Racing’s greatest day begins on Sunday on the streets of Monte Carlo.
This Sunday is the biggest and greatest day of racing on the planet. Three of racing’s crown jewel events, the Grand Prix of Monaco, the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600, all take place on Memorial Day Sunday.
We begin with the first race on the streets of Monte Carlo. Formula 1 returns to what I like to call the Martinsville of road courses. This is a street course that should not even be allowed in today’s F1. Tight confines, ungodly elevation changes, remote runoff areas and no room for error. I’ve often said racing at Daytona and Talladega requires the utmost concentration and skill. To race at Monaco requires double the concentration and skill. At Monaco, you’re on the razors edge nonstop and then some.
A lap around Monaco begins on the pit straight at Boulevard Albert 1er. This short sprint takes you up to the tight right hander at St. Devote. This turn has seen many first lap accidents over the years, but this is less common now with the turn being much wider.
The cars then head up the hill before rounding the long left at Massenet. The cars then turn right past the casino at the highest point on the track and head downhill on Beaux Arts. They make a hard right heading down towards the Fairmont Hairpin. At most tracks, this would be the best place to pass another car, but the turn is so tight that it’s next to impossible for modern F1 cars to traverse it side-by-side. The tight is so tight that teams bring race specific cars that are built just to get around the hairpin.
After the hairpin, the cars take two other right handers before driving through the tunnel. Cars lose 20-30% of downforce going through the tunnel few to its unique aerodynamic properties. The visibility exiting the tunnel is notoriously poor. The effect has been reduced the last two years thanks to a building that has been built to the left of the circuit. I don’t know what the building is though. I think it’s an extension of an existing hotel.
After exiting the tunnel, the cars navigate the Nouvelle Chicane. This has been the scene of many notorious accidents over the years. This is really the only place passing is possible. A short sprint precedes a fast left hander. Quick reaction is needed to take the full speed left-right hander and a slower right-left hander around the swimming pool.
Another quick sprint takes the cars to La Rasscasse which is heavy on breaking and tight on steering. This turn has seen deliberate wrecks by drivers trying to prevent other drivers from completing their laps in qualifying. The cars climb up past pit entrance and take a final right hander hander that puts them back on the front stretch.
If words don’t do the job, watch Nico Rosberg onboard as he drives a lap of the track.
With passing such a premium at Monaco, qualifying is more important here than at any other track. The Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have dominated the sport last season and this year. They are the hands down favorites to win this weekend. For anyone else to win, they have to either lock out Mercedes from the front row – which is highly unlikely – or prevent at least one of the Mercedes from starting up front. The only team that can remotely match the Silver Arrows are the Ferrari duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
This is going to be one whale of a race Sunday. It’ll be the first leg of the greatest day of racing.