James Rossi previews the Monaco GP
11 May, 2010
May.11 (James Rossi) They say that Formula One is a fast-moving business. No sooner than 45 minutes after Mark Webber’s super victory at the Circuit de Catalunya were the F1 Paddock dismantling their sumptuous motorhomes and gigantic freight-carrying trucks to head down the A19 motorway north towards Monte Carlo.
Volcanic ash drifting over from Iceland meant that yet again, travel plans had been disrupted and many team personnel would have to forego a trip home before heading out to the small principality. Hispania Racing team mates Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok took it upon themselves to hire a car and race down to the Riviera, whereas many of the other journalists and team members also chose the motorway as their method of travel.
However, as we push on into the fast-approaching Monaco Grand Prix weekend, it is Mark Webber and Red Bull who are still out ahead. The pace in hand from the Australian during yesterday’s race was frightening, after his admission that he was taking it easy after half distance.
Despite Vettel’s problems, he was also untouchable through qualifying and the first part of the race, albeit in a slightly less untouchable mood than his team mate who truly was in a different race. With no big updates forecast from any of the front-running teams, the running order should remain untouched with Dietrich Materschitz’s team heading the grid.
The usual suspects will be in close attendance, with McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes all providing a sustained challenge after falling short in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton will be eager to compensate for his lack of points and smart money should be put on him to be very quick around the streets of Monte Carlo, having won once and finished second to a slower Fernando Alonso in 2007. Hamilton also showed signs of promise in 2009 despite the poor pace of the McLaren last year, before putting it in the barriers in Q1.
Joining McLaren in the fight for top honours will be Ferrari, who will be pleasantly surprised with Fernando Alonso’s somewhat fortunate second position in Spain. The Scuderia disappointed many initially with their relative lack of pace in relation to Red Bull and McLaren, as there is no discernible reason for their lack of development.
Similarly, Mercedes had brought a raft of updates to Barcelona only to see themselves finish over a minute behind eventual winner Mark Webber. Michael Schumacher appears to be happier with the revised MGP-01, which will please the sponsors. However, Nico Rosberg’s public displeasure with his car will raise a few eyebrows, especially from those who weren’t particularly affectionate towards Ferrari during the Schumacher era.
Something to watch out for this weekend is the pace of the Renault. The car was faster than expected at Barcelona according to Robert Kubica, who suffered a damaged front wing in a first-lap collision which handicapped him for the remainder of the race.
The good levels of downforce on the Renault allied with it’s excellent levels of traction will mean that they could spring a surprise on Sunday, and it isn’t out of the question that they will join the battle at the front with the established teams for this one-off Grand Prix.
At the back of the grid, life goes on. Williams slipped dangerously close to the pace of the also-rans in Barcelona, before Rubens Barrichello made up for his poor qualifying performance to finish a creditable 9th, albeit with help from mistakes and retirements in front of him.
There is a 3 team scrap in the midfield with Toro Rosso and Force India also joining the party, it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top in the development race in that particular battle. With the rate of development exhibited last year, Force India will feel that they are underperforming and remain favourites to break free of the midfield scrap as we head into the summer.
No change at HRT, Lotus and Virgin, with the order unchanged since the beginning of the season. Around Monaco, expect shares in carbon fibre manufacturers to rocket. Despite victory at his sole GP2 Monaco race meeting, Bruno Senna, Karun Chandhok and Lucas di Grassi have never sampled F1 around the tight confines of the circuit and could find themselves in trouble in such underperforming machinery.
Yet again, changeable weather conditions are forecast in Monte Carlo throughout the week. Saturday’s qualifying is especially forecast to be a complete washout, which will play absolute havoc with 24 cars on track all trying to set a fast time. The Q1 session promises to be the biggest spectacle of the weekend and it’s more than likely that a number of big names could fall at the first hurdle.
Thursday also marks the 60th anniversary of Formula One, let us hope that with such a fascinating championship battle unfolding before us, Monte Carlo provides us with the magic that only it can provide.
1. Hamilton 2. Webber 3. Kubica