice, but as Monaco practice is held on Thursday instead of the usual Friday, by the time the F1 cars return to the track on Saturday morning the track if has often become more ‘green’ and less grippy.

Yesterday McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh spoke of the increased challenge the drivers faced at turn one this year. With four more cars than last year and drivers carrying a full fuel load with cool tyres and brakes, threading the field through Sainte Devote will be harder than usual – and it only takes one driver to get it wrong for there to be a crash:

The really, really good drivers will manage it, some others will find it beyond their capability.
Martin Whitmarsh

The heavy fuel load should also make the fast right-hander in the tunnel more of a challenge. The bend was previously taken flat-out but with a high fuel load this may no longer be possible at the start of a race. It’s up to the driver to work out when he can tackle it without lifting – with a trip to the barriers waiting for anyone who tries it too soon.

Qualifying tactics

We all expected the front-running teams to whinge about how difficult qualifying will be in the run-up to the Monaco Grand Prix. Sure enough, they tried to push through a change to keep the slower teams out of the action.

Fortunately their complaints fell on deaf ears, leaving them to work out how to get the best lap time done in a 20 minute session featuring all 24 cars.

This is hardly unprecedented in F1 – back in 1992 30 cars took to the track for qualifying, the slowest of which was 6.2 seconds off the pace. Yes, they had a longer session to set a time in 1992, but track evolution was the same then as it is now and inevitably everyone hit the track in the dying seconds of qualifying.

So how will the teams tackle qualifying on Saturday? The usual practice of sending the cars out for separate runs may be dropped and instead teams could send their cars out with more fuel to do a series of laps. That would maximise their chances of getting a traffic-free run in.

Read more: Should Monaco qualifying be split? (Poll)

Who will have the best car?

After Red Bull’s crushing performance in qualifying at Spain their rivals will be hoping the RB6 doesn’t enjoy the same massive margin of superiority on such a completely different type of circuit.

Low-speed grip and traction are vital here – the high-speed downforce performance exhibited by the RB6 will count for little. McLaren have had some concerns over their low-speed performance and this track will be a serious test of how strong they are in this are.

This could present a major opportunity for Mercedes and Ferrari. Particularly the latter, who suspect their car may be better suited to the combination of tyres being used at Monaco this weekend – super-soft and medium. These have only been used at Bahrain this year, which is the only race Ferrari have won in 2010.

Complicating the picture even further is the threat of rain. There is rain in the area over the next few days and although at the moment Sunday looks likely to be dry, there is a chance of rain during qualifying.

Read more: Mixed weather forecast for Monaco

Drivers to watch

Four driver to keep an eye on this weekend. Name your top picks in the comments.

Felipe Massa – Has blamed his recent difficulties on having to use the soft and hard tyre compounds for the last four races. He’s looking forward to using softer tyres this weekend:

This weekend, even if there will be no major changes on the F10, I expect we can be more competitive, mainly because Bridgestone is bringing the Super Soft and Medium tyres here and I much prefer using this combination. We had the same tyre choices in Bahrain, where I was much happier than at the other races, in terms of the grip levels I found from the tyres.
Felipe Massa

Nico H???lkenberg – Had a mixed weekend in Spain – he crashed in second practice but bounced back to beat team mate Rubens Barrichello for the first time in a dry qualifying session. He was close to the Brazilian’s pace in the first stint before picking up car damage.

Let’s see if the reigning GP2 champion can deliver a little more of his potential on the most difficult track on the calendar.

Robert Kubica – Monaco is a circuit where the driver can make a difference and Kubica, despite not having a car capable of battling for wins, has driven brilliantly for Renault this year.

He shone in the wet race here in 2008, and he’s the driver the top four teams will fear most in qualifying.

Bruno Senna – Piloting the slowest car in F1 is an unenviable task in Monaco. Even more so for the nephew of the man who won this race five times in a row from 1989 to 1993.

After crashing out on the first lap in Spain, Senna needs to keep out of trouble and bring the car home this weekend.

The Monaco Grand Prix on F1 Fanatic

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Before the race weekend starts look out for our unofficial race programme with quick links to all the important information.

We’ll have analysis of the times during Thursday practice and extensive coverage of qualifying and the race.

Remember to keep an eye out for our “rate the race” feature after every Grand Prix and don’t forget to enter our predictions competition to win great prizes including F1 tickets, DVDs, paintings and books.

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54 comments on “Ferrari aim to end nine-year Monaco drought (Monaco Grand Prix preview)”

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  1. Senna will not only have the slowest car as such but he thinks it is damaged as well. At monaco i would be really impressed if he can get anywhere on the grid save last and end the race!
    ESPN runs this story quoting an interview in a Brazillian newspaper:

    I am curious wheater Nico Rosberg can get on top of Michael again and weather we will see some good driving from Schumi.

