F1 – Another Perspective: Hamilton to be Prince of Monaco Again?
The most prestigious (and dangerous!) race on the F1 calendar rolls around once again. Victory for Monaco resident Lewis Hamilton would certainly be the final nail in the proverbial coffins of his would-be competitors.
Seasoned F1 fans know the drill – a small run-off area makes much potential for carnage unless drivers have the precision needed to make it at the top level of motor racing. Opportunities to overtake on the straights are also scarce. Unlike modern courses such as Bahrain, Monaco’s straights are quite short, leading into sharp corners and chicanes.
This year sees the debut of a new compound for the supersoft P Zero tyre. The improved distribution of temperature across the surface of the tyre will prove particularly important in Monaco, as the relative lack of abrasion from the track enables a quicker warm up and enhanced grip.
Drivers across the grid will also be looking to adopt a ‘one-stop’ strategy, with less than the F1 minimum of 305 kilometres to be run.
The Final Nail
Such is the continued might of Mercedes, it would not unreasonable for the reigning champion to declare victory with a full six months of the season to go. Certainly, the construction team title appears all but wrapped up for another year.
Mercedes’ closest rival, Ferrari, were found wanting in Barcelona, but confidence in that camp will be boosted by events earlier this week. With the new design proving not to be cause of their shortcomings, Ferrari has every reason to believe that they can surprise the world, as they did in Sepang.
Despite this cause for optimism, Ferrari remains in a period of transition when it comes to car physics. For that reason, Hamilton’s only other realistic threat is Nico Rosberg, the man who won last year’s race.
History is certainly a factor against Hamilton, with the champion’s most recent win at the track coming during his maiden title-winning season of 2008. He does, however, have a 20-point advantage over Rosberg – this time last year it was just a 3-point gap.
Keys to victory
On Sunday, the key to victory will not be too dissimilar to the one that saw Nico Rosberg clinch a second consecutive win at the circuit last year. Mercedes’ pragmatic switch from supersoft to soft tyres after 25 laps proved decisive, although there was an element of fortune as the deployment of the safety car coincided with a pit-stop window.
With the lower than average speeds typically seen in Monaco, Hamilton and Rosberg will also be more vulnerable to manoeuvres from Sebastian Vettel, who has been known to demonstrate Schumacher-esque feats of cunning.
On Monday morning, Force India showed optimism ahead of this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, with team boss Vijay Mallya stating:
“Although we struggled for outright pace in Barcelona, the unpredictable nature of Monaco could help us spring a surprise,
“The softer tyre compounds suit the VJM08 and we have two drivers who adore racing in Monaco. We must also be ready to make opportunistic strategy calls from the pit wall.”
The team is just eight points off fifth-placed Sauber, demonstrating that it can achieve far more than the wooden spoon it has often been tipped for in the past. The team also has an encouraging record in Monaco, the acknowledgment of which will provide a psychological boost with no real pressure to perform.
The debut of new-style supersoft tyres is set to be a minor factor in equalising the field on Sunday, although a vital aerodynamic upgrade for Force India will not be seen until the British Grand Prix on July 5.
Yet another 1-2 for Mercedes, with Rosberg completing a hat trick of consecutive wins. Vettel is set to take third place.
For live updates of the Monaco Grand Prix, visit Motorsport24.com – coverage begins at 12:00 UTC on Sunday, May 24.
By Tamhas Woods