The race is Button’s to lose (Monaco Grand Prix pre-race analysis)

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Kimi Raikkonen is the danger man for Jenson Button

Now we know the real story of qualifying was not Jenson Button taking pole position but Sebastian Vettel failing to.

In recent races we’ve seen Vettel struggle after getting stuck behind KERS-equipped cars. With Kimi Raikkonen starting on the front row, can the Ferrari driver do to Button what Massa did to Vettel two weeks ago?

The start

From second on the grid and with KERS power to rely on, Kimi Raikkonen has an excellent chance of getting past Jenson Button at the start.

His first chance could come on the run to the first corner and here the championship situation could play a role. Button has a clear chance to extend his points advantage over Vettel, and he won’t want to jeopardise that by getting into a wheel-banging match with a driver who, by his own admission, has nothing to lose:

I’m only interested in winning, so I have nothing really to lose. OK, the team needs points but in the end they are happier with a win than just some points. We’re not really in the championship.
Kimi Raikkonen

Statistics are on Raikkonen’s side too. Over the five races so far this year he’s gained a total of 12 positions on the first lap – only one driver has done better. Button, however, has lost three places.

The starting grid at Monaco is slightly unusual in that the pole sitter’s slot is aligned with the inside of the first corner, rather than the conventional racing line. The drivers starting on the right hand side of the track must be especially careful to avoid cutting the low kerbs at the turn – eight GP2 drivers did it on Friday and were given 25 second penalties.

If Raikkonen can’t make it through at the first bend KERS could give him a second bite of the cherry at the chicane in front of the harbour. Merely being able to force Button to defend here could be enough to get the job done – if Button runs wide and cuts the chicane, he will have to either surrender the position or risk incurring an even more costly penalty.

The possibilities are playing on Button’s mind already:

The first lap of the race is always exciting for us all. If there is a car that can overtake us it will for sure be a car with KERS. There are a couple of places on the circuit where there is always that possibility.
Jenson Button


In terms of strategy, Button is holding all the cards. Even if Raikkonen gets past at the start, Button is carrying two laps more fuel. He is at greater danger from a mistake of his own doing or a freak safety car period than anything else.

Vettel will have to do something special even to get on the podium. At the minimum he must get past Barrichello while fending off Massa’s KERS-powered Ferrari.

Mark Webber starts four places behind his team mate but, crucially, has nine laps’ more fuel on board. Can he repeat his Spanish Grand Prix performance by jumping ahead of Vettel via the pit stops?

Finally at the back of the grid (thanks to a gearbox change penalty) we find Lewis Hamilton. He’s got less fuel on board than the 12 cars immediately in front of him, and he has a KERS button. It’s safe to say he represents the best chance of seeing any overtaking during the race…

How do you think the Monaco Grand Prix will pan out? Will Button cruise to an easy fifth win? Have your say below.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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46 comments on “The race is Button’s to lose (Monaco Grand Prix pre-race analysis)”

  1. The KERS cars are at a huge disadvantage I think.

    1. Obviously, since Raikkonen is on P2.

    2. Once they have the difficulty of qualifying out of the way, cars with a KERS have only an advantage left.
      The big argument against KERS is the lack of one lap pace because of less flexibility on weight distribution on the car.
      During the race, the cars with KERS can use it to defend position, ensure a decent start and open opportunities for overtaking.

    3. yeah i’d have to agree, kers is an advantage, even on wide open tracks you saw massa defend vettel for the whole race, now the ferraris in the front can block just about any overtaking chance.

      it is going to help kimi get up the back of button for a look into the overtaking corners, there’s not many places where he can use kers, so he wont be worrying about saving it for a certain point, he’ll have half a battery to use anywhere he wants.

    4. Actually, people say that Massa used his KERS to defend against Vettel, but did he really? I didn’t even see Vettel come close enough to attempt an overtaking move or for Massa to need a defense.

    5. The KERS cars are at a huge disadvantage I think.

      Actually I’m surprised how well they’ve done in qualifying – three in the top seven.

    6. Keith, the discussion is about KERS to facilitate overtaking during race launch “in Monaco”, not about the benefits of using the KERS in order to set the fastest lap. IMHO there is no doubt KERS is good for the second purpose but I’ve boubts it is good for the first one.

  2. I think they’ll be some serious front wing action going on into St Devote tomorrow.

    Watch out for Alonso for a podium – he should be quite good for it if he keeps up with Webber & Kovi until they pit. That is, as long he doesn’t get run into by Nakajima off the start :)

    1. yeh, i’m dreading the first corner. carnage to the max i reckon. Go Webber!

