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The Monaco Grand Prix is the jewel in Formula oneâ€™s crown. Drivers, teams & fans alike have placed this race on a pedestal that almost transcends the sport. For the sponsorâ€™s of the twelve Formula one teams it is a splendid opportunity to showcasing their products, in the presence of several A-listers. The Monaco GP is presided by Prince Albert of the Royal Family of Monaco. The first Monaco GP was held way back in 1950. A first lap incident resulted in ten cars being eliminated. As the race panned out Juan Manuel Fangio took the chequered flag. The two-mile lap around the streets of the principality may be the shortest out of all circuits, but the 78 laps of racing pose unique & extreme challenges for its participants. Every driver dreams of winning this race someday, and bring their â€˜A-gameâ€™ and then some for the weekend.
Monaco is unique with its low speed corners and elevation changes in various parts of the circuit; it puts extreme levels of stress on both man and machinery. The cars are set up with maximum downforce. The vast numbers of corners are taken in 1st or 2nd gear thus the number of gear shifts made during the race is over 4000, more than any other race on the calendar. Due to many slow-speed sections the brakes work considerably harder here than anywhere else. Only 45% of the circuit is done at full throttle, the engines do not take such a battering during the race weekend. If the stress on these parts isnâ€™t enough, the stress on the driver comes into picture. The close proximity of the barriers leaving no room for error. Monaco is one track where a driver can be a hero one second, before a zero the next, crashing hard into the barriers.
Turn 1 at Saint Devote is approached in second gear, and from here itâ€™s an upward climb flat out with cars doing 270 km/hr until turnâ€™s 3 and 4 which are medium speed corners. The slowest corner in Formula One belongs to this circuit, the Loews hairpin, cars going past in 1st gear at just under 50 km/hr. Good traction out of the corner is essential to power the car through the exit. The cars go downhill from here to the double right hander called Portier. The approach to the Portier corner is vital to achieving a good lap around the circuit. It precedes the Loews hairpin, and is followed by the tunnel.
This part of the track through the tunnel it is flat out at close to 290 km/hr. F1 drivers go through from driving in the darkness inside the tunnel back out to the bright sunshine near the harbor chicane. All this variation in fewer than 8 seconds flat out. The cars are known to lose downforce through the tunnel. The exit from the tunnel takes the drivers into the picturesque harbor section. The following left-right chicane is possibly one of the few spots where overtaking is possible on the track. Overtaking here is extremely a delicate proposition, with the driver needing to out-brake the car ahead to perform the manoeuvre. Naturally many of the incidents during the race happen in this chicane. The barriers here have ended the races of stellar drivers such as Senna and Schumacher.
The Rascasse takes the cars into a short-straight and into the final right hander, taking them back onto the start-straight finish. Rascasse gives no time to relax for the drivers; races have been lost here on the final lap in previous races. As a street circuit the amount of rubber initially on the track is very low. This translates into low grip levels during the practice sessions which are on Thursday here. The track continues to get rubbered-in well and grip levels generated would improve until the
last lap of the race. The track demands more downforce, and less of aerodynamic efficiency. The gains from the high downforce settings are felt while braking for the very slow corners and enabling good traction on the exit. Optimum traction from the low revs is essential to have a flowing lap.
The Importance of being P1
The importance of qualifying is unparalleled here compared with any other track. A higher grid position is vital to a good pointâ€™s haul, as overtaking is virtually impossible. A look at past winners shows the difficulty in winning this prestigious event. In the last 5 races, the driver on pole has taken the chequered flag 4 times. The exception was Lewis Hamilton taking victory having started from the second row of the grid in 3rd in the 2008 season. A likely podium finish from outside the second row in qualifying is not a common event in Monaco. Overall 32 drivers have managed to qualify in pole position on the historical streets. Monaco is gauged to be an indicator for the driverâ€™s championship too, as 26 drivers who have enjoyed pole have ended that season as Champion.
The greats win in Monaco
A victory in Monaco catapults a good racing driver into a great racing driver. A fearless drive coupled with technical precision are facets which distinguish the men from the boys. In 1992, the Englishman Nigel Mansell was glued to the back of Ayrton Sennaâ€™s McLaren for the final 3 laps of a scintillating race, although the â€œMaster Of Monacoâ€ Senna held firm to win the race. Michael Schumacher has won 5 times in Monaco, and is second behind Senna in the all time list, who has 6 wins around the streets of Monaco. Two time F1 world champion, Graham Hill has also won the race 5 times. None of the races around the famed streets match that of the 1996 one, in which Olivier Panis took victory. Only three cars finished the dramatic race, with Panis finishing ahead of David Coulthard and Johnny Herbert. This victory was a great drive from Panis, and remains his only career victory in Formula one. On the starting grid this season, apart from Schumacher, only Fernando Alonso has won the race twice.
Monaco is the only race on the calendar not to have a podium; the traditional winnerâ€™s celebration takes place on the steps of the royal box in presence of the Royal Family of Monaco. The race is also the only one where the Formula One fraternity has a brush with royalty.
The 2012 Monaco GP takes place from the 24th of May to the 27th. With 5 different race winners from as many races this season, one cannot rule out the possibility of a different winner yet again. The Lotus team is waiting in the wings to be added to the list of winners sooner rather than later. With Kimi Raikkonen rediscovering his flair and team-mate Romain Grosjean finishing races with more ease now, all the pieces of the puzzle may be falling into place for the team. But one cannot rule out McLaren or Red Bull for competing for top honors. One hopes the Monaco GP promises to follow the trend of the 2012 championship and dish out a highly unpredictable and an action filled race.
- 24/05/2012 20:07 - Button quickest in Wet Free Practice 2 in Monaco, Massa a surprise third
- 24/05/2012 18:30 - Monaco GP: Alonso Goes fastest for Ferrari, Five different constructors in top 5 in Free Practice 1
- 23/05/2012 20:17 - A trip down memory lane in Monaco: The Men that mattered