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I’VE BEEN reading complaints about this past Sunday’s 2018 Monaco Grand Prix, some even from World Drivers Champions Fernando Alonso, who dropped out of the race, and Lewis Hamilton, who stood third on the podium.
Alonso is quoted in CNN saying that 2018 Monaco was, “… probably the most boring race ever. We probably need to give something to the fans at the end of the race just to pay the ticket back a little.”
BBC Sport reported Hamilton saying “We were just cruising around from lap six, literally cruising…. If that was exciting for you to watch, no problem.”
I beg to differ about Monaco 2018 being beneath enthusiast interest. I suspect too that winner Daniel Ricciardo might feel the same.
First off, I’m reminded of R&T colleague Jonathan Thompson who once said, “No one wants to hear a millionaire whine about his work.”
Second, I note that Andrew Benson, BBC Sport’s chief F1 correspondent in Monaco, offers a rather more nuanced picture: “Monaco can often be an uneventful race as a result of the tight nature of the track in the cramped Mediterranean principality, which makes overtaking harder than at any other grand prix.”
It also has a lot more character than many of F1’s post-modern antiseptic venues.
On-car videos are fabulous, but they fail to convey the narrowness and steep changes of elevation of the Monaco circuit. Having seen, walked (and driven) the 144-ft. drop from Casino to Portier, I thrill at drivers accelerating hard from Mirabeau Haute down to what’s now the Fairmont Hairpin. I also admire their precise artistry as wheel rims spark the armco when apexing the circuit’s chicanes.
These guys are averaging more than 80 mph in the narrow streets of this half-vertical principality.
BBC Sport’s Benson also observes, “But the problem was exacerbated this year because drivers were driving slowly to ensure the fragile ‘hyper-soft’ and ‘ultra-soft’ tyres, the two softest in Pirelli’s range, made the required stint lengths.”
Pirelli is F1’s sole tire supplier and teams are required to use at least two different compounds among the three choices provided at each venue. (Wet conditions modify this; and there are other regs based on qualifying.) Among the seven color-coded dry-weather Pirelli compounds, hyper-soft are identified by pink sidewalls; ultra-soft, by purple. Obviously hypers wear more quickly than ultras.
Tire management has always been crucial in motor racing, especially so today when dictated by team strategies based on the number of intended pit stops and the quest for garnering Championship points.
By contrast with Monaco, the Indianapolis 500’s 2 1/2-mile oval is wide with corners that are banked, albeit insignificantly at the 220-mph speeds they’re traveling. These Indy speeds are breathtaking, however there’s little change of speed and only four corners per lap. (Depending upon how you count them, Monaco has 15 corners, the tightest taken at around 30 mph, the fastest, 180 mph.)
At Indy, tire management, resulting pit stops, and yellow-flag bunching and restarts play essential roles. Refueling strategy, no longer permitted in F1, is also crucial. This year’s race was no exception.
Alexander Rossi’s outside passes in the 145th-lap restart were memorable, particularly in light of these 2018 Indycar designs displaying a particularly razor-sharp balance of speed and downforce.
Memorable too were the mid-pack battles taking place at “boring Monaco.” What’s more, we learned only later that Daniel Ricciardo did a fabulous job nursing the car to victory: At the 1/3 point, his Red Bull’s hybrid power management malfunctioned, leaving him with 25-percent less power and dodgy rear brakes.
To me, appreciating subtleties of the competition and of the venue can greatly enhance a race’s interest.
Tomorrow, to put matters in historical perspective, I offer tidbits on the first five Monaco Grands Prix, 1929 through 1933. There were plenty of Bugattis, a pesky commercial interest, maybe even a race fix, and a memorable dice between Achilles Varzi and Tazio Nuvolari. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018