With a victory at last week’s Spanish Grand Prix, Red Bull’s Mark Webber goes into the next race brimming with confidence and will be looking to take his Catalan boost to the streets of Monte Carlo; yet while both Monaco and Barcelona are circuits where passing is considered extremely difficult if not impossible, they could not be more opposed in terms of layout and challenges. The Circuit de Catalunya features some very long corners, winding sweeps and long straights that test the composure of a car’s aerodynamic abilities, whereas Monaco’s extremely narrow roads and painfully slow corners merit those with better mechanical grid and handling. A Grand Prix at Monte Carlo is also a great test concentration and skill.
Monaco doesn’t always present great racing, but on occasion even Formula 1’s crown jewel event has the ability to surprise; stand out examples being the 1982 event won by Ricardo Patrese which saw the race lead change five times in the final two laps of the race and the wet weather affected 1984 event, whereby a distressed Alain Prost (being quickly caught by a rookie Ayrton Senna) felt compelled to have the race stopped – a controversial decision that saw former Formula 1 pilot, Jacky Ickx suspended as clerk of the course. The 1996 race saw one of Formula 1’s most unlikely of results as the Ligier of Olivier Panis won from 14th on the grid in a chaotic and frankly absurd race, while in 1997 and 2008 Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton comprehensively won in the principality, despite contact with barriers and the occasional off.
Following a late retirement in Barcelona, Hamilton will be looking to repeat his 2008 victory, while championship leader Jenson Button is gunning for a second-consecutive Monaco triumph. There are many questions about the Ferrari’s though; although they seem fast, they do seem to struggling with tyre temperatures and grip and grip is something that is a prerequisite at Monaco. Red Bull have claimed two victories in the first five races – one apiece for their drivers – but it really should be more; however the slower nature of Monte Carlo may give the cars an opportunity to “rest” easier, yet one is reluctant to cast victory in their path just yet. We shall see on Sunday.
In the meantime, here is Mark Webber’s lap of the famed circuit in the Red Bull simulator, with an extra treat below as the late Graham Hill describes the circuit in an episode of Wheelbase from the late 1960’s.