Monaco GP preview: Gridlock on the narrow streets of Monte Carlo?

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarWednesday, May 12th, 2010

 
 

And so from Barcelona to the gold-paved streets of Monaco – the favourite race of many Formula One fans, a processional frustration for others. And this year the frustrations could be more pronounced than ever.

The problem is due to the disparity between the cars at the front of the grid and those at the back. Several cars and team bosses, notably McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh and Jenson Button, have warned of problems if the frontrunners get stuck in traffic caused by the slower new entrants.

At Monaco there’s not a spare inch available when it comes to margin of error. As a clutch of drivers learn every year, get it even slightly wrong and you are in the barrier, your car is wrecked and your weekend is over. Sometimes high-profile victims like Lewis Hamilton fall foul of this, as has happened in recent years.

A plan for split qualifying, that would arguably have meant Formula One travelling even further towards a Le Mans-style arrangement where different classes of car compete in the same race, was briefly mooted but rejected. And so all we can do is see how things work out from Thursday onwards.

With less than a week for build-up, and doubts over how the race will pan out, this year’s event seems curiously subdued. Monaco has always been a race which rewards audacity in qualifying and the car that gets itself on the front of the grid has an excellent chance of winning.

Thus any consideration of possible winners would have to include both Red Bull drivers and Monaco might be an excellent bet for Sebastian Vettel in particular to take his second win of the year – if he can outwit his team’s reliability gremlins and last the distance.

Monaco might also provide a golden opportunity for Mercedes GP’s Michael Schumacher to shine although absolutely no-one will want to see a repeat of his behaviour during his last Monaco appearance in 2006.

More than almost any other track, Monaco demands downforce to help cars and drivers cope with the twisty street circuit. The teams that can muster most of this precious commodity are the ones best-placed to do well.

This may be one reason why Ferrari has announced it is not planning to use an F-duct in Monaco since an increase in straight-line speed will be worth very little. This might also reduce any performance advantage enjoyed by McLaren in previous races.

One thing is certain amid all this doubt. There’s not a driver on the grid who doesn’t agree with Nelson Piquet’s statement that a win at Monaco is worth two anywhere else – so it will be a hard-fought race.

In driver news Force India has announced that its reserve Paul di Resta will not be running in free practice this weekend since its race drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi and Adrian Sutil will need all the time available to work on Monaco’s set-up challenges.

• To read up on the history of the Monaco Grand Prix visit Roy Hulsbergen’s excellent Monaco Grand Prix Library site or read Brits on Pole’s earlier interview with him here.

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