    1. #Joke#

      We might see some good parking by Shumi.

      (sorry, I had to).

      1. Sideshow bob
        12th May 2010, 16:48

        I’m going to take a wild guess and say Schumi can do top 4 at Monaco. Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Schumacher is my top 4, not necessarily in that order mind you.

  2. Looking forward to tomorrow, it’s a little strange having practise on the Thursday after a race weekend I almost forgot.

    We’ll have analysis of the times during Friday practice and extensive coverage of qualifying and the race.

    Looks like its caught you out a little as well Keith :)

    1. Yes, a bit strange to have the friday practice on Thursday. So that is probably why non of the test drivers will do any Friday running here!

    2. Yes, unfortunately I forgot by the time I got to the end of the article. Coverage as usual tomorrow. The “Changing tracks” feature will run on Friday instead.

  3. ” by the time the F1 cars return to the track on Saturday morning the track if has often become ore ‘green’ and less grippy”

    I guess, it should be “more ‘green'”. “The track if (it)”?

    1. Fixed, ta.

  4. Im hoping Alonso ends Ferrari’s monaco drought. Im expecting it to be close between Rosberg, Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso for filling the first two rows in quali, but my gut tells me the race win will go to either Fernando or Lewis.

    1. I wouldn’t rule Button out either. He was masterful around here last year and I’m sure he would love the chance to get the podium procedure right!!

      Then again, maybe they should make the winning driver run up the pit straight…add some extra entertainment for the crowds!!

      1. If I were to win this year I’d do what Button did and make it a tradition, how often do you actually get to see a sporting tradition get started these days?

        1. Damn good idea.

      2. Button seemed to do quite well on the 2004 replay on the BBC site as well

  5. Renault’s short wheelbase may help them here more than at other tracks. As you point out Kubica is an excellent driver and has gone well at Monaco before, this combination could make him an outside contender for a podium.

    1. On the other hand,

      Renault’s advantage of a fuel-efficient engine is going to be trimmed down at the short Monaco GP. Cars have to travel only 250km instead of 300km.

      So the difference in the weights of Renault and (esp.) Ferrari at the start of the race will be lower than in other races.

      1. That is not neccicarily true. The cars have to accelerate and stop quite often and the high downforce = high drag has them use quite some more fuel.
        We discussed this a while ago here, and Monza is pretty good on fuel consumption while Monaco is not.

  6. FelipeBabyStayCool
    12th May 2010, 12:41

    Haha, my baby is going to win!! Just wait and you’ll see!!
    Signed: Rob Smedley ;)

    1. You will have to do a lot of talking to get him around the circuit for over 80 laps!

      Are you planning any special voice training not to loose your voice in the middle?

      1. FelipeBabyStayCool
        12th May 2010, 19:02

        Don’t worry, I got it all taped

  7. Wow, Massa’s blog has a photo of him and Alonso sharing a laugh!!! Not what I expected.

    I think the problems expected to be encountered in Q1 are being over-hyped by the teams. Lets check the numbers a bit.

    In the best case scenario, “track evolution” will be worth a maximum of 0.5 seconds over the course of 20 minutes of Q1. Of the 7 cars that exit after Q1, 6 of them are at least 3-4 seconds offpace. So, those 6 cars are going out of Q1 no matter how much ever piece of clear tarmac they get.

    The question left is only for the 7th driver. And in 20 minutes, there is definitely enough time for all the remaining 18 drivers to get 1 clean lap in.

  8. We could add a crash predicition for Monaco:
    Kobayashi, Liuzzi, Vettel, Buemi, Petrov.

    Rain will make it absolutely unpredictable. So that would mean we all have a chnage to catch up on the lead in the prediction game ;-)

    I will think about my predicition all evening and come up with something good.

  9. Who has the longest car? They will be disadvantaged.
    Unless it’s RBR who will negate this by having fastest car.

    The following are likely to crash for trying to hard,
    Vettel (esp. if Webber is leading).

    Maybe we can expect a bit more from Massa this weekend.

    1. The longest? Sauber, I think.

    2. Prisoner Monkeys
      12th May 2010, 13:20

      It’s not lie they have a car that’s metres longer – we’re only talking a few centirmetres here.

      1. Which is considerable in F1 car terms…..

  10. I’m tipping Button or Hamilton for this one. Kubica should perform well here as pointed out by Keith, so we should be in for a cracker.

    I’m not expecting much from Mercedes though, Nico doesn’t seem to like the revised car and MSC struggled at slow speeds in China. It doesn’t bode well for Monaco.

  11. In case you missed the last race , MSC is in a different car.

    1. Granted, but the B spec car is hardly perfect is it…

      1. Yes but they are re-verting back to the older one for this race.

        1. Oh? Both drivers or just Rosberg?

          Is there a source about this??

