Mercedes have strong chance to win from front row

2013 Monaco Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Mercedes have claimed the front row of the grid for the second race in a row and this is surely their best chance yet of winning a race.

The W04’s deficiency in tyre degradation is well known by now. But the sheer difficulty of overtaking at Monaco will make it difficult for their rivals to jump ahead of one of their cars, never mind both of them.

In the past 20 years the Monaco Grand Prix has only been won by a driver who didn’t start on the front row on five occasions. Four times the winner came from third – which is good news for Sebastian Vettel – and Olivier Panis won from 14th in the topsy-turvy 1996 race.

That shows why Mercedes, despite their tyre struggles, have such a strong chance in the race. Pole sitter Nico Rosberg has a chance to emulate his father’s Monaco Grand Prix win 30 years ago with a victory of his own.

The start

Conventionally, if you’ve got pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix you should win the race. In the past nine F1 races at Monaco the pole sitter has won eight times. The only one who failed to was Felipe Massa in the wet race held five years ago today, partly because he went off at Sainte Devote during the proceedings.

It’s unusual to see the pole sitter lose the lead on the run to the first corner at Monaco. But it’s not uncommon for the driver who’s third on the grid – on the cleaner, inside line – to get a good run at the driver who’s starting second. Sebastian Vettel will be eyeing that opportunity to split the two Mercedes.

Fernando Alonso has made some excellent starts this year and needs another one from sixth. At minimum he needs to clear Kimi Raikkonen, a major championship rival whose race pace makes him a serious threat. Another slow start for Mark Webber ahead would play into Alonso’s hands.

But keep an eye on seventh-placed Sergio Perez as well. His starts have been better than Alonso’s on average this year. If Alonso fell behind the McLaren at the start it would be a disaster for his chances in the race.

Romain Grosjean will surely have in mind his crash at the start of last year’s race when he lines up 13th. He’s hit the barrier three times already this weekend and simply has to stay out of trouble at the start.


While rapidly degrading tyres and DRS have made overtaking tediously easy at most tracks, Monaco has remained stubbornly resistant. That’s largely due to the near total lack of overtaking opportunities and its low-grip surface.

A one-stop strategy won last year and Vettel was on course to win with a single stop in 2011 when a red flag interruption gave him the opportunity to change his tyres without penalty.

According to Pirelli, a two-stop strategy will be quicker during the race. But there is a huge incentive for anyone that can do so to pit just once: the risk of losing track position in a pit stop is just too high.

Last year’s race was shaped in part by a threat of rain. Teams were unwilling to commit their drivers to a pit stop as they were concerned they might need to pit for wet weather tyres soon after. A shower eventually arrived but it wasn’t strong enough for intermediate tyres to be necessary. Tomorrow is currently forecast to be dry and sunny.

So the strategy tomorrow will be shaped by when drivers feel they can make a pit stop and come out with a substantial amount of clear air in front of them. Last year the front runners waited until Raikkonen’s tyres had gone off badly.

Because of the low-grip nature of the circuit, drivers do not gain as much from pitting before a rival. Indeed, Alonso was able to jump ahead of Hamilton by pitting later than him – and might have gained more places had Ferrari gambled on leaving him out longer. That option may work for them again tomorrow, and Lotus too, as the top ten all start on the fragile super soft tyres.

Nico Hulkenberg is first among those who have the choice of starting on the harder soft tyres if they wish, which could open up new possibilities for them.

All this is conducted under the ever-present threat of the safety car being summoned, which can turn a race on its head in Monaco.

Three years ago the appearance of the safety car immediately after the start was a gift for Alonso, who’d started the race from last place following a crash in practice. His team mate is in much the same situation this year and an early safety car would be a big help for him.

Alonso was able to make this work to such good effect because he started on Bridgestone’s super-soft tyres, was able to switch to the mediums at the end of lap one and complete the race on those tyres.

It’s doubtful Massa would be able to do the same using Pirelli’s allocation of soft and super-soft tyres. But as he’s starting from the back anyway it might be worth trying as he’s got little to lose.

Starting first and second gives Mercedes the option of using their second-placed driver to hold up the chasing pack, guaranteeing victory for the other. But Ross Brawn has denied they will do that.

