We are now a quarter of the way through the season (well nearly as five into twenty one doesn’t go exactly), but we will be after Monaco.
Lewis Hamilton leads Sebastian Vettel by 17 points, which many may have anticipated at the beginning of the year, but it hasn’t exactly played out as expected on the track, with Vettel’s Ferrari taking the first two races, with Hamilton winning the most recent two races, and Daniel Ricciardo sandwiched in between.
Barcelona was not only Hamilton’s 74th pole, which is another new record, but also his 64th Grand Prix win, which is closing the gap on Michael Schumacher’s all time record of 91 wins.
It is reported that Lewis and Mercedes are nearing agreement to renew his contract, so presumedly they are now just haggling over the number of noughts on his pay cheque. It is understood that this new agreement will be for two years, which will take it to the end of the current F1 regulations and the advantage Mercedes has developed. Therefore, if you assume that there will be 21 races each in 2019 and 2020, plus the remaining 16 races this year, making a total of 58 races to come, the gap of 27 wins to Schumacher’s all time record is not unascertainable!
Getting used to the halo? Whilst many like minded people believed it to be ugly and detract from the pedigree of F1, it now seems to be accepted as part of the furniture! However, Ferrari did take things a bit too far by mounting the wing mirrors on it, something which the FIA allowed for Barcelona only.
Indeed, the halo even proved its worth in Barcelona in the F2 race protecting the Japanese driver Tadasuke Makino who escaped uninjured after the car driven by compatriot Nirei Fukuzumi was launched into the air during the sprint race, coming down on top of Makino’s cockpit, with the left-rear wheel hitting the halo. Makino told reporters afterwards that the halo probably saved his life, as otherwise the tyre would probably have hit his helmet.
If you look closely at the onboard footage from Romain Grosjean’s car you can also see that the halo may have protected him from the results of his hare-brained spin in the middle of the pack. It is one thing to spin, but another thing to try a power spin with plumes of blinding tyre smoke to get back facing the right way, with half the grid passing by! It’s lucky that no one was hurt and Grosjean was lucky that he only got a 3 place grid penalty to be served at the next race in Monaco.
I have known Grosjean from his days as the winner of the GP2 Asia championship, plus winning the inaugural GT1 round. On his day he can be very good, but he also can be somewhat erratic and he seems to have been slipping back into the latter. Maybe this has something to do with being unsettled by the pace of his teammate Kevin Magnussen. Whatever it is, he needs to get out of these negative performances before the drive with Haas gets taken away from him!
After Barcelona, Monaco sees the welcome return of the grid girls! Whilst the ladies have been seemingly replaced by junior racers, have you noticed that the TV seldom shows them on the grid?
Monaco is more than just a Grand Prix. It is a spectacle. A glamorous social gathering on the Mediterranean for the rich, famous and ‘wannabe’s’. Set against the background of a high speed motor racing demonstration with fast and furious Formula One cars charging around the tight confines of the streets of Monte Carlo, although overtaking is a limited edition optional extra!
If you ever get the opportunity to walk the street circuit you will realise just how narrow and tight the confines of the track are. It is jaw dropping to marvel at the complete illogicality of F1 cars driving around it at the speeds they do.
What most strikes you is how small and compact the place is. Monaco as a country, technically a Principality, covering just 499 acres, which is little more than two square kilometres. It is reputed to be the second smallest country in the world and with a population of over 36,000 it is said to be the world’s most densely populated country. When you compare it with Singapore, the South East Asia island is 349 times bigger! In fact, with its location, weather and of course tax status, it could be said that Monaco is indeed the ‘home’ Grand Prix for the vast majority of the F1 drivers.
The Monte Carlo street circuit is just three and a third kilometres in length, which is just over two miles, and because of the relatively low average speeds, it is the only Grand Prix that does not adhere to the FIA’s mandated 305 kilometres (190 miles) minimum race distance. For Monaco this is reduced to 260 kilometres (161 miles) which took last year’s winner Sebastian Vettel 1 hour 44 minutes to cover the 78 laps.
Monaco is one of the oldest Grands Prix, dating back to 1929, which was years before Formula One was introduced in 1950. The first race was won by William Grover-Williams driving a Bugatti 35B, painted in what would become known as “British Racing Green”.
The current two championship protagonists Hamilton and Vettel have both won the race twice, however they still have some way to go to get close to the true Monaco maestros. Ayrton Senna won the race six times and five years consecutively between 1989 and 1993, whilst Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher have both won the race five times each.
The team that has won the Monaco Grand Prix the most is McLaren, with 15 wins, and in fact McLaren as a team made its F1 debut in 1966 with Bruce McLaren himself driving.
However, 2008 was the last Monaco win and the McLaren of today is a very different team from what it was.
For Fernando Alonso, it is a return to Monaco after his sabbatical at the Indianapolis 500. He showed very good form on his debut at Indy until being forced into retirement. Will he do it again? Last year there were special circumstances, not the least the need to placate him, after a another dismal season with the under performing Honda engine.
This year apart from F1, Fernando is also driving in the WEC with Toyota and after his initial victory at Spa in the 6 hour race, his attention must now be firmly focussed on the Le Mans 24 Hour race in a few weeks time.
If he wins, then that will be two parts of the Triple Crown complete, all that remains will be the Indy 500. At 36, whilst still on top form, he is approaching the twilight zone of his career, although to be fair, he may have a good 10 competitive years remaining. So Indy may be a possibility. Whilst Indycar is essentially a one make formula, there could possibly be a McLaren related entry, which as Zak Brown has said, it could be good marketing for the McLaren brand in America.
Watch this space!