Lewis Hamilton Concerned About Slow Teams at Monaco, and He Has a Point

Craig ChristopherAnalyst IMay 12, 2010

MONTE CARLO, MONACO - MAY 24:  Cars go round Loewes Hairpin during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at the Monte Carlo Circuit on May 24, 2009 in Monte Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Monaco is a unique track in the modern Formula One world. It is an anachronism—a throwback to a gentler era of F1 racing. While it is picturesque, it is also tight, twisty and almost impossible to overtake on. If it was anywhere else in the world, the FIA would have shut it down years ago. It is to host the sixth race of the 2010 season.

The drivers are expressing their concerns about how this race will be affected by slow traffic. Lewis Hamilton said to the Press Association, via the ESPNF1 website, “You catch them so quick, it's just unreal. When you see them you are wondering where they will move out of the way, and then they move into the wrong position. They'll go on the inside and be in the corner as you come up to them, so it gets quite tricky. So far, fortunately, there have been no incidents and it's been okay, but Monaco will be very tough."

He has a fair point.

Michael Schumacher made his Mercedes GP car virtually impassable on the relatively open and spacious Catalunya track. Lucas di Grassi could do the same thing at Monaco driving a Fiat 500—he may even be able to do it in his somewhat slower Virgin-Cosworth.

The driver’s concerns come hot on the heels of a move by team bosses to split qualifying, to ensure that the faster teams are not impeded and drivers aren’t unfairly shunted down the grid because someone has not seen a car on a flying lap in their mirrors. Unsurprisingly, the FIA denied the request.

The 2010 season has seen the influx of three new teams and it is here that the problem lies. The grid is split into six very competitive teams, three teams that are slower, but not ridiculously so and finally the three new teams which are seemingly there as a form of sponsored mobile chicane.

Hispania Racing, Virgin and Lotus—perhaps not coincidentally all powered by Cosworth engines—are all struggling for pace and reliability. Watching their drivers trying to keep out of the way in Spain was a nerve-wracking experience.

Although they did a reasonable job of getting out of the way, they still ended up getting involved in a number of battles—most notably Hamilton versus Sebastien Vettel as the former came out of the pits.

There are fewer places to hide a slower car in Monaco and it’s difficult to imagine that they won’t end up influencing the outcome of the race in some way. We can only hope that it doesn’t all end in tears.

Prior to 2003, we had the 107 percent rule to weed out those not capable of keeping up. Had it applied in Catalunya, di Grassi would not have been able to start. He was eventually lapped four times by the front-runners, that could be five or six times in Monaco. He was also the one who got tangled with Hamilton and Vettel.

All F1 fans welcome the sight of new teams on the F1 grid, they are what keeps the sport fresh and are essential for its long-term survival. The new teams deserve a degree of tolerance and the opportunity to get up to speed with the rest of the field. But, sometimes pragmatism is necessary and applying the old 107 percent rule might well be justified for this race only.

While it would be best to do away with Monaco altogether, it would deprive most of the drivers of the opportunity for a real home Grand Prix. It would do away with the final link to the sport’s roots, which would be a sad day.

But, if we’re going to insist on paying homage to a bygone era, can we at least make it safe?

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