Skip to content

Race strategy? It wasn’t really possible at Monaco

May 27, 2013, 8:15 AM EDT

Monaco F1 GP Auto Racing AP

The Monaco Grand Prix may not normally be the most thrilling, edge-of-the-seat racing, but no one can ever deny that it’s not short of incident. Sunday was no different. Despite the race doing nothing to appease the growing number of complainers of F1’s current format, it certainly managed to hold the interest until the end.

Monaco may be the most unlikely of settings for a race track. It’s a far cry from the wide, modern arenas designed by Herman Tilke, yet it is a very special venue on the calendar. Having been lucky enough to experience the winning feeling here on a number of occasions myself at McLaren with Coulthard, Raikkonen, Alonso and Hamilton, I can testify that it means something just a little different than at any other GP. The team feel it as much as the winning driver and unsurprisingly, the celebrations are unlike any other race of the year.

I spoke about the methods used to decide a team’s race strategy in my last entry, but in Monte Carlo it’s a different set of parameters that come into play.

Here, track position’s everything and as we’ve seen over the last few races, Mercedes have the current upper hand when it comes to qualifying. Their downfall, on a regular circuit, has been the inability to maintain that position throughout the course of a race as the tires lose performance and rivals are able to pass them during phases of the race when their cars are faster or when their strategies put them at a different comparative pace.

In Monaco a team’s race strategy is largely decided before even arriving at the event, as qualifying high up the order is key to a decent race result. Whereas at other circuits teams may establish cars to be quick in a straight line for example, the thinking being to avoid the threat of attack under DRS zones in the race, the streets of Monte Carlo are different. Here, there was no real need for Mercedes to be too concerned about tires going off or challenges coming from DRS attacks, as no matter what tools are deployed or strategies utilized, the actual act of overtaking is incredibly difficult. As a result, it was all about starting the race from the front row and getting off the line well … which this particular team did very well.

In terms of actual race strategies, there’s very little left to do. The teams outside the top 10 can opt to start on the prime tire, something which would put them onto the faster option, or super soft tire toward the end of the race when the cars were lighter, the track surface a little more grippy and the field a little more spaced out, but the theory still relies on drivers being able to pass slower cars later in the GP. That, unfortunately is the biggest problem here.

As it was, any strategies that were deployed by teams were largely nullified during the afternoon by the incidents bringing out the first appearances of the safety car, and just after midway through, the red flags and resulting restart. No matter what anyone had planned, the opportunity to stop under safety car conditions and not lose track position was there for all and to a certain extent made the rest of the race predictable. When the red flags came out late on and everyone was given the chance to fit new tires on the grid for the restart, it was almost a foregone conclusion to the end.

An excitable Sergio Perez was perhaps the most interesting car to watch on circuit as he muscled his way past his team mate, then Fernando Alonso, finally colliding with Kimi Raikkonen late in the race to take away the last remaining strategic gamble.

Raikkonen, the only contender to restart after the red flag on soft tires, could’ve caused an upset towards the end as the rest of the field on supersofts began to struggle after a long 32 lap stint. In the end Perez’ optimistic lunge caused a puncture to the Lotus and deprived us of the last remaining strategic battle playing out and it was a slightly predictable run to the finish.

This circuit, special though it is in terms of glamor, noise levels and history, never provides the best racing. All the data in the world gained from practice sessions can tell teams the theoretical quickest route from lights out to chequered flag, but ultimately it’s about starting in front and staying there. Mercedes did exactly that, Nico Rosberg drove impeccably, controlling the race and no one else was able to do anything about it.

Their domination here isn’t necessarily indicative of the team’s current performance and the coming races will show how much, or little, they’ve actually improved after their struggles in Spain a few weeks ago.

Marc Priestley can be found on Twitter @f1elvis.

Latest Posts
  1. Grosjean not expecting to challenge for points at Spa

    Aug 22, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Practice Getty Images

    Lotus being punished by Spa’s high-speed nature.

  2. IndyCar: An odd Friday on tap, with no practice occurring

    Aug 22, 2014, 11:22 AM EDT

    GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Day 3 Getty Images

    Without IndyCar on track on Friday, Friday will be an abnormal day on track at Sonoma Raceway.

  3. Red Bull GRC: Scott Speed’s time on the golf course (VIDEO)

    Aug 22, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    SpeedGolf

    When he’s not racing in Red Bull Global Rallycross, Scott Speed shows Kristen Kenney the way around a golf course.

