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Jewel in the F1 Crown – 2016 Monaco Grand Prix Preview

The sixth round of the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship will take place this weekend around the twisting and narrow streets of Monaco. The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the oldest and most prestigious races on the F1 calendar. The glitz and glamour quotient associated with the race in this tiny principality on the French Riviera is very high.

Jewel in the F1 Crown – 2016 Monaco Grand Prix Preview

The Social Backdrop

Monaco is a constitutional monarchy ruled by Prince Albert II, from the House of Grimaldi. The first motor race was held here in 1929 and the first Grand Prix was held as part of the very first season of F1 in 1950. After a brief break (1951 to 1954), the race resumed in 1955. Since then, the race has run sixty-one times in a row, uninterrupted. Most of the F1 drivers live in Monaco and technically it can be considered their home race. In contrast to other Grand Prix weekends, the first two free practice sessions are held on Thursday, not Friday. The yachts of the rich and famous are anchored in the Mediterranean harbor and are a beehive of social activities for most of the week. The drivers turn part-time models during these festivities and walk down the catwalk for charity. The Grand Prix takes place on a largely unaltered, narrow street circuit and has become a must-win event for the top F1 drivers.

The Drivers and Teams

The very first F1 race held in Monaco was won by Juan Manuel Fangio, the first-ever Grand Prix win for the great Argentine driver. During the 1960s, Graham Hill became the “King of Monaco,” winning 5 times for the BRM and Lotus teams. Then, Ayrton Senna owned the Principality by winning six times from 1987 to 1993, conceding only one win to arch-rival Alain Prost in 1988. Michael Schumacher with five wins is joint second on the leader board with Hill.

Prost (a four-time winner in Monaco) and Senna helped McLaren become the most successful team at Monaco (15 wins). Ferrari trails a distant second (8 wins) and has not won since 2001. Red Bull Racing during their dominant period (2010-2013) won three times through Mark Webber (2010, 2012) and Sebastian Vettel (2011). Fernando Alonso is also a double winner through his successes in 2006 and 2007. Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen on the current grid have a win each. But Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) has been the unanointed “Prince of Monaco”, with three straight wins (2013-2015). The wins in the last two years have been tinged with controversy. The wackiest F1 race ever is probably the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix which saw only three cars finish the race.

The Circuit

There is a huge premium for taking pole position in the Principality. The narrow circuit does not allow for overtaking and historically has been won from the front of the grid. In the last 12 races, 10 winners have started on pole. Since 2012, Mercedes has snatched four consecutive pole positions.

The 3.337 km street circuit demands high precision driving. The narrowness and bumpy nature of the streets and the closeness of the walls does not forgive even the tiniest errors from the drivers. The twisty, slow nature of the corners demands a high-downforce aerodynamic package on the cars. This is a low fuel consumption circuit, with medium brake wear. The average lap speed is the slowest at any F1 venue at approximately 160 km/h.

The nineteen slow and medium-speed corners on the circuit include some of the most iconic corners in F1. Sector 1 (from Turn 1 to Turn 4) begins with a quick uphill sprint on Albert Boulevard into Turn 1 (the Saint-Devote corner). This is a 90 degree right-hand turn into the Avenue d’Ostende, followed by a long left-hander at Turn 3 (Massenet). Coming out of Turn 3, the cars sweep past the famous casino into Casino Square.
After a short straight, Sector 2 runs between Turn 5 to Turn 12. Turn 5 is the tight Mirabeau corner that leads to the tighter Fairmont hairpin bend. The double right-hander at Portier takes the cars into the only tunnel on an F1 circuit. The light change going in and coming out of the tunnel is dramatic, while the cars lose 20-30% downforce in the turbulent air in the tunnel. The cars decelerate out of the tunnel into a tight left-right chicane, a scene of many accidents, as is Turn 1. This also offers a rare overtaking spot on the track. A short straight leads to Turn 12 (Tabac).
Sector 3 from Turn 13 to Turn 19 starts with a series of a left-right and right-left chicanes which leads to Turn 14 (Piscine) and past the swimming pool, another unique feature on this circuit. Piscine leads to a short straight, followed by a sharp left leading to the 180 degrees tight turn at Rascasse. From here, a short straight leads into the final Antony Noghes (Turn 19) corner, a tight right-hand corner leading into the start-finish straight.

The Monaco Grand Prix has a single DRS zone, with the DRS detection point located after Turn 16 and the DRS activation point located after Turn 19.

Tyre Strategies

Pirelli will debut its purple-striped ultrasoft tyres for the first time. The yellow-striped soft and red-striped supersoft tyres are the other two tyre compounds on offer. With most of the top teams choosing 9 or more sets of ultrasoft tyres out of the allocated 13 sets for each driver, the performance of this new tyre will be keenly watched. On a track where track position is king, this GP has seen a one pitstop strategy in recent years, . An unnecessary pitstop, under a safety car late in the race saw Hamilton lose a race which was in the bag last year. If the ultrasoft tyres are significantly faster, teams might opt for an extra pitstop. Tyre allocations chosen by the drivers for the race – Monaco GP Tyre Allocations

Current Form

Max Verstappen made history in the previous race in Spain, becoming the youngest GP winner at 18 years old. Red Bull, with an upgraded Renault engine and their high downforce car, will pose a significant threat to the Mercedes drivers. Hamilton and Rosberg have been part of intense duels at Monaco. With the first lap crash in Spain, the tension in the Mercedes camp will be at an all-time high. Championship leader Rosberg, looking for his fourth win in a row at Monaco, will be supremely confident. Hamilton is facing a must win race, at a circuit where he has won only once. If the Ferrari drivers are also competitive, we could have a cracker of a race at this historic venue.

Circuit Information

Source: – Guide to the Monaco GP


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