Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest pole position time ever seen at Monaco as Formula One continued its assault on the record books.
But although F1 hit its target to lower lap times by five seconds at the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago, Monaco saw the smallest gain in performance compared to 2015 so far. Lap times have improved by just under three seconds.
This can partly be explained by the fact Monaco is one of the shortest laps of the year. For the same reason we can expect similarly modest gains at upcoming races in Canada and Austria, where lap times were even lower last year.
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The revisions to Tabac two years ago have also contributed a small amount to the improvement in lap times. Nonetheless, the fact nine drivers from six different teams lapped under Sebastian Vettel’s 2011 record time from the previous iteration of the track is impressive. And two drivers from two other teams – Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault and Jenson Button’s McLaren – were just a tenth off beating it too.
With the cars lapping this much quicker, has the time come to consider whether it’s still necessary for Monaco to have a reduced race distance?
Unlike every other track on the calendar the Monaco Grand Prix is run to a minimum distance of 260 kilometres instead of the usual 305. The slow pace of the track has previously meant a full race distance would usually take longer than the maximum two-hour time limit.
The improving pace of the cars means this is less likely to be a problem. The 2015 race took just under an hour and 50 minutes to complete, including a six-lap Safety Car period. This year’s lap time gain of almost three seconds per lap should knock up to four minutes off the race time.
Extending the Monaco Grand Prix to the normal 305km distance would mean adding another 14 laps. The race would have to stay green throughout to have the best chance of being completed within the allotted two hours, but the Singapore Grand Prix is already in a similar situation.
Increasing the race distance would make the race a greater challenge for the drivers and strategists. Tyre wear is low at Monaco and drivers are expected to be able to run around 80 laps on the softest available tyres. That would obviously be more of a challenge if instead of 78 laps the race ran for 92.
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