Button’s back! Four Monaco GP talking points

2017 Monaco Grand Prix

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One world champion is returning to take the place of another at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix. Here’s the top talking points for the race.

Champion subs for champion

Whether Jenson Button intended to conclude or pause his F1 career when he climbed out of the cockpit at Yas Marina six months ago, he’s back for a final fling.

There have been many rumours that the 2009 world champion is less than thrilled about being pressed into service as an understudy while Fernando Alonso is racing in the Indianapolis 500. It’s not hard to imagine why returning to drive a McLaren which is even less competitive than the one he had at the end of last season may not be an attractive prospect.

But McLaren have played down the claims which were put about by, among others, Mark Webber. Certainly Button can expect McLaren won’t be quite as far off the pace at Monaco as usual. The team is bringing more chassis updates this weekend and the Honda’s lack of power will be less of a disadvantage here. Reliability remains a significant question mark, however.

For Stoffel Vandoorne this should be an opportunity to be the leading McLaren in the race. But the three-place grid penalty he picked up in Spain will compromise his efforts.

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Closest fight so far?

Can Red Bull get on terms with these two?
One of the most enjoyable aspects of this season is it’s not immediately obvious who is going to have the upper hand at each weekend. And Monaco could be the closest call yet.

There’s no doubt Mercedes’ upgrade at the Spanish Grand Prix raised their level. However it remains to be seen how well their long W08 will operate around Monaco’s many short, tight bends compared to Ferrari’s shorter SF70H. Pirelli’s decision to lower the minimum starting tyre pressures is also expected to play into Ferrari’s hands.

But how close will Red Bull be? In Spain their updated car qualified 0.557 seconds off pole position. That’s much closer than they had been over the first four races and closer than they were in Spain last year – following which Daniel Ricciardo took pole position in Monaco.

Saturday session may well decide the winner of the Monaco Grand Prix. The last two pole sitters did not win this race, but that was chiefly down to tactical errors. Expect a fierce fight in qualifying.

The traffic factor

Traffic is always a problem for the front runners and it’s always worst at Monaco. But this year it’s going to be even tougher.

The increased width of the cars will make it especially difficult for the front runners to find space to lap their rivals within Monaco’s tight confines.

And there’s another problem: The ‘slow’ cars aren’t all that slow this year. Last week Daniil Kvyat qualified last on the grid in Spain but was only 2.2 seconds off the fastest time in Q1.

This year’s cars also produce more turbulence, which makes it harder for the front runners to get close to backmarkers. As blue flags are not shown until the leader gets within a second of the car ahead, it can take time for the front runners to get the help they need. It all adds up to Monaco’s traffic problems being worse than usual.

The other big race

The Indianapolis 500 is another great racing spectacle
One of the biggest stories around this year’s Monaco Grand Prix is the absence of one of F1’s biggest stars. Alonso’s Indianapolis 500 plans have drawn huge attention.

He’s had a successful month of May so far. Alonso will line up in the middle of the second row of the grid and should be in contention from victory, which will be a welcome change from the struggles he’s endured so far this year.

Comparisons between the two great races are inevitably going to be drawn and statements made about which was ‘better’. But these can only be unfair. Monaco is by far F1’s slowest race, Indianapolis is one of IndyCar’s fastest.

Both are tremendous spectacles in their own right. It’s tremendously exciting to see McLaren competing in both on the some day. Let’s savour them both, and hope this isn’t the last time we see a top driver switching between the two great series.

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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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25 comments on “Button’s back! Four Monaco GP talking points”

  1. The other contributor to the “traffic” problems is the fact that the cars are 20cm wider !! That means 40cm more space required to overtake and its not exactly the widest track in the world….

    1. That’s what the article says:

      The increased width of the cars will make it especially difficult for the front runners to find space to lap their rivals within Monaco’s tight confines.

    2. Having two less cars might help a bit with traffic this year mind.

    3. Fukobayashi (@)
      24th May 2017, 16:22

      That’s the first problem mentioned in the article.