  12. I think Mark Webber might be a darkhorse for the race (If you can really call him that after his performance in Spain).

    He usually does very well in Monaco, and has been unlucky in the past with numerous retirements due to mechanical failure. He finished 11th in 2002 for Minardi, 3rd in 2005 for Williams, 4th in 2008 and 5th in 2009, both for Red Bull.

    Unless he has a mechanical failure or is involved in an accident, I think its quite reasonable to expect him to have a strong result.

  13. It’s shocking to think Ferrari is winless here since 01. But when you think of the litany of wrecks, odd mechanical failures, the parka da car situation, and the rest, it adds up to lot of Fail. And strange people frequently get really good at Monaco: Trulli, Coulthard. Historically, McLaren have been good here, and generally good at mechanical grip. And Hamilton and Button are among the most skilled drivers. I fear Hamilton will be too eager/desperate here to keep it off the walls, though, if he is not on the pace from practice on. It takes the discipline of the Buddha to get it done here. I don’t see Hamilton fully getting to this point until he can spend more time meditating in Hakkinnen’s sauna.

    Button for the win–continuing his development as the second coming of David Coulthard.

    1. Except DC never won the WDC :-(

      1. Considering his performances in the past, I kinda think he’s one of those drivers who could have, and should have, but didn’t…..

        If fact that would be a good topic for an article….

  14. Monaco is a Mercedes Benz engine track,in recent years:
    2007 1st, 2nd
    2008 1st
    2009 1st, 2nd
    2010 ?
    Possible podium lock out with Mclaren and Mercedes doing well?

  15. Massa was pretty quick here last year (he had a dopey moment letting Rosberg through and should hev beat Kimi at quali though) and I’ll never forget his pole lap in 08. It was good at a track he didn’t like so much so I think he should do well. Mas and Kub were the stars in 08 esp Kub perhaps. Alo should be pretty quick here so I’m watching those 3

  16. Interesting that there will be 7 rookies at Monaco for the fisrt time.Hulkenberg, Petrov, Alguersuari, Chandhok, B. Senna, Kobayashi and Di Grassi. A lot of fresh faces on a very narrow track. It has never been a great venue for Ferrari with half the wins Mclaren have had but every year we can only hope. Very much looking forward to getting there on Sat.

  17. “About one-third of the road which comprises the track has been re-surfaced since the last race. The new section runs from the first corner (Sainte Devote) up the hill to the left-hander at Massenet, then from Casino all the way to Portier.”

    i wonder if the big nasty bump between casino and mirabeau remains. it was always weird to see the cars swerve to miss it, then swerve back to take mirabeau. if it’s drivable, then maybe it opens up a (slim) passing opportunity.

  18. I think Kubica will win this race. Okhams Razor: Their car is much shorter than the other cars.

    1. The Redbull is definatley the favourite, it has presumably the same sized fuel tank, an fantastic rear packaging, the Redbull was very good in Singapore last year, it took a crash in qualifiying to hand McLaren pole, so theres no reason it shouldn’t be just as dominant here as in Spain, Redbull solved their slow cornering issues last year, I don’t know why everyones so hopefull they’ll be off the pace.

      Obviosuly you need excellent mechanical grip to win in Monaco but odles of downforce certainly doesn’t harm your chances.

      1. the Redbull was very good in Singapore last year

        Not that great in the race though, as I recall. Both Hamilton and Rosberg had them on pace.

        1. an yes if ever there was a track for mech destroying vibrations it’s here, however I still think that unless the Bull destroys it’s tyres, it’s a lights to flag that we’re looking at.

      2. Singapore? I recall brake and/or hub failure. That time for Webber. It’s a problem they have never fixed. It’s their bona fide achilles heel now. Unless there is a lot of Safety Car time, they may have to baby the brakes here, especially if they are not out front. It’s not a big-stop track, but the brakes are always on and always hot.

    2. Sorry Chippie occam’s razor does not apply here, but I see the point you are trying to make.

  19. I think that the engine will be a decisive factor here, more so than the relative wheelbase dimensions of the cars. Last year it was said that the mercedes power units had a considerable advantage over their ferrari and renault counterparts (ha! Almost said Toyota there too…) at Monaco due to their ‘driveability’, as they appeared to have a much more linear and robust torque curve. Now with a full tank of fuel in the low-speed/low-grip conditions of Monaco, I think it will be an even bigger performance differentiator. I peg McLaren for the win. Not only do they have the Mercedes engine, but the MP4-25 seems to have superb braking performance which could also be crucial this weekend.

  20. Don’t underestimate the effects of the mobile chicanes AKA HRT, Virgin and Lotus.

    Also, Mercedes using shorter wheelbase:

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