  4. Maldonado given medical check-up as a precaution after FP2 crash (VIDEO)

    Aug 22, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    Belgium F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Lotus driver crashed hard in FP2, but said that it looked bigger than it actually was.

  5. NASCAR: Roush Fenway brings on Ortho to back Greg Biffle, No. 16 car

    Aug 22, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT

    Credit: Roush Fenway Racing Credit: Roush Fenway Racing

    Ortho will debut on the No. 16 car next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway and make two more appearances this year before becoming an “anchor partner” of the team in 2015.

  6. Lotterer enjoys successful first outing for Caterham

    Aug 22, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Practice Getty Images

    Immediately on the pace despite not having driven an F1 car in over ten years.

  7. Vettel expecting engine penalties, misses FP2 in Belgium

    Aug 22, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    Hungary F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Defending F1 world champion is concerned about penalties due to engine component changes later in the season.

  8. WATCH LIVE: FP2 for the Belgian Grand Prix

    Aug 22, 2014, 7:45 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Practice Getty Images

    Will Rosberg and Hamilton continue to lead the way during practice at Spa?

  9. F1 Paddock Pass: Belgian Grand Prix (VIDEO)

    Aug 22, 2014, 7:20 AM EDT

    Belgium F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    All of the latest news and interviews from the paddock at Spa-Francorchamps ahead of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

  10. Massa, Hamilton and Ricciardo take on the ice bucket challenge (VIDEO)

    Aug 22, 2014, 6:46 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Previews Getty Images

    Three of F1’s field take on the ice bucket challenge in aid of ALS.

  11. Rosberg moving on from Hungary team orders debate

    Aug 22, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

    Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Rosberg AP

    German driver not dwelling on Hamilton’s flouting of team orders in Hungary.

  12. Rosberg leads Hamilton in first Belgian GP practice

    Aug 22, 2014, 5:32 AM EDT

    Nico Rosberg AP

    Mercedes’ runaway train shows few signs of slowing down in 2014.

  13. Chilton to race in Belgium after all; Rossi denied F1 debut

    Aug 22, 2014, 4:20 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice Getty Images

    The Marussia driver debacle rages on as Rossi is benched for the rest of the weekend.

  14. WATCH LIVE: FP1 for the Belgian Grand Prix

    Aug 22, 2014, 3:45 AM EDT

    Nico Rosberg AP

    F1 returns from its summer break with first practice at Spa today, live on Live Extra from 4am ET.

  15. NASCAR America video: The unique energy of Bristol Motor Speedway

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT

    (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevrolet) (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevrolet)

    Dale Earnhardt Jr’s crew chief, Steve Letarte, joined NASCAR America on Thursday to talk about the different feeling that Bristol Motor Speedway has and goes over the strategy his team has for the race.

  16. MRTI: Championships to be decided in trio of Sonoma doubleheaders

    Aug 21, 2014, 5:33 PM EDT

    MazdaRoadToIndy

    Mazda Road to Indy titles will be decided in Sonoma this weekend.

  17. Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson pace NNS practices; Milka Duno seeks to become first Latina to qualify for a NASCAR event

    Aug 21, 2014, 5:29 PM EDT

    Milka Duno. (Photo: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson topped Thursday afternoon’s pair of Nationwide Series practice sessions at Bristol Motor Speedway.

  18. Latest edition of the Penske Files: You wanted more bloopers, you’ve got ‘em!

    Aug 21, 2014, 4:06 PM EDT

    penske file bloopers 8-21-2014

    After the popularity of the team’s drivers, the next most popular thing around Team Penske is The Penske Files, especially editions that contain bloopers. Check out the latest edition of TPF bloopers!

  19. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 6:30 p.m. ET — Steve Letarte, Tennessee racing history, Truck race highlights

    Aug 21, 2014, 3:37 PM EDT

    140821-NASCAR-AMERICA

    Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America, which airs LIVE at 6:30 pm ET, will cover a lot of ground, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. crew chief (and future NASCAR on NBC analyst) Steve Letarte, breaking down and the history of Bristol Motor Speedway and lots more.

Video from NASCAR America

Why Bristol is such a unique track
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. J. Gordon (1593)
  2. I. Vences (1234)
  3. K. Harvick (1150)
  4. B. McReynolds (1102)
  5. K. Swindell (1011)