Monaco could be Mercedes’ best chance for victory

2013 Monaco Grand Prix preview

Start, Monaco, 2012Three drivers have shared the victories in the first five rounds of 2013 but there’s a good chance that could change this weekend.

Qualifying position is everything at Monaco. That’s good news for Mercedes, who have been the team to beat on Saturday this year but are yet to score a win. Spanish Grand Prix victor Fernando Alonso has already tipped them as favourites to win in Monaco.

If Mercedes can extend their run of pole positions to four in a row they will be in an excellent position to score their first victory of 2013. They came close last year: Michael Schumacher was quickest in qualifying but a penalty dropped him to sixth on the grid. Nico Rosberg started second and finished there.

The high degradation and frequent pit stops seen during the Spanish race provoked intense debate over whether F1 has gone too far in using tyres that degrade quickly to produce close racing. But the slow Monaco course sees the lowest rates of wear and degradation of the season.

Pirelli’s soft compounds did not tempt any of the leading drivers to make more than the mandatory single pit stop last year. But that was not the case the year before.

Monte-Carlo circuit information

Lap length 3.34km (2.075 miles)
Distance 78 laps (260.5km/161.9 miles)
Lap record* 1’14.439 (Michael Schumacher, 2004)
Fastest lap 1’13.532 (Kimi Raikkonen, 2006)
Tyres Soft and Super-soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Monte-Carlo track data in full

In 2011, with tyres approximately as aggressive as today’s, the top three finishers all used different strategies. Sebastian Vettel attempted a one-stopper, nursing his tyres from lap 17 until the chequered flag. Behind him Alonso stopped twice and Jenson Button three times. The pair were running nose-to-tail when a crash blocked the track, forcing a red flag which conspired to rob us of an exciting finish.

With Pirelli bringing the softest tyres in their range again this weekend, there’s a chance the race won’t be decided on Saturday afternoon. Monaco specialist Pastor Maldonado described qualifying as being worth “probably 70% of the weekend” but in seasons past that figure would have been closer to 100%.

Unlike most circuits on the calendar this year, Monaco will have just one DRS zone, simply because there isn’t space to safely install another one in a place where it might be worthwhile on this tight, narrow and punishing course.

Monaco Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Red Bull are looking for their fourth consecutive win in F1’s most prestigious race. Vettel has two wins to his name already this year but Webber has excellent form at the principality and claimed two of the team’s previous victories here.

They have been closest to Mercedes on one-lap pace but have fared much better in the races, which should make them strong contenders this weekend.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Circuit de Cataunya, Barcelona, 2013The last win for the prancing horse in Monaco was 12 years ago. Qualifying remains the weakest part of their game and that will count against them here.

But Alonso’s formidable abilities mean he is always a contender. The two-time Monaco Grand Prix winner might need a bit of help from his strategy to get ahead but if his Ferrari gets a glimpse of daylight in the race he’ll be hard to stop.

McLaren

McLaren will bring further upgrades for the recalcitrant MP4-28 this weekend despite the cramped Monaco track being the worst place to test them.

This is a drivers’ track, however, and that presents Button and Sergio Perez the opportunity to drag the car into the final ten and collect out some useful points.

Lotus

Like Ferrari, Lotus have great race pace but are missing that final tenth in qualifying which will create problems for them in Monaco. However Kimi Raikkonen has seen the front row of the grid once already this year so don’t rule him out.

Team mate Romain Grosjean was unable to carry his resurgence in form into the last race as he was sidelined with a suspension problem early on. Monaco was where things started to go wrong for him last year and he will need to exercise all of his new-found caution on the run to the first corner.

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, 2013Mercedes are the early favourites for pole position (and, therefore, victory) but there’s not much to choose between their two drivers at the moment.

Lewis Hamilton has a great flair for Monaco and won in the rain in 2008. But Rosberg started the last two races from pole and had a good run here last year as well.

Sauber

Of the three teams who most needed to improve their car in Spain, Sauber seemed to find more performance than Williams or McLaren. This wasn’t entirely realised in the race due to Nico Hulkenberg’s pit lane crash and Esteban Gutierrez’s grid penalty, so they will need to maek good on it here.

Force India

Surely Adrian Sutil’s bad luck has to come to an end soon? If pit stop problems haven’t been wrecking his races he’s been hit by other drivers.

And if any track owes him one, it’s Monaco. In 2008 he was on course to give Force India their first points score, running fourth with nine laps to go, when he was taken out by Raikkonen.

Williams

Maldonado needs to make good on his reputation as a Monaco specialist this weekend if he is to bring home the first points of 2013 for Williams.

