2014 Monaco Grand Prix – Preview
Round Six of the 2014 Formula One World Championship brings us to Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix, held at the Circuit de Monaco.
• Driver / Senior Management Quotes
o Lewis Hamilton
o Nico Rosberg
o Toto Wolff
o Paddy Lowe
• Circuit de Monaco: The Inside Line
o In the Cockpit
o On the Pit Wall
Driver / Senior Management Quotes
It’s been a busy few weeks for me, both on track and away from it, but I’m pleased to be getting back to racing again next weekend. And what a place to get back to it! Monaco is just incredible to drive and any driver will tell you that’s the race they want to win. So many great names become legends around this circuit. It’s an honour to fight for your place amongst them and a real test of your skills behind the wheel. The last few races have been just incredible. I honestly never expected I’d win four consecutive Grands Prix in my career and I’d love to continue that run here. I’ve had some work to do in terms of getting the car exactly as I want it after the weekend in Spain: it was so close between our cars at the end and I need to keep pushing to find any extra edge I can. The car has been strong at every race so far and I’m sure it’ll be the same in Monaco, so we should be set for an entertaining weekend.
Monaco: my home town! Obviously, I associate many wonderful memories with this place. It’s where I grew up and where I now live as an adult. But in sporting terms too, I have had some great moments there: in particular last year when I won there for the first time in my Formula One career. That was an absolutely incredible feeling. Driving a Formula One car there is simply fantastic and it’s an event every driver looks forward to each year. Overall I was quite pleased with the last race weekend in Barcelona. Disappointed, of course, not to have taken the win but happy that the team achieved another one-two finish. The Championship battle is very close and to re-gain the advantage at my home race would be fantastic, so I’ll be pushing harder than ever to make that happen. I had a productive day of testing in Barcelona where we made some good progress with braking and starts: two areas that I feel are costing me time at the moment. Hopefully that will give me the extra edge next weekend. It should be an exciting weekend and I can’t wait to get started.
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
We came away from Barcelona with plenty of positive points and the most encouraging was that our development package worked, which allowed us to maintain a healthy gap to our rivals on that circuit. But Monaco is a different story every year. It’s a place that rewards driveability, confidence and a strong qualifying performance. Most of all, though, it’s about avoiding mistakes: the drivers have no room for error and neither does the team. We have been pushing hard since the last race and nobody will be backing off in our teams at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart. We are heading to Monaco with our feet on the ground because it is a place that can bite you if you get over-confident. We have a quick Silver Arrow and Lewis and Nico are specialists around the streets. But we need to bring every piece of the puzzle together if we want to maintain our run of success next weekend.
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
We’re very pleased with the result in Barcelona. It’s an amazing achievement to take five wins in a row and even more so to have four consecutive one-two finishes. It’s a tremendous endorsement of all the hard work from everyone at Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart. Another highlight was to once more see a great demonstration of the level of competition between our two drivers. To be separated by just six tenths at the flag proves once again just how evenly matched they are. Monaco, of course, is a very different prospect. It’s a tough event both logistically and practically for the team and also highly demanding for the drivers. Building momentum through each session is crucial and the unforgiving nature of the track can make even the smallest mistake a significant one relative to your weekend as a whole. Any track time lost around Monaco is a missed opportunity, more so than at any other circuit, so it’s crucial to get it right from the very first lap on Thursday. We won there last year with Nico which was a fantastic result at the time and Lewis has also been impressive there in the past, including taking a victory of his own in 2008. It’s a driver’s circuit and both Lewis and Nico are on top form, so we’re expecting an exciting contest. The circuit itself is so unique that it’s difficult to predict which teams will be strong at this race. Certainly, we wouldn’t expect to have the same margin of advantage as we enjoyed in Barcelona. But we’re nonetheless hopeful of another good performance.
Circuit de Monaco: The Inside Line
In the Cockpit
Monaco is just incredible. As a kid you dream about racing through the tunnel and it’s such a fantastic feeling to actually experience it first-hand. I won here in F3, GP2 and finally in Formula One in 2008. It’s a real driver’s circuit, a second home race for me after Silverstone and I’m excited about the prospect of another good weekend here.
Driving round the Monte Carlo circuit is a seriously hair-raising experience: it’s like the most hardcore rollercoaster you can possibly imagine! Starting with Turn One, finding your braking point is quite tough and there are quite a few bumps on the way in which make it even more challenging. You’re hard on the brakes on entry then hard on the power on exit: heading up the hill into Turns Two and three. This is a really intense section of the track as you can’t see the corners coming, so you really have to know your lines and get it spot on.