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Nico RosbergMercedes1’24.6201’16.135 (-8.485)1’13.876 (-2.259)
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’23.7791’16.265 (-7.514)1’13.967 (-2.298)
3Sebastian VettelRed Bull1’24.2431’15.988 (-8.255)1’13.980 (-2.008)
4Mark WebberRed Bull1’25.3521’17.322 (-8.030)1’14.181 (-3.141)
5Kimi RaikkonenLotus1’25.8351’16.040 (-9.795)1’14.822 (-1.218)
6Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’23.7121’16.510 (-7.202)1’14.824 (-1.686)
7Sergio PerezMcLaren1’24.6821’17.748 (-6.934)1’15.138 (-2.610)
8Adrian SutilForce India1’25.1081’17.261 (-7.847)1’15.383 (-1.878)
9Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’23.7441’17.420 (-6.324)1’15.647 (-1.773)
10Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1’23.6991’17.623 (-6.076)1’15.703 (-1.920)
11Nico HulkenbergSauber1’25.5471’18.331 (-7.216)
12Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1’24.8521’18.344 (-6.508)
13Romain GrosjeanLotus1’23.7381’18.603 (-5.135)
14Valtteri BottasWilliams1’24.6811’19.077 (-5.604)
15Giedo van der GardeCaterham1’26.0951’19.408 (-6.687)
16Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1’23.4521’21.688 (-1.764)
17Paul di RestaForce India1’26.322
18Charles PicCaterham1’26.633
19Esteban GutierrezSauber1’26.917
20Max ChiltonMarussia1’27.303

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Nico Rosberg19.343 (1)34.407 (3)20.124 (2)
Lewis Hamilton19.580 (4)34.295 (1)20.092 (1)
Sebastian Vettel19.402 (2)34.370 (2)20.202 (4)
Mark Webber19.457 (3)34.483 (4)20.192 (3)
Kimi Raikkonen19.600 (5)34.788 (6)20.434 (7)
Fernando Alonso19.741 (7)34.876 (7)20.207 (5)
Sergio Perez19.664 (6)35.130 (9)20.324 (6)
Adrian Sutil19.956 (9)34.746 (5)20.566 (9)
Jenson Button20.127 (10)35.006 (8)20.514 (8)
Jean-Eric Vergne19.745 (8)35.225 (10)20.594 (10)
Nico Hulkenberg20.728 (11)36.266 (11)21.337 (14)
Daniel Ricciardo21.009 (16)36.375 (13)20.960 (11)
Romain Grosjean20.776 (12)36.668 (14)21.159 (12)
Valtteri Bottas20.931 (13)36.287 (12)21.199 (13)
Giedo van der Garde20.972 (15)36.889 (15)21.547 (15)
Pastor Maldonado20.938 (14)38.239 (16)22.191 (16)
Paul di Resta22.560 (19)40.049 (17)22.638 (17)
Charles Pic22.509 (17)40.385 (20)23.636 (19)
Esteban Gutierrez22.512 (18)40.313 (18)23.034 (18)
Max Chilton22.935 (20)40.379 (19)23.989 (20)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Mark WebberRed Bull284.1 (176.5)
2Adrian SutilForce India282.8 (175.7)-1.3
3Sergio PerezMcLaren282.7 (175.7)-1.4
4Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso282.2 (175.4)-1.9
5Nico RosbergMercedes281.6 (175.0)-2.5
6Lewis HamiltonMercedes281.1 (174.7)-3.0
7Jenson ButtonMcLaren280.5 (174.3)-3.6
8Paul di RestaForce India280.3 (174.2)-3.8
9Fernando AlonsoFerrari280.1 (174.0)-4.0
10Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso280.0 (174.0)-4.1
11Charles PicCaterham279.7 (173.8)-4.4
12Sebastian VettelRed Bull278.9 (173.3)-5.2
13Giedo van der GardeCaterham278.4 (173.0)-5.7
14Nico HulkenbergSauber277.8 (172.6)-6.3
15Valtteri BottasWilliams277.4 (172.4)-6.7
16Pastor MaldonadoWilliams277.1 (172.2)-7.0
17Esteban GutierrezSauber276.9 (172.1)-7.2
18Kimi RaikkonenLotus276.9 (172.1)-7.2
19Romain GrosjeanLotus276.8 (172.0)-7.3
20Max ChiltonMarussia276.0 (171.5)-8.1

Over to you

Will Mercedes finally score their first win of the year this weekend? Which of their rival will be the biggest threat to them?

Share your views on the Monaco Grand Prix in the comments.

2013 Monaco Grand Prix

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Image © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Red Bull/Getty, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo

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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22 comments on “Mercedes have strong chance to win from front row”

  1. A Red Bull fastest in the speed trap…

    Can anyone remember the last time that was the case!?

    1. It may not ever have happened (unless it’s already happend in Monaco which I’ll have a look at) but I’m guessing that’s purely because the longest straight is so short! 284km/h is not very fast!

      1. Only in the context of motorsport can “284km/h is not very fast” be a reasonable thing to say!

    2. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      26th May 2013, 0:34

      It was the case this time last year, with Vettel.