  2. Mystic Megg here and I predict NO PASSING and thats a forecast for the full year.

    1. I think you are wrong. I see Max squeezing his car through gaps smaller then thought possible. As for the rest, prepare for a nice neat line from pole to flag

      1. Agree with MB here. Last year Max was able to get from 22 to 9 before he crashed out. Granted, had he taken less of a gamble, he would’ve not crashed out and maybe ended up in this position. And the wet weather was helping him a lot, but still… there are possibilities, although I don’t see Hamilton throwing his car next to Vettel’s for the win, since he needs those 18 points more than a possible DNF. If you’re already coming from the back like Max did, you’ve nothing to lose.

      2. I see Max squeezing his car between gaps that aren’t big enough for his car, and failing to finish Monaco three years running.


      3. mmmmmmmmmm…..wake me up when Verstappen starts overtaking moves.
        Don’t bother waking me when Button’s car packs up on lap twelve…….zzzzzzzzzzzzzz
        Great race….really enjoyed it…….who was it you said had won …….?

        1. Don’t cut yourself on all that edge :)

  3. Kieth, any pictures of this new ‘huge’ kerb at the swimming pool chicane?

      1. Yikes…enough to scare an Alonso away.

      2. and apparently I made a link out of my entire comment, well as long as it works

        1. @johnmilk Funny to see how F1 now also learns from Formula E, since this exact same curb was introduced during the Monaco ePrix recently.

        2. You can see a fan wrote ‘Go Kimi’ on it.
          Probably the little fan from Barcelona, or his dad (they’re French) ;)

          1. Ah! Very clever actually. He might spot it during the track walk

  4. Four talking points ahead of the Monaco GP and one of them is the Indy 500. Man, Alonso has you all by the throats (or testies).

    1. @hahostolze It’s not really the Indy 500 itself, as it’s Alonso missing out on the Monaco GP and him driving the Indy 500. Fact 1: Alonso is a current F1 driver who otherwise would’ve driven the Monaco GP. Fact 2: He is widely regarded as one of the, if not the, best currently active F1 driver. Fact 3: He is a two-time world champion, which raises his public status.

      So yeah, when Alonso farts it’s news. You can either read it, or not. ;-)

      1. I didn’t luckily. But this is the best and most fascinating F1 season in years. And here Alonso is, being the talking point regardless. His PR must be amazing, because people still talk about him. He was world champion in 2006, more than a decade ago. Fact 2, is a fact, a fact about subjective opinions. I am seriously impressed by the grasp Alonso has on F1, that he garners this much attention. Compare it with other people who tried to cross over sports when at the peak of their abilities, and the negative attention that got. F1 somehow seems to have a serious inferiority complex.

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      24th May 2017, 15:33

      Or you could reject tribalism and stop having to argue that “your thing” is better than “other things.” If you’re not interested in Indy or Alonso, why are you annoyed by it? Is it because you think Monaco will be worse for Alonso not being there or because you feel you have to defend F1?

      Alonso doesn’t have me by the throat but at the same time, I’ll admit I don’t watch Indycar usually and am very excited about this race. I wouldn’t probably bother if Alonso wasn’t involved…

      I am interested in sport rather than the “reality entertainment” that lots get involved in. I don’t care if drivers like or hate each other, whether they are “happy” or whether the sponsors or businessmen who own F1 like it or not. I care purely about the sport.

      In this case, I’m very interested to see how someone that is perceived by many as one of the best racing drivers on the planet can get on in a series he’s never raced in at the Indy 500.

  5. Awesome, it’s like an old-school 80s kerb! It would be great if they put it back in at the harbour chicane too. Or is there one there too, I can’t remember.

  6. I really like Keith’s, “comparisons between the two great races are inevitably going to be drawn and statements made about which was ‘better’. But these can only be unfair. Monaco is by far F1’s slowest race, Indianapolis is one of IndyCar’s fastest.”

    I think there are a few more differences than speed, in fact, I can’t think of two more different races!

  7. In before Massa or Stroll ruin one of the front runner’s race.

    1. The Mercedes is supposed to not be very good around Monaco because it has the longest wheel-base. Ipso facto, the car with the shortest wheel-base should be very good around Monaco. And the car with the shortest wheel-base is … Williams.
      Stroll for the win :)

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