2017 Monaco Grand Prix track preview

2017 Monaco Grand Prix

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Did Anthony Noghes imagine, when he mapped out the course for the first Monaco Grand Prix in 1929, that cars would still be trying to race around the Principality 88 years later?

The course which will be used for this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix is in places completely unchanged from the original layout. Between the sweeping left at Massenet to the sharp right at Portier the track Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel will race on is much the same as that where William Grover-Williams and Rudolf Carraciola did battle:

But the track has also been reshaped over time. New buildings have gone up and new roads built. The skyrocketing value of land in this part of the world has prompted them to extend the harbour over the sea.

And, of course, the ever-pressing need for Formula One to impose some kind of sense on this madness has led to some safety improvements. Inevitably this tends to be seen as detracting from the challenge of Monaco, and there’s certainly some truth in that. Drivers have more room to make mistakes now than ever before.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2016
The harbour was extended in 1986 to build the chicane
Yet this remains a street track in the truest sense. They race on genuine roads and aim their cars between solid and unforgiving walls.

Those barriers are going to feel even close this year in the wider 2017 cars. Most of the drivers will have had the chance to prepare for that in their simulators, but only on Thursday will they get to experience it for real.

“The most important thing is that you have to learn to walk before you run,” explains last year’s winner Lewis Hamilton. “You have to build up to the pace so that, by the time you work up to that second run in Q3, you’re at one hundred percent.”

“It’s a circuit which is all about mental strength,” he adds. “You need to be sharp and clear. Experience counts here too – that helps massively in setting the car up.”

The other challenging dimension of racing in Monaco is the lack of space for the team’s equipment. Red Bull discovered this to their cost last year when they fumbled a last-second change of tyre compound as Daniel Ricciardo was heading for the pits. The resulting delay cost him victory to Hamilton.

A lap of Monte-Carlo

Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Monte-Carlo, 2016
Massenet is dauntingly quick with no run-off
Sergio Perez, who took a surprise podium finish for Force India in last year’s race, says “Monaco is my favourite track because it’s the biggest challenge.”

“I think the contribution of the driver is greater compared to other tracks. There is no room for mistakes and you need to take small risks to find extra performance. It’s a test of concentration for almost two hours, which is why it’s such a difficult race.”

The approach to the first corner, Sainte Devote, is curved and bumpy, which makes braking difficult. The pit lane exit extends along part of the start/finish ‘straight’, then merges in as the cars climb the hill towards Beau Rivage.

“The best parts of the lap are the quick sections,” says Perez. The fast left-hander at Massenet is the first of those, which feeds into the slow right-hander at Casino. Perez expects the wider cars will be “quite a challenge” here.

“There’s no room for error so you need to be careful that the car doesn’t step out of line through these parts of the lap.”

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At Mirabeau the cars drop steeply downhill, inside front wheels in the air as they round the corner. The next hairpin has had a succession of different names but has almost always been the slowest corner on the F1 calendar. That hasn’t stopped ambitious drivers making attempts to overtake there, though they need the full co-operation of the other driver to be successful.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monte-Carlo, 2016
More room for error at the Swimming Pool complex
Every corner on the track has achieved notoriety one way or another over the years. The next right-hander is where Michael Schumacher’s threw away his shot at victory on the first lap of the 1996 race. Eight years earlier Ayrton Senna did the same at the next corner, Portier.

From there the drivers accelerate through the tunnel towards the chicane. Although some of the bumps have been taken away from the high-speed approach it remains a difficult braking point where it’s not uncommon to see drivers locking up and clipping a barrier. The wider cars will feel especially awkward through the tight corners that follow.

The quick left-hander at Tabac was re-profiled two years ago. The approach to the Swimming Pool is another of the faster points of the track. “The swimming pool is impressive because we carry so much speed and you have to be very precise on the kerbs,” says Perez.

The second part of the Swimming Pool complex has also been eased recently to make it less of a blind corner. It’s followed by the sharp Rascasse hairpin – another half-opportunity for overtaking where only the very committed need apply.

The final challenge on the lap is the tricky, off-camber right-hand flick named after the man who had the vision to create this unique circuit.

2017 Monaco Grand Prix

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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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50 comments on “2017 Monaco Grand Prix track preview”

  1. That is a seriously cool video, well done @keithcollantine for tracking that down. I love the Portier section under the old railway viaduct.

    1. @unicron2002 I only put it in for the music :-)

      1. it was proper class back then. I love how during the GP two folks just casually wonder about in their way to work (I assume).

