Of all the destinations on the 2018 Formula 1 calendar, one stands above the rest – where the great champions of the past have reigned…
…men like Sir Jackie Stewart; Mr Monaco Graham Hill who won the race five times, and arguably the greatest of all time, Ayrton Senna – who took victory there a record six times, five-straight for McLaren from 1989.
And there’s good reason the talent always rises to the top in Monte Carlo, with zero room for error across the armco-barrier lined lap.
SOUNDBITE (English) MARK WEBBER,
F1 DRIVER, 2002-2013:
“The drivers love racing here, [and] it's the ultimate test of man and machine. It's a traditional street circuit, there’s penalties all round the place. You make a small mistake, [and] you're in the fence and your weekend can be heavily compromised.”
The toughest street track on the calendar, the 3-kilometre Monaco circuit features 19 turns, with seven left and 12 right, and a top speed of just 295 kilometres an hour. Sergio Pérez set a new lap record last year for Force India. While there’s just one DRS activation zone – along the main straight, with the DRS detection point before Turn 18, La Rascasse.
And while the world’s most famous street track is tough enough in a road car – in an F1 car it’s an entirely different story, with the Grand Prix drivers having to work themselves up to the limit…
… getting closer and closer to the barriers on each tour, to shave precious hundredths of a second from their lap time. But training starts long before that – with the Monaco-based drivers having a distinct advantage.
SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“Naturally do the normal preparation, which is spend time at the factory with the engineers, try to understand the past. In actual fact, last night i was just driving around the [Monaco] track in my smart car, visualising certain things. It’s no so easy when there’s lots of cars on the road. It’s a very very difficult circuit.”
Lewis Hamilton will have his work cut out for him in Monte Carlo this year, with the four-time F1 World Champion still building confidence in his W09 car – despite being a two-time winner of the event.
Ferrari desperately needs a win in the Principality, with Sebastian Vettel fourth in Spain after he was forced into a two-stop strategy. The German, though, has the form in Monaco as a two-time winner including last year – and still demonstrates the quiet confidence that he showed at the launch of the 2018 car.
SOUNDBITE (English) SEBASTIAN VETTEL,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“Every little detail matters, every little part can make a difference and I think this year's car is a big step from last year.”
Monaco is also a strong chance for Red Bull Racing, with the drivers able to make the difference in bridging Renault’s power deficit. The powerhouse drinks brand also putting on a show in the Principality, its floating energy station the most opulent of all the 10 teams.
For Daniel Ricciardo, it’s a race he’ll want to put right after 2016’s debacle – in which Red Bull botched his pit stop, costing him the win.
SOUNDBITE: (English) DANIEL RICCIARDO,
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“I think [that] it was the worst moment probably for us as a team but like I felt that day I did everything right so it actually wasn't my worst moment but sure it was the worst moment of the season.”
But things can change, with the safety car featuring in the last six visits; while qualifying is crucial with 10 of the last 17 winners on pole – and the victor only coming from lower than third 10 times since 1950.
Since pre-war 1929, and the advent of the Formula 1 World Championship in 1950, it’s the one they all want to win. The jewel in the crown.
It’s time, for the magic of Monaco.