Start shots: Monaco Grand Prix

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Monaco isn’t just the most prestigious race of the year – it’s also the most important qualifying session of the year.

Given how tight and narrow the track is, it’s no surprise that ten of the last eleven winners came from pole position. As recent years have shown, the run to the first corner is so short the pole sitter has to get it badly wrong to lose their advantage.

And for the rest of the field turn one is just a case of staying out of trouble in the first seconds of a gruelling race.


There was no joy for the pole sitter in 2001. David Coulthard’s McLaren failed to get away on the formation lap in what team boss Ron Dennis memorably described a “brain fade” on Coulthard’s part before learning an electrical fault was responsible. Michael Schumacher therefore took the lead from second on the grid and went on to take Ferrari’s most recent victory at the principality.


The most recent example of a pole sitter losing the lead at the start was 13 years ago. Having let him down 12 months earlier, Coulthard’s electronics made amends as McLaren’s superb launch control fired him past Juan Pablo Montoya’s Williams. He went on to win, and had the good grace afterwards to admit his start was all down to his superior software.


Pole sitter Ralf Schumacher kept his advantage in 2003 but behind him team mate Montoya’s move past Kimi Raikkonen into second was decisive: Montoya pitted two laps later than Schumacher and jumped ahead of him, putting him on course for victory.


Jarno Trulli kept his advantage from pole position in 2004 and was on his way to his sole grand prix victory. Behind him the other fast-starting Renault of Fernando Alonso slipped past Jenson Button for second place, but Alonso later crashed out of the race while pursuing his team mate through the winding Monte-Carlo streets.


There were no such dramas for Alonso in 2006 – at least not on Sunday. The day before he had been awarded pole position after Michael Schumacher was stripped of the fastest time when the stewards judged he had intentionally stopped his car at Rascasse in an attempt to delay Alonso. Schumacher was sent to the back of the field, but others’ retirements and a timely mid-race Safety Car period helped him to salvage fifth place.


Alonso led from pole position again in 2007, though new team mate Lewis Hamilton was unhappy at being fuelled more heavily for qualifying. Further back, Takuma Sato and Spyker duo Christjan Albers and Adrian Sutil cut the first corner but avoided a penalty.


The new KERS hybrid was expected to give Raikkonen a boost from second on the grid as neither of the Brawns in front or behind him had it. But it didn’t work out that way: Rubens Barrichello beat Raikkonen to turn one, and Button beat everyone to victory.


Alosno and Michael Schumacher lined up fourth and fifth in 2011 but came round at the end of lap one separated by five cars – a slick start by Alonso got him past Mark Webber’s Red Bull, while Schumacher got away poorly and was swamped on the run to Sainte Devote.


The 2012 start was carnage: Romain Grosjean was pinched between Alonso and Schumacher, sending the Lotus driver spinning into the path of Kamui Kobayashi. Further back Pastor Maldonado ran into the back of Pedro de la Rosa. All four retired, Kobayashi doing so after limping on for five laps.


Mercedes have locked out the front row of the grid in Monaco for the last two years, each time with Nico Rosberg taking victory from pole position. In 2013 Hamilton got his nose ahead as they approached Sainte Devote but had to yield to his team mate.


The following year Hamilton was riled by his team mate’s hotly-debated incident at Mirabeau during qualifying, where his apparent mistake scuppered Hamilton’s final qualifying run. Rosberg held his advantage at the start, however, and Hamilton had to accept second best for a second year.

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    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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    21 comments on “Start shots: Monaco Grand Prix”

    1. 2003-2008 cars were absolutely beautiful. So perfectly proportioned and aggressive looking. Before 2003/2004 they weren’t as sculpted around the sidepods, so they weren’t as good looking as 2004 cars, but they were well proportioned. I didn’t like the fact that they’ve raised the front wing in 2005, since it made cars look less balanced, but still those 2005-2008 cars were absolute marvels, when you consider the frankencars that came in 2009.

      1. Totally agree. The cars are just wider and lower, and the proportion is ‘correct’. I think Newey once said a similar thing about the modern cars and the wheel base being basically too long and the cars too narrow. To me, the 2002 cars are simply wonderful, and with the colourful grid it was a great year. Not sure about how much ‘overtaking’ there was but who cares.

        There was a debate on here about wider cars back in February that’s worth another read:

        1. If I’m not mistaken the cars never got narrower after 1998. It’s just perspective, the shorter wheelbase and lower wings makes it look like they were wider than the current generation of cars, but they’re not.

          1. True @roald. I guess relative width is the description I was looking for.

      2. Funny how nostalgia creates a different perspective. Nearly every season when new cars are introduced there are scads of critics denouncing how awful they look and that they don’t look like they used to. Then in a few years those same cars become so much better looking. Just an observation.

        Of course no F1 car will ever look as sweet as the Lotus 25.

        1. I disagree from my perspective at least.

          Cars have been ugly from 2009 to 2013, and only last season did we start to get some beauties back on the grid (they’re still too long though). I think many have been pretty consistent in the opinion that the cars have been out of proportion since 2009.

          1. F1 cars have taken many twists and turns over the years appearance wise.

            And then there’s this:

    2. what about 2005?

      1. Or 1929, 1930, … , 1999, 2000? Come on, Keith most probably had to make do with whatever photo material he could’ve licensed.

    3. Love that Mercedes- Redbull pic from 2013.

    4. Very weird that Ferrari haven’t won here in almost 15 years!

      1. @jmc200
        The last time a Ferrari won around Monaco… Mika Hakkinen was still on the grid.


      2. Schumacher might’ve done in 2004 until Montoya took him out in the tunnel.

        1. He needed an extra stop, making it unlikely. Still, the strategy planned would’ve been to use the remaining fuel to pull away at around 1s a lap to get a pitstop’s worth of advantage. If he pulled it off, it would have been Hungary 1998-esque.

    5. Absolutely love this feature and look forward to it before every race.

      So true about the qualifying challenge for Monaco being the most important of the year. Should be interesting.

    6. If only Monaco had a slightly longer straight or smoother surfaces in some areas, it could’ve been one of the best races of the calender owing to the fact that cars seem to be able to follow each other closely around here but due to the length of the straights and the bumps, we barely get any overtaking

      1. That’s exactly what they’ve tried doing with tracks like Valencia, Singapore, and Sochi.

        Every race barring the last was awful at Valencia. Your mileage will vary with Singapore. Sochi struck out on three straight dirtballs last year. And none of them have a sliver of the history or character that Monaco does.

      2. That’s Macau. Same tricky middle section, but with huge straights.

        In any case, overtaking is possible in Monaco at the bottom of the hill after the tunnel – and the circuit is a lot less bumpy than most of the real street circuits, such as Macau, Long Beach, Singapore, etc.

    7. My thoughts are with Jules and his family; I just remembered how much he made last year’s gp here worth to watch.

      1. @hzh00 – My sentiments too. Definitely one of the 2014 season highlights.

        Continued prayers for Jules and his family.

    8. It’s a beautiful place!

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