Lap Time Watch: Why a longer Monaco GP could be a better race

2017 Monaco Grand Prix

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Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest pole position time ever seen at Monaco as Formula One continued its assault on the record books.

But although F1 hit its target to lower lap times by five seconds at the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago, Monaco saw the smallest gain in performance compared to 2015 so far. Lap times have improved by just under three seconds.

This can partly be explained by the fact Monaco is one of the shortest laps of the year. For the same reason we can expect similarly modest gains at upcoming races in Canada and Austria, where lap times were even lower last year.

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The revisions to Tabac two years ago have also contributed a small amount to the improvement in lap times. Nonetheless, the fact nine drivers from six different teams lapped under Sebastian Vettel’s 2011 record time from the previous iteration of the track is impressive. And two drivers from two other teams – Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault and Jenson Button’s McLaren – were just a tenth off beating it too.

With the cars lapping this much quicker, has the time come to consider whether it’s still necessary for Monaco to have a reduced race distance?

A longer race could create more strategic possibilities
Unlike every other track on the calendar the Monaco Grand Prix is run to a minimum distance of 260 kilometres instead of the usual 305. The slow pace of the track has previously meant a full race distance would usually take longer than the maximum two-hour time limit.

The improving pace of the cars means this is less likely to be a problem. The 2015 race took just under an hour and 50 minutes to complete, including a six-lap Safety Car period. This year’s lap time gain of almost three seconds per lap should knock up to four minutes off the race time.

Extending the Monaco Grand Prix to the normal 305km distance would mean adding another 14 laps. The race would have to stay green throughout to have the best chance of being completed within the allotted two hours, but the Singapore Grand Prix is already in a similar situation.

Increasing the race distance would make the race a greater challenge for the drivers and strategists. Tyre wear is low at Monaco and drivers are expected to be able to run around 80 laps on the softest available tyres. That would obviously be more of a challenge if instead of 78 laps the race ran for 92.

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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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19 comments on “Lap Time Watch: Why a longer Monaco GP could be a better race”

  1. I wouldn’t lengthen it if any SC threatens finishing the race distance. Give the high probability of having one I’d surely lengthen the race with 2 laps to 80. Just because that’s a round number.

    1. What about 100 then?

    2. I actually think it would add another interesting element to the race and to strategy – we’ve seen it at Singapore as well.

      Today it might have really made a difference, I think those that did stop during the SC might have actually gotten some benefit from their new tyres if the others had to cope with really bad tyres towards the end. And Keith’s prediction of the race duration came pretty close to reality, it could do with at least another 8 laps to make it last the full time.

      1. @bascb, it looks like the race pace today was around the 1m16s mark per lap – with the safety car period we saw today, which wasn’t especially long (seven laps), I believe that the race would have actually hit the 2 hour time limit before it would have hit 92 laps.

  2. Monaco should be 100 laps like it used to be!

  3. I’d make it 305 for all.
    Great to see the extra strategy and endurance challenge in Monaco.

  4. “Increasing the race distance would make the race a greater challenge for the drivers and strategists.”
    Increasing the race distance would do that on every single track. But why do that?

    Let’s not prolong the agony of watching this boring race. If anything, Monaco is the place where it would make sense to conduct 2 shorter races.

    Nah, you know what? Let’s make it shorter – let’s make it 200km and be over with it.

    1. Two shorter races? Couldn’t possibly more disagree. Monaco is all about resilience, determination and fatigue. For decades Monaco often produced stunning races. Some don’t like it but making two short races would just kill all the fun.

      1. “Monaco is all about resilience, determination and fatigue.”
        Sounds like an advertisment from the 1950’s. Not much of that goes through the TV whether it’s 260km, 305km, or 200km though. And it’s nor much more true of Monaco than it is of any other GP these days really.
        In 1969 however – yes – those words made sense back then:

        “For decades Monaco often produced stunning races. ”
        Yup. For decades… decades ago. Not these days.

        Each year for over 20 years I’ve been getting excited for the Monaco GP and getting my hopes crushed down when the races settle down after the first 2 laps and it becomes a tedious procession.

      2. @spoutnik, back in the late 1960’s, the race was actually shorter in terms of total distance than it is today – in 1968, they cut the race distance to 250km (whereas now it is 260km).

        Even in that era, there were many other races on the calendar which were more physically demanding – in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, for example, the Circuit de Charade was so physically demanding that some drivers were, according to Hulme, suffering from such severe motion sickness that they were vomiting in the race itself, leading a number of drivers, such as Rindt and Hulme, to use open faced helmets in case they needed to vomit during the race.

  5. Trivia time: 1 000 000 feet = 304.8km

  6. Food for thought: With 2017 cars being 20cm wider, a corner with an effective radius of 20 meters in 2016 just became a corner with a radius of 19.80 meters in 2017, a 1% difference. With a radius of 10 meters, thats a 2% difference. In other tracks this matters less, but in Monaco pretty much all corners are tighter than 20 meters in radius.
    So the track just got that much twistier in 2017.

  7. How about increasing the laptime by extending the circuit? A nice long straight blasting down the third side of the harbour from Rascasse with a hairpin at the end could add an overtaking spot too. You’d have to do a bit of reprofiling at the end as the return road is at a slightly higher level, but I’m sure the authorities could sort something out.

    1. It would be very hard to break away from the classical track lay-out that has had almost 100 years of history.
      The inaugural race was held in 1929.

      I love the idea of a longer track though. And at least from the point of view of street availability it’s doable:

    2. That’s a funny idea to think about !,7.4226104,3a,75y,325.52h,79.57t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sDG5ctYdcLGR_BCwnwCGllg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

      You could imagine going past the Rascasse until the end of that side of the harbour, using the “Quai Albert 1er”, a nice hairpin at the end with overtaking possibilities, then taking another tunnel (“Tunnel d’accès à la digue”), leading back to the “avenue de la Quarantaine” that would make an awesome not-so-straight line with a huge drop in altitude at the end, connecting to the start-finish line by another hairpin

      Obviously it won’t happen (and I guess there would also be huge logistics issues at stake here) … But such high speed sections would be quite a sight !

  8. I agree about increasing the challenge via increasing the race distance. I feel that Singapore might have taken Monaco’s crown for being the toughest race of the year, Singapore is wider on average but still has a number of tight corners which have caught out many drivers, it’s longer in track and race length, and the overall conditions are more hostile towards the cars and the drivers. With Singapore setting new standards, perhaps increasing the length of the Monaco GP would be an improvement in elevating its challenge.

    Even though Monaco and Singapore are not known for putting on exciting races, the calendar needs these two races for their challenge alone, sometimes the focus should be on challenging the teams and drivers rather than entertaining the fans.

  9. Well actually we need to drop Monaco from the Calender, It’s way past its use by date.

    1. @johnrkh I really dig the idea of getting rid of the Monaco GP. A racing track where a regural overtake is simply impossible has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to offer to F1 race-wise. But it is more possible for a meteorite to hit the Earth and completely destroy it than Monaco GP to be removed from the calendar.

      And the reasons are pretty obvious and of course not related at all with racing itself.

  10. Great venue however it was the most boring F1 race to date from a spectators point of view. Time to find another location or at least modify the track so overtaking is possible.

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