You’re then into Turn Four, Casino, which is really tight and again you have to pinpoint your markers so accurately to get it right. You can very easily brush the barrier through here and we see it happen almost every year at some point in the weekend. From there you jink right before heading down through Mirabeau and into the tight, twisting section of Turns Five, Six, Seven and Eight: all very low-speed.
Next up it’s the tunnel, which is a seriously exciting and unique bit of track. It’s flat out into the darkness and you really can’t see where you’re going: you just have to hope you’ve positioned your car in the right place to get a good run back out into the bright sunlight on the other side. From there you’ve got the tight chicane of Turns 10 and 11, the tricky Tabac corner at 12, then the Swimming Pool at 13 and 14 which is taken almost flat out. The next chicane at 15 and 16 is much tighter before you get hard on the brakes again into Rascasse. Both this and the final corner, Anthony Noghes, have really low grip levels and it’s so easy to make a mistake on exit with all the power available from these cars.
An interesting feature of the circuit is that, because of the enclosed nature of the track with all the buildings surrounding you, there’s really no wind effect. It’s just you, the car and the tarmac!
Monaco represents an immense challenge for the drivers. As you negotiate all those narrow streets, it’s extremely difficult to get the most out of yourself and the car without making a mistake as the circuit is very unforgiving. The slightest miscalculation can ruin the entire weekend and deprive you of a potentially excellent result. It may still be possible to salvage a respectable finish, but if you’re aiming for victory or a podium then you really can’t afford to make any mistakes. You’re constantly driving at the limit and these new turbocharged Hybrid cars will make it even more of a challenge.
What makes for a fast car in Monaco? You need a soft setup but you have to avoid overdoing it. You also need the maximum in terms of downforce. Handling could play a special role this year. Turbocharged cars are very different to their predecessors. They can be more difficult to drive through certain types of corner and you notice it a lot more on a street circuit like Monaco.
With the barriers hemming you in on both sides, you’re driving at the limit all the time. You can’t see very far ahead, which means you have to navigate most of the track from memory. You have to know which corners are coming up next. One of the key points is the hairpin: the slowest turn on the entire race calendar and an exceptionally difficult corner to get right.
The next unusual feature is the tunnel. The big difficulty here is that it’s obviously much darker than the rest of the track. As you emerge, your eyes need to quickly readjust to the bright sunlight. This is quite problematic, because you have to prepare for the next braking zone which follows on immediately. At this moment every second counts: especially because the bumpy surface on the section leading down to the chicane can easily throw your car out of line. I always have a smile on my face at this point, as it used to be my route to school. The school bus used to take us through the tunnel each day but now I’m roaring along the same road in a 300 km/h Formula One car. That’s quite a special feeling!
On the Pit Wall
Monaco is the gem which shines within Formula One. It’s the one every driver want to win and those who achieve that feat are long remembered for doing so. It’s a fabulous event: one of the great tests of driver skill in world motorsport. As an event, it is completely different to any other in a number of aspects. The first is that running begins on Thursday, as opposed to the traditional Friday at every other Grand Prix. This gives teams more time to look at data between practice and qualifying. If anything, this is a disadvantage to those teams who are most efficient in terms of analysing data and translating those findings into a strong setup. It levels the playing field somewhat for those outfits that perhaps don’t have the same resources available to them. It’s a very different way of working.
A race weekend in Monaco must be approached in a logical and progressive manner. The crescendo is qualifying, which defines the weekend. This is where the work carried out by both team and driver throughout each practice session shines through, as it is where those who can get the maximum from their car without making a mistake will prosper. This is what makes Monaco such a special and unique challenge. There are a number of things a team can do to maximise the potential of the car. During the final qualifying sessions a driver will realistically have just one, possibly two clear laps to make an impression and it’s not uncommon to see a surprise name caught out during Q1. With 22 cars enclosed on a very short circuit, each driver must find clean air in which to put together a complete lap. A combination of yellow and sometimes red flags, coupled with traffic, makes it very easy to be caught at the wrong time on the wrong part of the track. Approaching Monaco requires significantly more diligence towards mitigating risk than at any other circuit.
In reality, the Monte Carlo circuit is not a circuit. Even Melbourne, another street circuit, sees enough action aside from Formula One to make track evolution reasonably minor over the course of a weekend. Again, unlike any other venue, the Monaco circuit is open to the public throughout the race weekend: running times aside, obviously. Between qualifying on Saturday and race day on Sunday, with thousands of people streaming through the streets clutching drinks and so on, the track will have changed dramatically. It’s predicting that, understanding it and getting it right, that enables you to have the best possible result in the race. It’s been the case time and time again that tyres may behave one way on a Thursday but completely differently during a race. This is why it’s such a special event for both drivers and engineers.
