May 23rd, 2012 (F1plus / Chris Cameron-Dow).- After a thrilling Spanish Grand Prix, in which Williams made an emphatic return to form, Formula One heads to Monte Carlo for the glitz and glamour of the Monaco Grand Prix. Although it is the shortest and slowest track on the calendar, it is arguably the highlight of the season.
The track is tight, twisty and unforgiving. Mistakes are immediately punished by the walls that line the track, unlike at the typical modern Formula One circuits that have massive run-off areas.
Monaco is the proving ground for great drivers. Ayrton Senna won the race six times, Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher have five victories each. Alain Prost won four times. Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jackie Stewart have each topped the podium three times. Fernando Alonso could become the next three-time winner if he triumphs on Sunday.
The drivers love Monaco because of the challenge it presents. There are no proper straights on the circuit, which means no time to relax. Rhythm is paramount, and it is possible for a driver to become mesmerized by the track during the 78 lap race. Michael Schumacher describes the circuit as “fun to drive”.
Will the open season continue?
In Spain, Pastor Maldonado became the fifth winner from five races in 2012. Never in the history of Formula One have more than five drivers topped the podium in the first six races of a season. Monaco could provide that record sixth winner.
Tyre management has emerged as the major factor for success in 2012. At Monaco there are no particularly fast corners, which means no major lateral loads through the tyres. Degradation is more likely to come from oversteer and wheel-spin out of the corners. Cars that struggle for traction may find themselves going through rear tyres quite quickly, and consequently falling down the field.
Overtaking is almost impossible in Monaco, simply because there is no space. It is the one circuit on the calendar where there is a chance of defending against DRS, due to the track being so narrow down the start-finish straight (which is in fact a gentle right-hand curve).
In 2011, there was some overtaking, particularly on the first lap, and again later when Lewis Hamilton was making his way through the field. The combination of DRS and Pirelli's rapidly degrading tyres may provide some action on the track on Sunday.
Lotus have been quick all season, and will be looking to capitalise on recent performances with a win on Sunday. Kimi Raikkonen is certainly in form, and due a victory after two consecutive podiums.
Circuit Length: 3.340 km
Race laps: 78
Race length: 260.520 km
Lap Record: 1:14.439 – Michael Schumacher / Ferrari (2004)
Race winner: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull
Pole position: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull – 1:13.556
Fastest lap: Mark Webber / Red Bull – 1:16.234
− First and second practice take place on Thursday in Monaco, as the streets are open to the public on Friday.
− Ayrton Senna won the race five time in succession – from 1989 to 1993.
− David Coulthard drove the 1996 race in one of Michael Schumacher's spare helmets, as his own was steaming up in the wet conditions before the race.
− As in 2011, use of DRS in the tunnel is forbidden throughout the weekend.
Thursday is expected to be dry for both practice sessions. There is a chance of rain for qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday. As ever, a wet race could upset the order, as it did in 1996, when only 3 cars crossed the finish line.