The Race Of Kings: Previewing The Monaco Grand Prix

Back in 1929, somebody looked at what has to be one of the twistiest and tightest places in the world and said “You know what? Monaco would be a great place to hold a motor race”. Obviously I’m paraphrasing, I think, and I presume there was a bit more planning than a man standing there and making a decision. Either way, I’d like to thank whoever made the decision to hold the race.

The inaugural running of the Monaco Grand Prix was a full 21 years before Formula One came into existence, but it immediately became the highlight of the F1 calender from 1950. It really is a track like no other. Sure, one could argue that the Singapore track is quite similar, in terms of proximity to the barriers – but it’s not.

There’s this aura around Monaco I just cannot explain. It causes fans to have withdrawal symptoms and schedule their Monaco Grand Prix weekend months in advance; It attracts celebrities like moths to a light and it provides the ultimate challenge to the drivers. Think about the modern circuits – the South Korean or American circuits – which all have literally miles of run off areas. Well, these zones just don’t exist in Monaco. For most of the track you have a huge wall of houses and business’ on one side and a harbour on the other side, separated by nothing more than a few metres of tarmac. Neither side would be a very comfortable place to end up so one has to hold complete concentration for the entire race.

It is the ultimate challenge and provides one hell of a spectacle but when it goes wrong, it has huge consequences. Sergio Perez can testify to this. Emerging from the tunnel in 2011, off the racing line and into a downward slope, his Sauber C29 lost control and smashed into a barrier breaking both right tires. The car then spun 90 degrees before slamming into the energy absorbing TecPro barriers. Another example of the challenge is Ayrton Senna’s crash in 1988. Leading the race by a comfortable margin, the Brazilian legend let his mind slip. It may very well have slipped for less than a second but it was too late – he was in the barriers and out of the race.

Monaco looks like a friendly circuit but when not given absolute concentration, it will turn into a monster.

With that in mind, here’s some big points from the last two Monaco Grand Prix:

2012:

  • Winner – Mark Webber

2012 saw Michael Schumacher grabbing the sole pole position of his Mercedes stint, but it was robbed from him after his penalty from his Bruno Senna crash in Spain two weeks beforehand was enacted. This promoted Red Bull’s Mark Webber to pole position. Pastor Maldonado was a pure brute on the Saturday, merely two weeks after becoming a hero in Catalunya where he grabbed his first Formula One win and saved his cousin from the fiery Williams garage when a fuel rig went up in flames. The Venezuelan was slightly held up by Sergio Perez during FP3 and thought ramming the Mexican into the wall was suitable payback for the incident. Obviously it wasn’t and he then crashed due to the damage he sustained in the incident.

The run into the first corner is usually chaotic and 2012 proved no different. Romain Grosjean and Fernando Alonso came a little close and Romain subsequently spun and sent Kobayashi airborne. Maldonado, starting from the back after the penalty, got up on the rear of a HRT and then also retired. The race ended with Red Bull’s Mark Webber becoming a double race winner in Monte Carlo following some late rain which bunched the top six into a huge train of crawling drivers.

2011: 

  • Winner – Sebastian Vettel

Nico Rosberg crashed at the chicane coming out of the tunnel during FP3 and luckily avoided the TecPro barriers. Sergio Perez wasn’t as lucky when he crashed in Q3 at the same place and was trapped in his crushed car. He was extracted by Dr. Gary Hartstein and his crew and brought to hospital where he was kept overnight, ruling him out of Sunday’s Grand Prix.

During the race, Lewis Hamilton attempted a completely ridiculous overtake on Felipe Massa. The Briton tried to stick his McLaren into a non-existing gap at the hairpin and caused damage to Felipe’s Ferrari. This damage caused Massa to lose control and crash into the wall of the tunnel. Lewis was penalised but wasn’t out of the wars. On lap 69 of 78, seven back markers trying to move out-of-the-way of the top three of Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, caused a crash into the swimming pool chicane. Lewis Hamilton wasn’t the cause of the crash but suffered a damaged rear wing while Jaime Alguersuari and Vitaly Petrov hit the barriers and were forced to retire. The latter was knocked unconscious briefly during the shunt and had to be extracted, the second extraction of the weekend while the ambulance and medical crew on track called for a Red Flag.

While the cars were parked on the grid during the red flag, McLaren fixed Lewis’ rear wing while Vettel changed his Pirelli’s to make sure he could keep his lead from a feisty Fernando. This left seven laps left at the restart but this was more than enough time for Lewis Hamilton to take Pastor Maldonado out of the race. Trying to pull yet another idiotic manoeuvre into Turn 1, he cut the chicane and pushed the Venezuelan into the barriers in what would’ve been his first points finish. Yes, another penalty for Lewis. In a post race interview with BBC’s Lee McKenzie, Lewis was asked why he was in so much trouble with the stewards recently. His ill-thought out reply was “Maybe it’s because I’m black – that’s what Ali G says!” Clearly the Brit was joking but nonetheless was forced to write a letter of apology to the stewards.

 

It can get tough to watch, especially the onboard camera which shows the cars getting worryingly close to the barriers. Whether you watch the race from behind the pillow or not, enjoy it – it promises to be a fantastic race.

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