He could also do with a decisive showing against team mate Valtteri Bottas, who’s out-qualified him 3-2 so far this year. Bottas will do well to repeat that on his first visit to this demanding track where his team mate is very strong.

Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, Monaco 2012There’s still everything to play for between the two Toro Rosso drivers but it’s Jean-Eric Vergne who’s on the back foot at the moment. He ran seventh for several laps during last year’s race but a late pit stop dropped him out of the points.

Caterham

Caterham not only convincingly defeated Marussia in Spain, they were close to one of the Williams drivers at the end of the race too.

Last year Heikki Kovalainen resisted pressure from Button’s McLaren for lap after lap at Monaco. Can either of the team’s young charges replicate his heroics this weekend?

Marussia

Marussia have finished behind Caterham in the last two races but remain ahead in the constructors’ championship. However Monaco often sees a lot of retirements and Marussia will need to ensure they, and not their rivals, are the ones to capitalise. It was at this race last year they first lost the initiative in the championship to Caterham.

2013 driver form

Driver G avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 3.2 2.6 1 4 5/5 Form guide
Mark Webber 8.6 5 2 7 4/5 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 3.8 3 1 8 4/5 Form guide
Felipe Massa 4.8 6.6 3 15 5/5 Form guide
Jenson Button 9.8 9.8 5 17 5/5 Form guide
Sergio Perez 11.2 9.2 6 11 5/5 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 6.2 2.8 1 7 5/5 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 8.4 7 3 10 4/5 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 3.6 6.33 4 9 3/5 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 3.8 5.6 3 12 5/5 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 12.4 11.25 8 15 4/4 Form guide
Esteban Gutierrez 18 13.5 11 18 4/5 Form guide
Paul di Resta 10 6.75 4 8 4/5 Form guide
Adrian Sutil 10.4 11 7 13 3/5 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 16.2 13 11 14 3/5 Form guide
Valtteri Bottas 16.2 13.6 11 16 5/5 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 14.6 11.33 10 12 3/5 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 11.6 12.75 7 18 4/5 Form guide
Charles Pic 20.4 16 14 17 5/5 Form guide
Giedo van der Garde 20.4 18 15 21 4/5 Form guide
Jules Bianchi 19 16 13 19 5/5 Form guide
Max Chilton 20.4 17.8 16 20 5/5 Form guide

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2013 Monaco Grand Prix

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Images ?é?® Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Red Bull/Getty

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53 comments on Monaco could be Mercedes’ best chance for victory

  1. Aimal (@aimalkhan) said on 21st May 2013, 15:52

    I can see Mercedes getting pole position and holding everyone up until the first round of pit stops but if the other teams time their pit stops correctly they are sure to jump frog the Mercedes.

    • BreezyRacer (@breezyracer) said on 21st May 2013, 20:11

      Yes, I agree. Let’s remember that Mercedes tire problem is with rear tires and exiting slow corners is what Monaco is all about. They may well get pole but as tire wear mounts they will be easily passed on the run down to the chicane .. perhaps even at turn 1.

  2. xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 21st May 2013, 15:53

    I think this year has even more potential than last year (which was a simply fabulous race) because this year, practically all the top cars are fully sorted, so I reckon we’ll have potentially 8 drivers with a shout of winning.

  3. 1 pit stop more @Monaco and its all over

  4. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 21st May 2013, 16:24

    Mercedes hold the key to an interesting weekend. If they can lock out the front row and lead the other cars around, this will create a major headache for the strategists on the pit wall. Pitting early to undercut the Silver roadblocks may backfire if it means getting stuck behind Caterhams cars going long on their first stint.

    Mercedes’ race day form will also be interesting to see. They have never been the fastest on Sunday this season, but they were pretty strong in Malaysia and China, and even in Melbourne they went longer on the super softs than anyone else, with decent lap times at the end of the stint, though some poor ones initially. Spain was a total disaster, of course, and if they are that slow again, they will not make it to the podium this time around. Last year, however, getting heat into the tyres was more of a problem in Monaco than overheating, so perhaps that will help them.

    My favourites for the race victory are Alonso and the Red Bull drivers. The Bulls have been faster in qualifying than the Ferraris so far, but Alonso has been the fastest man on Sunday, and that speed gives him strategic options. Raikkonen is an outsider, especially if Lotus turn out to be the only front-running outfit to manage the race with one pit stop.

    I’ve been very impressed with Sutil’s race pace so far, but in qualifying he has lagged behind his team mate, so even if he doesn’t run into trouble, he may not score big unless he performs on Saturday, too.

    The final driver to watch, for me, is Sergio Perez. Prior to his crash in 2011, he was going very well, and last year he showed a good turn of speed, too, although crashing out of Q1 (because of the earlier run-in with Maldonado?) ruined his chances of scoring points. If the McLaren’s deficiencies are masked by the unique nature of the track, then I expect him to do well.