  2. It is really the mercedes duo race to lose.

  3. Mercedes won’t get the first 2, and i predict that in the 1st corner, Webber, Alonso, Kimi or Perez, one of them will stay there…

  4. I wish Nico well. Saw his father race at Monaco in 1984, where he was the favorite among my fellow race attendees.

  5. The race will start behind the Mercedes-Benz Safety Car, it seems.

    1. I don’t think they are going to be that slow. The did the longest stints in practice and degradation and lap times were pretty good. Lewis did a 24 lap stint, and both drives clocked up a massive 99 laps each across the three practices.

  6. I don’t think it’s Mercedes’ to lose, but the pole sitter at Monaco always has the best chance to win because of the nature of the circuit. If they can stay 1-2 they’ll have a very good chance, but if one of the Red Bulls can split them it could be a very different story.

    However, Monaco is different from any other race, and it’s entirely possible accidents, safety cars and who knows what else could throw everyone off.

  7. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    26th May 2013, 0:50

    It was almost as if after his Ste Devote lock-up in FP1, Hamilton lost all braking confidence in that corner. I guarantee you that this pole was lost for Lewis under braking in Sector 1, because the rest of the lap seems pretty nailed to me. Shame really, a Hamilton victory at Monaco would consolidate the validity of Mercedes’ investment, not only in Hamilton but in F1, as it would confirm the sound quality of the “new” Mercedes team formula…not that it still can’t happen. As much as Rosberg will deny it, championship winning success for Mercedes will be found in the hands of a Lewis Hamilton that is comfortable in the car in which he sits, so I think if Hamilton could win tomorrow it’d be good for F1 inasmuch as it could potentially usher in a new era of driver and car, such as Bahrain ’10, Canada ’07, China ’09 and dare I say it, Spain ’96.

    1. @william-brierty

      I think over the last few years, Rosberg has done enough to show that he is as capable of winning the title as anyone, should he get the car to do it.

    2. @william-brierty, in the press conference, Hamilton mentioned that his tyres weren’t up to temperature yet for S1 (actually, he echoed Vettel who said so), but still it’s a shame he lost two-and-a-half tenths in those first 19 seconds.

      It could also be confidence, as you mentioned, because elsewhere (in the BBC article from the round-up) he said he hasn’t felt comfortable on the brakes all season.

      1. @adrianmorse I wonder if it has anything to do with the brake failure he had during winter testing, and just the overall feel of the car.

    3. I was just thinking that- I hadn’t expected him to be fastest in the second 2 sectors.

  8. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    26th May 2013, 1:01

    According to Ted Kravitz, Mercedes have made and adaptation to the rear of the car to help with the rear tyre degradation, so this will give them an even better chance of winning.

  9. Worthy of mention that the top four spots on the grid are held by the two teams that have had the most to say about the tyres going off too quickly. If the race becomes a Mercedes freight train in a effort to conserve tyres that should help the Ferrari and Lotus camps the most as they seem to do the most with the tyres.
    Pirelli says that a two stop strategy is faster but if Ferrari and Lotus manage their rubber effectively then maybe we will see a few one stoppers. Having said that, I’ll bet that Seb has a serious go at trying to get around the Mercs to get a bit of distance between Ferrari and Lotus, hence both Merc and RB will have to pit early.

    Monaco senario # 999,999 of 1,000,000

    1. Agreed, I think it will be the potential 1-stoppers, Kimi & Alonso vs. the top 4 2-stoppers, Vettel, Webber, Rosberg & Hamilton. The 1-stoppers will likely win the race unless their tires go way, way off at the end.

      Should be an interesting race strategy wise. The other factor is to not get caught out with no margin of error or to avoid getting getting caught out by somebody else in traffic.

    2. I am excited to find out the No of Laps the Softs can do.. If Kimi/Alonso or even Perez can stop around Lap 15 and undercut the Top 4, and make the Softs last for 60+ Laps, then they should be the favourites. But can the Softs last 60 Laps??? The safe thing to do will be to stop around Lap 30 if u are 1 Stopping.
      Also, noteworthy is that Vettel and Kimi did 1 Timed Lap with their Starting tyres while the others did 2 Timed Laps.

  10. Reading Monaco GP: Mercedes rules out ‘tortoise and hare’ team tactics (link provided by Keith at the end of his article), it made me miss refuelling for the first time since it was stopped. Mercedes could have made Hamilton heavy on fuel, Rosberg light, and the latter could have sprinted away whilst the former held everyone else up.

    1. Ermm… doesn’t the tortoise win in the end?

  11. I think the only way a non-Mercedes driver can take this one is with a one-stop strategy. Räikkönen could probably pull it off, but how about Alonso?

Comments are closed.