As per last season, the soft and super soft are allocated for Monaco. This comes as no surprise and is common practice for a street course, as the tarmac is not of the same type as that found at a permanent circuit. Fundamentally these are still public roads. Monaco is superb in terms of the care and attention put into the roads, with around a third of the road surface used during the race resurfaced each year. The quality of the tarmac is far superior to that seen on any average road, hence the need for such frequent work, however it is still very smooth. There isn’t the sort of damaging abrasion that can be expected from a more normal track surface. Hence, the softest allocation of tyre possible is required to give the greatest level of adhesion on the low-grip track surface. The downside of this is that there is a high probability of tyre graining – damage to the tyre surface that causes shearing and tearing across the top of the rubber. This is particularly common on Thursday when the track is at its lowest grip. Again, this furthers the principle that you may experience a very different engineering challenge during practice to that of the race.
Achieving effective levels of cooling is a very difficult task around Monaco. Often, teams struggle with both engine and brake temperatures. This is mainly owing to the fact that, with the exception of the leader, almost every car will find itself in traffic for the majority of the race. No matter if you expect to have a performance advantage or not, every car must be set up under the assumption that it will be running in traffic. Furthermore, the low-speed nature of the circuit layout is an obstacle to cooling. The way to cool a car down is to travel at speed but there simply isn’t sufficient space around Monaco to do so. Teams therefore have no choice but to run higher than average cooling levels.
Weather is not too difficult to predict in Monaco, with rain normally arriving from one direction. There is a cloud that sits behind the mountain and if it comes over there will be rain. If the cloud is low-lying and does not clear the mountain, however, it will stay dry. That said, it’s entirely possible that the first time the drivers experience wet weather running will be during qualifying. There is a relatively high probability of rain in Monaco which takes a situation that was already complicated and makes it far more so.
Safety cars are historically extremely frequent around Monaco, for obvious reasons. The cars run close to the barriers and there is very little area from which to recover a stricken vehicle without the need to neutralise the race. Having said that, the Monaco marshals are amongst the very best in the world and are extremely efficient. If a car is in what is referred to as a ‘good state’ – i.e. the clutch is disengaged and the ERS systems are safe – it’s entirely possible that it can be removed by crane within 60 seconds: so around one lap. In that circumstance, a safety car will not necessarily be required. However, if there is more than one car involved or there is debris on the track, this will almost inevitably result in a safety car. Of course, this depends on the severity of the incident, but around Monaco it is rare for just one car to be involved. Monaco must be treated with a different level of respect. Far from being able to push flat-out from the very beginning, drivers must build their momentum through each session of the weekend. Aside from the first corner and the chicane following the tunnel, which feature a certain degree of run-off, a single mistake anywhere around Monaco will lead to damage and quite easily retirement. All teams will, of course, be fully aware of their safety car procedures. But it’s always useful to revisit these before Monaco just to make sure everyone is up to speed.
24 May 2004 – 10 Years Ago:
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class celebrates a special anniversary. The cross-country vehicle series has been in production for 25 years, making the G-Class one of the vehicles with the longest production runs in the history of the automobile. Since the start of production in 1979, around 175,000 units of the G-Class have rolled off the assembly line at Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria, on behalf of DaimlerChrysler AG and its predecessor companies.
26 May 2004 – 10 Years Ago:
At the 2004 Engine Expo in Stuttgart, the M 275 6.0-litre V12 biturbo engine developed at Mercedes-AMG receives the ‘International Engine of the Year Award’ in the category ‘Best Performance Engine’. The 450 kW / 612 hp twelve-cylinder is used in the S-Class, the CL and the SL.
21 May 1950 – 64 Years Ago:
The first ever Formula One Monaco Grand Prix is held around the streets off Monte Carlo
1999 Monaco Grand Prix – 15 Years Ago:
Mika Häkkinen takes the 25th pole position for Mercedes-Benz engines in Formula One
1955 Monaco Grand Prix – 59 Years Ago:
Held on May 22, The 1955 Monaco Grand Prix was the second round of the World Championship that year – and the first appearance for the Silver Arrows at the prestigious event in the Formula One era. Stirling Moss – who had been signed by Mercedes-Benz for the new season – lined up alongside incumbent driver and reigning World Champion Juan-Manuel Fangio. A third Silver Arrow was piloted by André Simon after regular driver Hans Herrmann injured himself in practice. Having qualified first and third respectively, Fangio and Moss dominated early proceedings: running first and second until half distance. At the halfway mark, Fangio retired with transmission trouble, handing the lead to Moss. Almost a lap ahead and seemingly guaranteed victory, the race also came to a premature conclusion for Moss after engine failure on lap 80.