Thursday, May 21, 2009

Monaco Grand Prix Preview

Wednesday 20th May 2009

The Tax Dodgers GP is here again with all the glitz and glamour that yappy small dogs and women with expensive cosmetic surgery can confer. The Monaco GP is basically the South of France GP that's held about half a kilometre over the border.

Walk the circuit and be amazed. It's not so much "cycling round your bathroom" as "cycling round the shower tray". Until the demise of traction control it was a pretty useless sort of race. Great for scenery, great for history, but processional in the extreme.

You can be between three and four seconds a lap quicker than the car in front and not get past them on the streets of Monaco. In fact many drivers believe that a GP2 car that starts on pole could keep its F1 rivals at bay. (Let alone a GP3 car)

What Monaco loses in places to overtake it gains with its punishingly close barriers ready to derange a rear suspense at the slightest hint of oversteer. And now that the cars are allowed to oversteer because of driver error it's become a lot more fun.

Last year saw some sensational overtaking moves including Rubens Barrichello completing the most amazing move on Mark Webber's Red Bull into the Anthony Nogues corner. The Anthony Nogues corner! That hasn't witnessed any kind of action since Jack Brabham threw it all away back when you could have funded the entire world's annual motorsport for £40m.

But the most expensive demolition derby and carbon fibre shower party is going to be overshadowed this weekend by the mother of all F1 political rows. Not since the FOCA vs FISA 'war' of the 80s between the teams and the governing body (when Bernie and Max were on the side of the teams) has there been such acrimony around the pitlane.

Ferrari may have lost the court case, but the names the FIA trotted out as potential F1 entrants were generally received with derision (Max's comedy half hour). For those of us who can remember the no-hopers of the pre-qualifying 90s this was a blast from the past. More like F1 Scrapheap Challenge than a serious attempt at a series.

I can't see the guys at Minichamps fighting over the rights to make a 1/43 model of the lastest car from Nick Wirth Research.

And it was interesting that Max said he had 11 entrants, "seven of them were serious". Why bother telling us about the non-serious ones. Hey, how about this, PF1 will enter a team. There, that's 12 entrants.

Back to the preview. Red Bull arrive in Monaco with their own double deck diffuser and hence the chance to beat the Brawns off the line for a change. Mark Webber is quick around Monaco and could easily score his first World Championship win. And what a place to do it. Nobody in the pitlane would begrudge him a trip to the top step of the podium. (Perhaps as long as it was only one).

Jenson Button is also quick and precise around the streets and his confidence should be high despite quite a heavy impact coming out of the tunnel a few years back. Rubens Barrichello will be keen to get one over on his team-mate, so watch out for how Brawn play the strategy game.

Safety Cars are always a strong probability around Monaco, so it may not be such a great idea to fuel ultra light. Any advantage would be wiped out by an early Safety Car. Fuel too heavy, though, and you'll be so far back that your pace is dictated by whoever you end up behind. A bit like Vettel behind Massa in Spain.

Lewis Hamilton has always been phenomenally quick in Monaco and should be in contention for a podium, and Jarno Trulli in the Toyota could be tempted to go for glory and a high grid slot on light fuel.

Felipe Massa believes that the Monaco GP could kickstart his season. If it doesn't, then concentrating on the 2010 car may be a bit problematic... if there isn't going to be an F61. Should the pace of the new Red Bull take it beyond the Brawns then Ferrari don't have a realistic chance of the drivers' title and their sheer unreliability won't regain them the manufacturer's.

So much will be dictated by the grid slots drivers achieve on Saturday and the haphazard nature of Safety Cars through the race. Drivers can't win the race in qualifying but they can definitely stuff up their chances. And so there will be intense scrutiny of any blocking during Q1 and Q2.

Teams will be anxious to get their cars out with minimum chance of traffic because F1 radios never work their best round built-up areas. Even if drivers are aware of fast cars approaching there's often very few places to go.

As for previewing what will happen in the Mosley vs Montezemolo standoff, that's even less predictable. Last year Max had to deal with all the furore and fallout over his sex scandal and was notably absent from the Monaco Royal Box. It'll be interesting to see if he's there this year.

Source : Planet F1

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