      2. Yep what a tune, I can see Channel 4 replacing ‘The Chain’ with it this weekend!

      3. Amazing video. I struggle to get your my head around footage that old, and the music!? simpler times indeed.

      4. It’s better than the NBCsN music.

    2. That video needs a man with a sinister mustache doing something dastardly.

      1. Lol…enter Chase Carey!

  2. I appreciate your use of the word ‘trying’ in the first sentence, @keithcollantine.
    “. . . trying to race . . .”, but not necessarily succeeding!

  3. Those barriers are going to feel even close this year in the wider 2017 cars.

    Most important Saturday of the entire year.

  4. Ok…..let’s start the SweepStake….At what lap will Stroll put it in the barrier?

    Maybe a one off addition to the predictions championship?

    I’ll punt for lap…23

    1. Once in second practice around 18 minutes in, in the race on lap 36

      1. @mahuu @ninjenius @geemac @matiascasali

        Looks like GeeMac is in the lead in our un-offical sweep-stake.

        1. Did max do 3 more laps yet? 😁

    2. @mach1

      x = lap number on which Stroll crashes
      y = Stoll’s starting grid position
      z = Palmer’s starting grid position.

      x = |y-z|

      1. Closer Stroll to Palmer fewer laps he is gonna make without crashing….Is that what you wanted to say? LOL

    3. While I’m sure Stroll will have an eventful weekend, having crashed during the race in 2015 and having had 3 crashes over the course of the 2016 race weekend, Max Verstappen has to have pretty short odds on having a crash as well.

    4. About 3 laps before mad max do the same 😁

  5. I love Monaco for the spectacle, but I think they need to rethink the race, either by stopping it entirely or finding a new layout for it. With there being plans in place to reclaim land from the sea and to extend the harbour further, I would like to see a new section of track to extend the circuit

    1. only 1/20; I don’t mind one race like this.

      1. It’s fine with me. It’s like the Paris-Roubaix of F1. It’s weird, it’s old, it’s inappropriate to the equipment, but it’s cool for all those reasons. I could do without all the extra celebrity-worship at this race but whatever.

    2. I like it just the way it is. Hope it never changes.

      1. Me too. Forget the racing, this is a unique challenge for the drivers. It’s only one race of the year, but cue those calling for it to be scrapped through lack of overtakes. Personally, I think it’s great.

        1. Honestly, all we’d have to do to “fix” Monaco is delete te Nieuvelle(sp?) Chicane. Those who complain about safety can be calmly pointed in the direction of Indianapolis, with its 722 further opportunities to put it into a wall at over 300kph.

  6. With Jenson’s deputizing role this weekend McLaren will be the third team after Red Bull and Sauber to have a palindrome pairing since the introduction of driver selected numbers.

    1. Is it correct to add Sauber here?

      2014: Gutierrez (21) and Sutil (99)
      2015: Ericsson (9) and Nasr (12)
      2016: Ericsson (9) and Nasr (12)
      2017: Ericsson (9) and Wehrlien (94)

    2. You need to get out more

      1. @geemac If you put Wehrlien before Ericsson then yes, Sauber can be put on the list.

        @Fran Yes. I know. ;(

  7. a real drivers circuit where pure driver speed can come to the fore . one think I note is Lewis Hamilton having had the most opportunity of anyone in history at this track with the cars he has had at his disposal in 10 year has only won it twice and made many errors on this track. in 2008 he hit the barriers and was lucky to continue and then won, in 2016 a redbull pitstop error gave him the victory – a far cry from his hero who won the race even without best car – ie Ayrton Senna.
    My favourite moments have been so called number 2 drivers performances at this track outperforming their teammate, ie Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg, and Robert Kubica’s Renualt performance in 2009 was killer, every lap perfect an on it. also Jean Alesi comes to mind in the Tyrrell.

    1. You count 2016 against Hamilton yet ignore 2015. If he was luckily gifted in the former he was unluckily robbed in the latter.

    2. kpcart, is that really the case, or is it a myth that is spun to give the race a sense of mystique?

      Over the past 20 years, only two races have been won by a driver who did not drive for either the WCC winning team or the team that came 2nd in the WCC that year – those being Panis in 1996 and Trulli in 2004. You get the same win rate frequency when you extend that back to 30 years, with only three drivers winning with a car that wasn’t either the best or second best on the grid.