  5. Nick.UK (@) said on 21st May 2013, 16:32

    Is ‘G-average’ for Grid? Q-average would have been more logical I think.

    • verstappen (@verstappen) said on 21st May 2013, 19:23

      Indeed, unless it’s really about the grid position, which is not always the same as the qualifying result.

      • Nick.UK (@) said on 21st May 2013, 20:42

        @verstappen Yes but factoring in penalties defeats the object of a ‘form guide’. Surely you want to generate an image of how well a driver is during qualifying. Say a driver had 5 ‘poles’ this year but the team underfueld at every race weekend – G average is 22, despite the driver having epic pace.

  6. If there ever was a place to fully showcase your potential as a driver, it’s here.
    This is the time for the rookies to shine.

  7. Force Maikel (@force-maikel) said on 21st May 2013, 16:50

    The Mercs are still going to drop like stones trough the pit stop phases.

    • OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 21st May 2013, 17:15

      and don’t forget some aggressive overtaking is possible in the main “straight” (remember Schum did it) thanks to DRS. This is the only circuit where DRS looks really good to add up to the show.
      Regarding the Mercedes going down, I think that if there is Alonso / Vettel / Raikkonen behind the Mercedes and one of the 3 manages to get ahead of them, the other two may consider taking the risk to use the main straight to DRS Lewis and Nico.
      Anyway, we ae asuming Mercedes will be on pole, but probably they sacrifice raw speed for more consistency.

    • Tom (@newdecade) said on 21st May 2013, 17:19

      If they can avoid being undercut the pitstops might not be too problematic.

      • Aimal (@aimalkhan) said on 21st May 2013, 17:27

        The Mercedes wont win it themselves but they could have a huge say in who wins by holding up the cars making one more stop for the first stint.

    • anon said on 21st May 2013, 18:03

      This is the easiest track on tyres. Barcelona was one of the hardest. I don’t see it.

  8. BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st May 2013, 17:39

    Any news on the weather? I read somewhere that its not completely unrealistic that we have a bit of rain during the Saturday, which might throw a spanner in the works for Mercedes.

    Oh, and if Mercedes do qualify on the first row, I think we will be seeing some undercut / longer stint strategies to get ahead of them after the stops.

  9. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 21st May 2013, 17:40

    Let me make this quite plain. Just because Rosberg has out-qualified Hamilton in the past two races, don’t think Nico enters the Monaco GP as Mercedes’ best chance for victory. Do not underestimate Hamilton, especially at a track that he was unbeaten at until he found himself in a seat next to a certain Spanish chap. Hamilton will be on pole, that to me is a certainty, but the victory? Well, I personally don’t see why not. Historically, Mercedes have been quick in a straight line so they cannot be overtaken regardless of how bad their tyre issues become. So only a bad start or the undercut will allow another car past a Mercedes, but this is Ross Brawn we’re talking about, and not the clowns that invited the undercut on Hamilton by both Alonso and Vettel last year. For me, the ingredients are all in place. Its a track that is very special to Hamilton, a track where Mercedes were quickest last year in the woeful W03 and its a track where degradation is minimal. For me that makes Lewis Hamilton the favourite for the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix…which probably means Alonso will win.

    • MW (@) said on 21st May 2013, 18:17

      @william-brierty

      Hamilton will be on pole, that to me is a certainty

      I don’t tbelieve there are any certainties when it comes to Monaco..

      Having said that, if you’re so certain you won’t mind giving me 50/1 that Hamilton won’t be on pole.. I’ll put a pound on that :)

      • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 21st May 2013, 18:30

        @mw As we saw last year in qualifying there are of course variables to consider (I don’t think anyone expected a Schumacher pole…I was expecting a Grosjean pole!) but in F1 there is occasionally the convergence of factors that clearly point to one result, and on a track where track position is king in a great qualifying car driven by the fastest man in the world over a single lap, I can easily see Lewis on pole and then taking the flag a day later. Although I may have to refuse your offer on the grounds of just how poor I am after the sheer incompetence of a certain Mr Brown…

        p.s. It’s not just my avatar that has ceased to appear is it?

        • MW (@) said on 22nd May 2013, 9:54

          Well done on the COTD @william-brierty ! Your post got me more excited about the race, and thinking about all the possible permutations.

          I still think that with 4 other previous winners, a teammate who is on form and seems to be fired up by the Hamilton chalenge (and is handy around this track) and two wild cards in Grosjean and Maldonado on a track that tends to level the playing field… I see more of a divergence of factors away from any obvious pole sitter or race winner. And I haven’t even mentioned tyres!!!

