2018 Monaco GP Review from Bob Constanduros

Seems like a good few of you thought that the Monaco Grand Prix was pretty rubbish. I guess you were sitting at home on your sofas, watching it on TV, either on Sky or on Channel 4. Maybe some were listening to Radio Five Live.

Now there’s no way I’m going to say that the race was great because it most certainly wasn’t, but as I’ve said here before, it’s all about the potential, what could happen. I don’t know what those media outlets mentioned majored on but for us in the circuit commentary booth we were talking about the gaps and the pace of the front runners and the battles going on further back. Had us pretty wrapped up, if no one else.

Who’s to blame for the procession that eventually resulted? You could say that none of the front runners really tried to overtake one another, in spite of the fact that Daniel Ricciardo at the front was hobbled by being 160bhp down on power and using six of his eight gears and being about four seconds off the pace of those behind. But then the drivers blame the cars and the circuit and the regulations. And Ross Brawn pretty much asked ‘what did you expect? Monaco’s always like that.’

There’s a funny disconnect here, because Monaco doesn’t pay anything to the Formula One Group or FOM as it was, and yet has a separate TV deal as host broadcaster, rather than using the Formula One Group’s regular TV crew who do every other race. And if you’re brutally honest, apart from its reputation as being a pretty place, Monaco doesn’t have a lot to gain from looking to be a great race on TV; it’s all about the people who are there having a great time and the evidence is that spectators keep flooding into the place and having exactly that. There are more and more huge cruise ships moored out of the harbour year by year. There may be some empty seats in grandstands, but Monaco’s still doing pretty nicely, thank you.

And even if the drivers say that it’s not a race and they can’t overtake, they still love it and want to win there. They still appreciate the massive challenge of the place, the precision needed and every one of them would want to have stood in and drunk out of Daniel Ricciardo’s shoes on Sunday afternoon. There’s no race that anyone would have wanted to win more.

And Fernando Alonso can winge as much as he likes about it being a boring race and that you can’t overtake, but 1) he missed last year’s Monaco Grand Prix to race in the Indy 500 and that – apparently – wasn’t much of a race this year. And 2), as we were recalling at the ACM Gala on Sunday night, he drove from 24th on the grid to sixth in 2010, having had an accident in practice. Max Verstappen drove from 20th to 9th on Sunday, having suffered the same in FP3 on Saturday.

Sure, every poleman won on Sunday: Charles Milesi in Formula Renault EuroCup (won by both polemen during the weekend) and Solihull’s fastest Porsche driver (probably) Nick Yelloly in Porsche Mobil 1 SuperCup. But what Daniel Ricciardo did in Monaco last weekend was exceptional, I thought.

It’s tempting to say that it all started on Thursday, but it probably started long before that at the factory. And then again, you could say that it started in 2016 and the bungled pit stop which cost the popular Western Australian his win that year. Since then, the word on Daniel’s lips has been Redemption for that lost win. But then he was quickest in FP1 and FP2 on Thursday, a very happy chappy when I interviewed him and Max in the Place d’Armes GPLive on Friday afternoon, seeming like he was quite relaxed. But then right on it again on Saturday: fastest in FP3 and then fastest in Q1, Q2 and Q3. That’s not accomplished by many drivers, particularly not at Monaco. Lewis Hamilton was the last to do it and win the race in Austin last year.

And that’s just what Daniel did on Sunday afternoon: got into the lead and stayed there. It was very much a watching and waiting game for everyone, shadowing one another’s moves. And then of course, after the pit stops pretty much resulted in the status quo, Daniel reported losing MGU-K electrical power after 27 laps or so. From then on, the team and the driver did a wonderful job, managing the pace, adjusting brake balance, changing driving style and even though the first five were covered by just five seconds even late in the race, they hung on to the win. ‘Every lap was like a victory,’ said the winner, such was the tension of the race and his woes.

Late on Sunday night, as we waited for our respective transport back to his apartment and my hotel after the gala, Daniel revealed the stress he’d been under. ‘I love this race, it’s fantastic, right from about Tuesday it’s full-on and I’ve been living it but I have to pace myself. I’ve got family and friends here and they all want to celebrate but do you know? I think I just want to go home to bed. It’s exhausting.’ With that, the winner of Monaco 2018 climbed into a car and went home, with the massive satisfaction of a job well done.

You couldn’t deny him of that and to call this race boring and a procession tends to belittle the performance of the winner and I don’t think anyone should do that. Sure, it wasn’t a great race but it was a great performance by the guy at the front; he and his team worked at that for a long time and despite adversity they beat 19 others who tried and wanted to do the same. It was a great win for Daniel and Red Bull, of that there’s no denying.

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