    2. I think they’ll be some serious front wing action going on into St Devote tomorrow.

      Yep I think I’ll get a poll on that up in the live blog when it starts!

    3. I think there will be as well. The right stratigic move was to fuel light, be on the front row and get away from that carnage as quickly as possible.

  3. @Patrick!
    Lewis Hamilton was quick all weekend, and Raikkonen did come in second in qualifying – however, I think generally, the cars with KERS are not getting the usual returns they normally would on higher gear ratio tracks.

    So although they may have laid down quick times with less fuel, I think we can reliably say that we will not a KERS car cross the line in P1 tomorrow.

    1. Well I doubt a Ferrari or McLaren can beat the BrawnGP car, but still.

      This is the race where there is the highest likelyhood all year of a KERS car on the podium.

      Hamilton has a lot of overtaking to do. I’d bet his KERS is going to help him there.

  4. well i think raikkonen will take him. his needs all only kers. but button is genie pilot and may be he blocks rai on first curve and win the race easily..

  5. kimi will get the jump on jenson at the first corner.

    but can the ferrari team match and beat the brawns stragery…… they will mess up somewhere.

    my weekend would not be complete without some ferrari incompetance.
    but saying that i will be cheering for kimi!

  6. I don’t think Kimi had time enough to engage the third gear, push the KERS, and brake in Santa Devote only in 170 metres. So if he passes is not going to be because of the KERS.

  7. marvin guillen
    24th May 2009, 0:28

    GO KIMI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    FERRARI 4 EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. I’m going to give the first corner to Kimi…I’m a Ferrari fan but I love to see if Button could retake the lead. What I’d hate to see is them take each other out.

    Another point of is Ham’s fuel load. He’s set to go 22 laps…most of the cars in front of him have a lot more fuel in them. I’m guessing he’s looking to pass as many as he can on his first stint, pit earlier and clear some traffic and try to get in the points on some fresh rubber.

    Could be very exciting…I can’t see the KERS being of much use to him that being that far back in the bunch. I just don’t see the track being wide enough to use it effectively.

    This is one of those race starts that I hope the cameras are paying some attention to the back.

    1. This is one of those race starts that I hope the cameras are paying some attention to the back.

      A few people mentioned during te qualifying live blog that the race direction isn’t at its best this weekend. I think Monaco arrange the coverage themselves, whereas ordinarily it’s handled by FOM, and you have to say FOM do a rather better job…

  9. This will be interesting Raikkonen should also be paying close attention to Barrichello at the start remember what happened to Raikkonen at the start last year. If he is unable to capitalize the KERS advantage on Button Barrichello may use that to his advantage to get in front of Raikkonen. Like how Hamilton got Raikkonen into the first corner last year to get into second behind Massa. Raikkonen should also be very careful as Barrichello can go 2 laps longer. If Raikkonen is unable to pass Button Barrichello will most likely leapfrog Raikkonen after the first stops.

  10. Over the five races so far this year he’s (Kimi) gained a total of 12 positions on the first lap – only one driver has done better. Button, however, has lost three places.

    Of the five races we’ve had Button has started on Pole three times, fourth and fifth.

    Kimi has started seventh twice, eighth, tenth and sixteenth.

    Kimi has had a lot more opportunities to overtake on the first laps due to his poor qualifying :-)

    1. And vice-versa, Button has often only had chance to lose positions because of his strong qualifying performances. But that’s statistics for you!

  11. Brawn4Constructors
    24th May 2009, 4:11

    Sorry, poor analysis, really.

    Vettel never had a shot here. The Red Bulls will go backwards in this race and one of them may not even finish the race.

    1. Sorry, poor analysis, really.

      Care to explain why?

  12. Actually, it is simple statistics that argue for a Brawn accident/slip-up/twist-of-fate.

    Engine blow-up? Who knows. Monaco is a chance-ridden course. Nobody can predict.

    Ferrari 1-2.

  13. I hope everything works out well and i see Kimi Raikkonen taking the chequered flag…….AMEN

  14. I can’t wait to see the monaco race today. My prediction will be:

    1) Kimi going to use KERS at the very beginning of the race trying to pass Button
    2) At the same time Button will try to block Kimi
    3) Barichello on P3 will take this opportunity to pass both Kimi and Button and will lead till the end of the race.

