Monaco GP Review by Bob Constanduros
I guess we knew that there wasn’t going to be a lot of overtaking at the 75th Monaco Grand Prix. Wider tyres had a by-product in that the cars were going into corners faster putting greater demands on brakes which caused a few retirements and the one person who did try an overtaking manoeuvre was ‘the new boy’ who tipped the guy he was overtaking into the Portier barrier. Thankfully Pascal Wehrlein wasn’t injured and Jenson Button gets a penalty for his old age.
Meanwhile the conspiracy theorists were having a field day claiming that Ferrari deliberately brought Kimi Raikkonen in early so that Sebastian Vettel would overcut his teammate – not usually the way it works – but it did this time and Sebastian’s five extra laps on old ultrasoft tyres were the key to his win.
What hadn’t been certain was how the supersofts would work. Some teams had only one set of them and they had to use them in the race. There was little degradation from the ultrasofts at Monaco, but on raceday the track temperature was considerably higher than anything seen earlier in the week. So there was a little unknown as to how those tyres would work.
As it happened, both the late-stoppers at Ferrari and Red Bull – Daniel Ricciardo – managed an overcut on their adversaries, Kimi Raikkonen in Sebastian’s case and Valtteri Bottas and teammate Max Verstappen in Daniel’s case. Both the Australian and Sebastian put together fastest race laps when they stayed out on their old ultrasofts and these were crucial. And why bring in a guy banging in quick laps just because he’ll be going onto a newer but harder tyre? I’ve seen it elsewhere in the past and I just don’t understand it.
This time, then, the overcut worked out as it was still taking time to get the harder tyre up to temperature, in spite of that increase in track temperatures. There was a perfectly logical reason for Vettel getting into the lead and it wasn’t, it seemed, simply a ruse by Ferrari to favour one driver over the other. But that’s the way many wanted to see it and indeed, without a lot of analysis, that was the way it seemed as well.
The overcut also worked out for Lewis Hamilton, so it wasn’t just the front runners who benefitted. Hamilton had a seriously off-form weekend and it seemed rough on him that the yellow flags came out to wreck his final lap in qualifying. But of all places, Monaco is the last to wait until the final moments to try and set a good time. It’s inevitable that someone will stick it in the barrier and wreck your lap and that’s what happened.
We did have some fabulous slow motion shots of drivers just kissing the barrier with their front wheels and others ‘getting a smack in the mouth’ as Felipe Massa put it. The shot of Esteban Ocon’s front suspension popping as he thumped the swimming pool barrier was fantastic – just as good as Max Verstappen just shaving it. The organisers had wisely left a few bolts loose, so the barrier just moved a fraction if it was hit lightly and saved any serious damage – unless you thumped it.
There were some other good performances, such as that of Carlos Sainz, even if he was some way back. But otherwise it seemed that most people thought it was a pretty dull affair, this jewel in the crown as everyone calls it. I’ve said this before but as a commentator, I analyse lap after lap, keeping a close watch on gaps and lap times and watching for any potential long-term gains or losses. I try to communicate these to the spectator and I’m engrossed with this, so much so that I don’t really notice that nothing has changed, just that someone is gaining on someone else, although I’m under no illusion that one will eventually get by the other. ‘Catching is always one thing, getting by is quite another’ is my endlessly boring watchword!
But still people pour into Monaco for race weekend. The streets were thronged with fans and I was amused to join some friends a block from the race track on Saturday after the F2 race, because they were sitting with four women who certainly didn’t look European. As it turned out, they were Argentine tourists who didn’t know that the Grand Prix was taking place and just happened to be there on holiday. It had to be explained that Monaco wasn’t always this busy.
It is the most cosmopolitan of races, with fans coming from all over the world. The Grand Prix is one thing, of course, and once again I was asked to host the fan forum at the Place d’Armes on Friday afternoon. This is when I interview drivers, they sign autographs, have selfies taken and generally engage with the fans. It was great to have Lewis there for the first time and very much appreciated by the fans. We even managed to find a Dane or two for Kevin Magnussen, some Swedes for Marcus Ericsson and a Finn for Valtteri Bottas. Ferrari, however, didn’t attend and even if they are great favourites with the Italians, the world’s media is beginning to get a little fed up with their attitude to the media.
So Monaco has come and gone. It can be a pretty busy weekend for some and from leaving my hotel in Cap d’Ail on Sunday morning to getting back there 75 minutes into Monday, I walked some 17 kilometers, stepping over several inert bodies on Sunday night. It was a hell of weekend, but I’m taking the next four Grands Prix off due to enforced surgery – this is written in hospital. However, I still hope to write a somewhat limited preview and report from my sitting room where I shall enjoy an experience not savoured since I last missed a Grand Prix in 1985: watching it on TV! Hope you will still log in.