Due to the uniqueness of the Monte-Carlo track, it has had a tendency to produce surprise results most years.
There are a number of reasons why this has been a common theme here including:
The slow nature of the circuit means that aerodynamic efficiency is much less important than at most tracks. Therefore this takes away part of the advantage that the top teams often have. Only Hungary and Singapore come close to matching Monaco’s slow and twisty configuration.
With Armco barriers surrounding most of the layout there is no margin for error, and this often catches out even the best of the best. Due to this the Monaco GP is very often a race of attrition. As a consequence the safety car is often required, which can completely turn the race on its head.
The best drivers can have a huge influence on the lap time unlike the last race in Spain. Perhaps more importantly the track exposes those with weaknesses. It’s no coincidence that the best drivers in F1 history all have a phenomenal record in the principality.
The Monte-Carlo lap is short in length and laptime, which results in bunching up the field.
Backmarkers are harder to deal with in Monaco than at any other track. Some drivers handle this better than others. This can result in surprises in both qualifying, and the race.
Due to the near impossibility of overtaking in Monaco it’s possible for a slower car out of position to comfortably keep a much quicker car behind them.
Recent Surprises in Monaco
Probably the biggest shock result Monaco has produced was in 1996 when adding just a few drops of the rain made the immense challenge of tackling the streets of Monte-Carlo even tougher. In that race only four cars finished the race. It was Olivier Panis, starting from 14th on the grid, who won the only race of his career in the Ligier.
Looking back over the last decade, Jarno Trulli surprised many by putting his Jordan on the front row alongside Michael Schumacher in 2000. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to finish the race.
In 2001, Eddie Irvine made the most of Monaco’s ability to produce a high number of race retirements to put his Jaguar on the podium alongside the two Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello.
In 2002, Ferrari absolutely obliterated the opposition all season long. Monaco, though provided a brief respite. David Coulthard won the second Monaco GP of his career. That season Mclaren was never anything more than the third best car on the grid.
In the final laps Coulthard managed to hold off Schumacher’s mighty machine, tailor made to his every strength, on strong Bridgestone tires, and let’s not forget his incredible record in the principality. This made this victory all the more remarkable. Coulthard was always very strong in Monte-Carlo, and this was a fine example of a Monaco GP where the driver made the difference.
2004 was another season, which Ferrari completely dominated, but again at Monaco they were beaten. Jarno Trulli secured a stunning pole position in his Renault, and led the race from beginning to end, closely followed by Jenson Button’s BAR.
In 2005 Mclaren and Renault were the pacesetters. Kimi Raikkonen duly won the race but Williams surprised by claiming the other two places on the podium. Both Williams drivers impressively overtook Fernando Alonso in the closing stages of the race.
Williams provided the shock again in 2006 as Mark Webber competed with Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen for race victory. He was right on their tail for a number of laps, and more importantly had more fuel in his car, so could have leapfrogged the pair of them during the pit stops, and won his first race. Unfortunately the reliability of the Williams that year stopped him from claiming a historic result.
2008 was a wet race and although Lewis Hamilton won, BMW’s Robert Kubica was the star of the show finishing in second place. Arguably he would have won that race had Hamilton’s tag with the barrier not inadvertently placed him on the optimum strategy.
Who will provide the surprise this year?
If you are currently making your mind up on who to place your outside bet on, then Robert Kubica is your man.
So far Renault have been just behind the top four pace wise, and been relying on grabbing every opportunity possible to win big points. The rain affected weekends in Australia, Malaysia, and China were all opportunities they took with both hands.
Monaco represents another great opportunity. However they may not have to just resort to relying on rain or errors. They have the pace this weekend to potentially compete for a podium on merit.
Due to the refuelling ban the wheelbases on most of the 2010 challengers have grown longer as a result. The exception to the rule is Renault. The Renault engine has very good fuel consumption so therefore doesn’t need as much fuel to finish the race. This meant that Renault were able to install a smaller fuel tank.
This in turn allowed the team to use a shorter wheelbase, one of the shortest of all the 2010 cars.
On most circuits the length of the wheelbase doesn’t make a huge difference to the performance of the car. However on circuits, which are either very slow or very fast (one of the two extremes), it can be a massive influence.
A very slow circuit such as Monaco suits a short wheelbase car. A short wheelbase makes the car more nimble and driveable in slow corners. The longer wheelbase cars will find it more difficult.
Monaco will also throw away one of Renault's weakest playing cards. Although the Renault engine may be the best to have in terms of fuel consumption, it lacks power compared to Ferrari and Mercedes.
In Monaco there are no really quick sections (with perhaps the tunnel as an exception) so this weakness won’t disadvantage the team. Better still, teams who use an F-duct won’t be able to make much use of them if at all, which also plays into Renault's hands.
Also this is the sort of track that Kubica thrives on. He is one of those drivers who can extract more pace than the car actually has. We have seen this time and time again throughout his career so far. Therefore expect him to do very well at a track where the drivers make a big difference.
Already during free practise he has looked very happy and confident in the car and was one of the most impressive drivers to watch tackling the circuit.
A win is probably unlikely (but shouldn’t be ruled out altogether) for Robert this weekend, however a podium is very much a distinct possibility.
Other surprises could include Force India’s Adrian Sutil. Sutil was running fourth in the 2008 Monaco GP until Kimi Raikkonen right behind lost control of his Ferrari and took Sutil out of the race. Sutil will probably be delighted Raikkonen isn’t racing in Monaco this weekend.
Williams are also a team with a good recent history on street circuits, where their aerodynamic disadvantage to the top teams doesn’t hamper them as much.
Overall with Mclaren, Ferrari, and Mercedes’ bid to prevent Red Bull from winning, and seeing who can spring a surprise it should be an interesting Monaco GP weekend.
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Other Monaco GP articles:
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Monaco qualifying debate is nonsense
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