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

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

Join us to follow the action live throughout the Monaco Grand Prix weekend including the race, qualifying and all three practice sessions. Times here:

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)

  1. rampante said on 12th May 2010, 15:09

    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.

  2. f1yankee said on 12th May 2010, 15:45

    “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.

  3. Chippie said on 12th May 2010, 16:13

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

    • Scribe said on 12th May 2010, 16:54

      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.

      • Icthyes said on 12th May 2010, 17:01

        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.

        • Scribe said on 12th May 2010, 17:15

          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.

      • DaveW said on 12th May 2010, 17:54

        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.

    • Hallard said on 12th May 2010, 19:15

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

  4. Hallard said on 12th May 2010, 16:21

    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.

  5. NickO said on 12th May 2010, 16:47

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

    Also, Mercedes using shorter wheelbase:

  6. F1 Novice said on 12th May 2010, 16:59

    Rain in Monaco this week :(

  7. Massa was excellent at the street circuits in 2008, with poles at Monaco, Valencia, Singapore and a win at Valencia (and he should have won Singapore).

    Surely he will have some more confidence here than, and with the soft tyres as well

  8. wasiF1 said on 13th May 2010, 2:36

    The Monaco Grand Prix will be won & lost on Saturday. If you have a bad qualifying session then struck in the back of the pack then you will be in trouble & also if you can get the car safely in turn 1. I still think it will be Hamilton to challenge the Red Bulls. If the car is good enough then I expect Schumacher to be on the podium.

  9. Bellof said on 14th May 2010, 17:32

    wheres the predictions links for monaco folks? thanks

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