      I know that people love to talk up Senna’s victories – as you yourself are doing – but let’s not forget that quite a few of those victories also coincided with a period where he had one of the best, if not the best, car at his disposal on the grid. Equally, by your logic, you should be complaining that two of those victories – in 1992 and 1993 – were pretty much dropped into his lap through the misfortunes of others (Mansell’s puncture in 1992, or Schumacher’s engine failure and Prost’s penalty whilst leading in 1993).

      Equally, in retrospect, was Kubica’s success in 2009 that surprising? He’d already come off the back of a reasonably strong set of results, and Monaco wasn’t even his best result that season (he’d picked up 2nd in Australia only a few races earlier). Was his performance that miraculous, or was it actually a reasonably good car and he was flattered by Petrov underperforming, thus making his performances look even greater?

      1. Equally, in retrospect, was Kubica’s success in 2009 that surprising?

        Yes, it was very surprising because he drove for BMW Sauber that year ;)

      2. Over the past 20 years, only two races have been won by a driver who did not drive for either the WCC winning team or the team that came 2nd in the WCC that year – those being Panis in 1996 and Trulli in 2004.

        And Maldonado at Barcelona in 2012.

        1. Charlie Watts
          23rd May 2017, 17:30

          He or she means at Monaco. There have been plenty occasions in the last 20 years where the team not finishing into the top 2 in the WCC won races.

        2. The 1996 Monaco GP has to be one of the craziest and best GP’s in history. I still have never seen a GP quite like that one, with the possible exception of Interlagos ’03.

          1. Try Monaco 1982, surely the craziest ending to any grand prix

    3. I’d say Monaco is almost the opposite of a circuit where driver skill, or even car, is paramount. It’s a circuit where dumb luck plays a bigger role than at most other tracks. That’s its charm and also its weakness. Of all the races this year, this is the one McLaren have the best chance of winning. If they can get in front somehow or other, perhaps via some rain/pit stop chaos, the nature of the track makes passing virtually impossible.

    4. So, in short: Hamilton is bad driver, right?

      There so much luck involved in winning in Monaco – as others have pointed out before me – that singling out Hamilton for not having a string of wins here is dubious.

  8. Monaco is often more spectacular on the Saturday than the race but there have been a few classics, l just hope we don’t have that apaling procession we had a few years back where everyone drove at 80% to save the tyres.
    As long as they drive Monaco on the edge like Senna, Bellof, Villeneuve, Alboreto etc l will be more than happy.

    1. I have yet to see a historic race where tire and/or fuel consumption didn’t play a part. I remember an interview with Sir Stirling at Le Mans a few years ago, where he complained that in his day, you never raced flat out– you raced just fast enough to win, but not fast enough to destroy your car / tires / etc., and that due to advances in technology, Le Mans *could* be raced flat out for 24 hours.

  9. They don’t need to because the car behind can’t overtake anyway

    1. l presume your sun bathing on Sunday afternoon then?

  10. I expect MB to struggle here. Long wheelbase car, heavy, not a good recipe for this kind of track. Hamilton was not even using a drink bottle in Spain to save weight, which must have been brutal. Monaco is often a full 2hr race so I’m not sure he’ll try that again, but it underlines that MB have a weight problem. I also suspect they sacrificed some more weight gain again to get the new narrower nose for the aero benefit, which is why the team probably told him no water.

    RBR could be back in front here. I expect the car to come with some crazy monster-truck ground clearance at the back again. Last year the car looked like it was being wheeled from behind with a dolly. It seems to work to maximize low speed downforce—use the whole car as a spoiler. Ricciardo was also seriously unhappy about last year, and he’s coming with some fire.

    1. They shortened the W08’s wheelbase for Spain. Weight’s going to be a non-issue because it’s a mechanical grip limited track– they’ve got far more HP/torque than they can possibly use.

  11. This is one of the few true driver’s tracks still left on the calendar. I wish there were more street races like this, where one little mistake can put you out of the race.

  12. @keithcollantine Great article as always, thank you. A small correction, if I may: the map is wrong. Casino square turn is a flowing right hander not the extra sharp right as it looks on the map

  13. “Mercedes will be on the back foot with a long wheelbase car, Ferrari with short wheelbase will in and Red Bull will challenge Mercedes”. We are all saying this like we know what were talking about. Mercedes are likely to get a 1-2 for qualy and race! At the end od the day How do we know? All i know is that anything can happen at Monaco and just enjoy it for what it is!

  14. I love this race, although its usually decided on the Saturday, overtaking is virtually impossible on the track, but that will not stop somebody attempting to overtake out of the tunnel, with 90% chance of failure!

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