          P.S The avatars are gone since yesterdays crash

  10. Merecdes have gone backwards in previous races because of their tyre problems, which they are not expected to have at Monaco, so, i wouldn’t make the presumption that they are going to be holding everyone up.

  11. DaveD (@daved) said on 21st May 2013, 17:54

    I think Hamilton is the quickest one lap driver in the field right now and he’s driving a car that does well at Monaco. I know Nico got him the last couple of weeks, but I think Lewis has been trying to keep his setup more “race tuned” than qualifying as everyone knows that the qualifying doesn’t mean as much with these tyres. But for this week, I think he’ll go after poll more aggressively and it’s easier to win from poll in Monaco than anywhere else.

  12. Bobby Balboa (@bobby-balboa) said on 21st May 2013, 17:56

    Monaco specialist Pastor Maldonado

    Since When??????

    • stefano (@alfa145) said on 21st May 2013, 18:10

      yeah I didn’t get that one, too

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st May 2013, 18:16

      @bobby-balboa @alfa145 We’ve seen the best and worst of Maldonado at Monaco.

      He won three times at Monaco before reaching F1 (in 2006, 2007 and 2009). He had a strong run in a poor car on his F1 debut in 2011 before a collision which really wasn’t his fault. On the other hand last year he crashed twice and then there’s the scandal of his 2005 shunt, after which he was lucky to be allowed to continue racing.

      But that’s Maldonado: he can be a complete liability behind the wheel but he is also very quick and that’s been clear several times at Monaco.

      • How much did PDVSA pay you to write that?

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st May 2013, 19:28

          @aish You don’t really think PDVSA go around paying people to call attention to the fact that a driver they sponsor nearly killed a marshal once, do you?

          • @keithcollantine, @rjoconnell, @montreal95, @seahorse

            Guys I wrote that in good jest, I was kidding, I have utmost respect for Kieith’s work and this is my number 1 source for F1 news, my greatest pass time thing, ok maybe I ruffled a few feathers here and there, and it was cheap, 5yr old kid stuff, yes.. so I apologize. Keith, mate :D, you know my humour very well and the trouble I cause, so pardon my PJ.
            Cheers guys,

            Brighter note- 5 NEW MENTIONS! HAHA

        • R.J. O'Connell (@rjoconnell) said on 21st May 2013, 21:38

          Someone posts an objective analysis of a driver you dislike and because it mentions something positive about said driver, it’s bribed journalism.

          A+ retort m8.

        • montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 22nd May 2013, 1:31

          @aish I hate Crashtor Walldonado. I really do, as much as you can hate a sportsman who has done nothing personal to you. The last time I hated an F1 driver so was in 2006 when Tiago Monteiro was around. But this reply of yours is worthy of a 5 yr old, pathetic and completely uncalled for. There, I said it, and I assure you that no Venezuelan dictators’ money was spent on this retort!

        • SeaHorse (@seahorse) said on 22nd May 2013, 7:03

          @aish Don’t let your dislike for a driver cloud your understanding of an objective analysis of that driver by @keithcollantine.

      • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 21st May 2013, 18:33

        @keithcollantine – I know it’s somewhat off topic Keith, but who do you think is going to win? I was wondering whether you had some enlightening perspective on the general consensus on this forum – that of a Hamilton win this weekend.

    • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 21st May 2013, 18:20

      He was pretty awesome there in GP2, and managed to get the FW33 up into 6th place in 2011…before being taken out by Hamilton. Nonetheless it was a great performance in a car seemingly more suited to ornamental duties (I have a rear wing end plate and sidepod bodywork on display in my home) than actual racing.

  13. anon said on 21st May 2013, 18:06

    43-year-old Schumacher put it on pole last year in a worse car. Anything short of pole for Hamilton will be a huge failure.

  14. Might get pole, them Mercs, but won’t be able to hold off Vettel, Alo or even Iceman. But a third position at the best is possible.

  15. DaveW (@dmw) said on 21st May 2013, 19:01

    I’m not so sure about an MB lock out. MB does well on Saturday because they can heat the tires faster, or rather, their tire-overheating process begins as soon as the car comes off the jacks. At Monaco no one will be able to heat the tires very well, and so this “advantage” may not come fully to the fore. I think you will the traditional qualities of traction, curbs compliance, and braking stability be very important. RBR and Ferrari will be very strong in qualifying. Nonetheless, MB have two very quick drivers over a lap.

    If they do get out front, I don’t see them being more vulnerale to undercuts than anyone else. If they have even one car out front, they can go as slow as they want everywhere except for the tunnel and maybe Casino for as long as they want.

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