  15. Or Massa taking 2nd from 5th and blocking the field for Raikkonen.

    Ferrari 1-2

  16. He’s got less fuel on board than the 12 cars immediately in front of him, and he has a KERS button. It’s safe to say he represents the best chance of seeing any overtaking during the race…

    Aswell it’s safe to say he represents the best chance of seeing a safety car after the first lap…

    where is space enough in Montecarlo to overtake a big group of cars without risking being involved in a big mess?

    1. Aswell it’s safe to say he represents the best chance of seeing a safety car after the first lap…

      LOL! :-)

  17. KingHamilton&co
    24th May 2009, 8:14

    i hope we see an attritional race-so maybe force india could nick a point or two!

    But button will stay calm, collected and win-mark my words! (also probably some genious strategy by Brawn will save him if he isnt leading through turn 1)

  18. Button is on the left side, or on the right? Any buddy knows?

    1. At Monaco the pole sitter starts on the right hand side taking the inside line into st devote.

  19. Kimi will smoke Button into the first corner. Massa will move into second.

    Ferrari 1-2

  20. @Daro –

    Button is on the LOSE side.


  22. Star sports is not showing race today. Can someone give me website link where I can see race live?


  24. in google justintvv

  25. hehehe, what about this?

    !! Button wins !!

    Button keep 1st position at the race start because he starts from the cleanest part of the ciruit. Then Kimi holds second position too but due to the reason Ferrari is not one of the fastest cars (this year) he creates a big queue of cars behind him. Nobody is able to overtake Kimi due to the KERS…

    From time to time we will have a SC (one or two) and this may change everything but…

  26. With drivers using KERS for desperate overtaking on this narrow and unforgiving track, my prediction is that we will see several crashes. I wouldn’t bet against Massa and Raikkonen running into each other at the first corner.

  27. I don’t think the run to the first corner is enough to give Kimis kers an advantage. It’ll be down to good old starting procedures and who does it best. I still wouldn’t bet against kimi leading out of turn one, given Jensons often poor starts.

    If JB stays ahead, he’ll be most under pressure on the start finish straight, where the kers ferrari will be able to take the long line around the outside. Some carefully judged (ie senna-esque) brake testing out of the last corner should help!

    The line through the tunnel is too easy to defend.

  28. Theres gonna be a lot of safety cars with Lewis at the back taking people out.

  29. Taking quali into consideration, the corner Lewis gutter slapped may prove to be the undoing of the KERS cars. I understand it may have contributed to Lewis losing it? If that was the case and it was a point on the track where it can be deployed, albeit cautiously, then as the race wears on (assuming it’s a relatively clean race) fatigue could play a part in the race and a driver may mistime when he deploys KERS ending in the obvious. Just a thought.

    As for the start, there is every chance that Jenson will over react due to having the thought in the back of his mind, “will he or won’t he use KERS off the start?” and stall! Forcing his team mate to “Hamilton” him. Then Heikki manages to get a few laps in, enough to allow Massa to build some confidence, at which point Heikki’s gearbox fails and the Ferrari’s come home for a “normalising” 1-2. If you haven’t already guessed, I am a Ferrari fan.

    Which is a good segway for my next comment. I’m glad that you didn’t take my tirade too serious on the “Ferrari are wrong to oppose new teams”, Keith. I was a little inebriated and over the whole political garbage that’s been going on of late. On a relative point though, I am still confused as to how Brawn have managed to produce the package their wiping the grid with, seemingly from nowhere? I am under no illusion that this sounds like another Ferrari fan being a “teamist” but surely fans of other teams and even fans of F1 in general must also be scratching their heads as to how this has happended. I mean it’s almost a case of, if Brawn are found to have done something untoward in gaining this advantage, I would not be surprised. Anyway, I promise Keith, I will try to keep my tirades to a minimum!

  30. The race is over and we now know you don’t need KERS to win (or finish second). Some one remarked Hamilton did well ??????
    Crackers he couldn’t pass anyone, Glock, Heidfeld and even Fisichella finished ahead of him. The best photo of the day was Hamilton pulled over to allow Button to LAP him !!! Any one want to wager Webber out scores Vettel at the end of the season? Vettel couldn’t pass Trulli’s Toyota for 15 laps, he’s just a media darling. Button’s probably got the season sown up but there’s still plenty of action in mid field. Expect a Toyota resurgence…….too little too late, but Toyota will still play a part.

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