Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Monaco, 2018

Ricciardo wins the great Monaco go-slow show

2018 Monaco Grand Prix review

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The outcome of the Monaco Grand Prix was far more intriguing than the events which produced it, at least as far as Sunday’s action was concerned.

Daniel Ricciardo established his credentials as a genuine championship contender. He did so at the expense of his team mate, who looked every bit as capable of winning this race until he smashed his car up in the final practice session, ensuring he would start from last place.

But the race itself was a deeply unsatisfying affair, run at pedestrian speeds by F1 standards as Pirelli’s much-vaunted new tyre failed to do the job.

Thrills on Saturday

Pole position at Monaco is of paramount importance. Yet for a variety of reasons the last three consecutive pole sitters had failed to win the race.

Ricciardo had been one of the unlucky three. He was on course for victory in 2016 when a shambolic Red Bull pit stop harpooned an otherwise faultless run.

That was one of few occasions Ricciardo’s dependably sunny demeanour vanished. It was a bitter result for a driver who clicked with Monaco the very first time he drove it, scoring back-to-back wins in the Formula Renault 3.5 support races in 2010 and 2011.

Red Bull arrived at the Principality knowing this was one of their best chances for victory this year. While Ricciardo headed both practice sessions on Thursday, Verstappen was a clear threat. There was almost nothing to choose between their sector times.

In Saturday’s final hour of practice Verstappen led the way to begin with. But as has been the case too often already this year, Verstappen made a misjudgement. To his credit he didn’t try to excuse this one, but it was costly enough.

Thereafter Ricciardo put a stranglehold on proceedings. He was quickest in all three phases of qualifying and set two lap times quick enough for pole position, the only driver to manage a sub-71 second lap. His start was flawless, and he coped admirably with having no MGU-K for almost two-thirds of the race.

The power unit problem forced Ricciardo to radically change his braking set-up and cope with a significant loss of performance. That he was able to overcome this and deliver the victory he’d been robbed of two years ago should have made for a tremendous story.

But it was hard to shake the feeling this had been sub-par as a sporting spectacle. There was one clear reason for this.

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Tedium on Sunday

Start, Monaco, 2018
Sunday was short on spectacle
Monaco is an outrageous circuit. It is preposterously narrow, yet very quick in places with little run-off. Qualifying was a joy to behold as drivers danced between the barriers and well over a second was chopped off the previous track record.

But all that drama disappeared in the race.

When cars fuel up for the start of a grand prix they inevitably begin the race lapping much slower than in qualifying. In Azerbaijan, the last street circuit they visited, nine laps into the race drivers were lapping around 6% slower than qualifying pace.

In Monaco the corresponding difference was almost 9%. In relative terms the scale of that increase is huge – almost 50% slower. But you didn’t need a timing screen to see how much more slowly the drivers were going.

Everywhere they were steering well clear of the barriers and nursing some very ugly-looking Pirelli rubber. Pre-race fears the new hyper-soft compound wouldn’t last long had been realised, and many found the ultra-soft didn’t hold up well either.

The intention behind having rubber which degrades quickly is that it will encourage drivers to make more pit stops (multiple-stop strategies having been incorrectly defined as an essential element of good races). But making an extra pit stop means falling behind other cars. No one wants to do that in Monaco, where the lap time advantage needed to overtake is so huge that staying out on destroyed tyres is a worthwhile strategy.

When all the drivers converge on that strategy the result is a tedious race. Cue the depressing, knee-jerk calls for this unique, historic track – which will turn 90 next year – to be overhauled.

Change Monaco? No: the track was and is great. it has given us tremendous drama in the past, little of which has involved overtaking. Change the tyres: give the drivers some rubber they can actually drive on.

Would that produce more overtaking? Of course not. But at least we’ll get to enjoy watching F1 drivers pushing their cars to the limit again. Those who want to tear up the harbour in the hope of turning every Monaco Grand Prix into the Daytona 500 can learn to live with their disappointment.

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A sour race for McLaren

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, Monaco, 2018
Alonso’s points-scoring streak ended
McLaren achieved their best grid position of the season in Monaco. But for the first time this year they failed to score in the race.

This was a bitter setback at a track which should have suited them. Yet both drivers had their races compromised by reliability problems, both of which may have originated in the gearbox.

Stoffel Vandoorne went into qualifying with a fault the team knew it had no time to fix, and had good cause to think that without it he would have joined Fernando Alonso in Q3. In the race Alonso’s car stopped – McLaren’s second retirement in as many races.

Esteban Ocon turned in a fine ‘best of the rest’ performance to bag useful points for Force India. The pink cars are closing on the orange ones for fifth place in the championship.

Renault, courtesy of another double points finish, edge further ahead in fourth. But Carlos Sainz Jnr was seriously unimpressed at being told to wave Nico Hulkenberg through during the race as his team mate was on fresher, faster tyres. So much so that when his radio went silent his team asked him if it had broken. “I just don’t want to talk,” Sainz answered tersely.

He had good reason to feel slighted. After all if the massive tyre degradation and Ricciardo’s MGU-K failure had demonstrated anything, it was that there’s no upper limit to how slowly a driver can lap Monaco with little threat of being overtaken.

The rise of Ricciardo

Ricciardo’s victory leaves him 38 points behind leader Lewis Hamilton and 24 behind Sebastian Vettel. With a Renault power unit upgrade coming at the next race he retains a realistic chance of being a contender for the championship.

His second victory in four races also raises vital questions about his future at Red Bull. The team has already committed to Verstappen, who despite his protestations to the contrary is still yet to deliver a clean weekend this season.

Ricciardo’s stock has arguably never been higher. On this kind of form, who would pass up the chance to put his name on a contract for 2019?

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Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Monaco, 2018
Ricciardo celebrated with a traditional Red Bull Monaco pool plunge

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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45 comments on “Ricciardo wins the great Monaco go-slow show”

  1. He had good reason to feel slighted. After all if the massive tyre degradation and Ricciardo’s MGU-K failure had demonstrated anything, it was that there’s no upper limit to how slowly a driver can lap Monaco with little threat of being overtaken.

    Sainz soon got overtaken by Verstappen though. I thought it was absolutely the right call by the team.

    1. @george
      Yep. It was either team orders or risking to lose both places to Verstappen. Additionally, Sainz was so far behind the top three that it made sense to let Hülkenberg close the gap, so as to be able to gain a place or two in case one of the cars ahead ran into minor (non-DNF) trouble, i.e. a spin, collision, penalty, or an additional pit stop. That didn’t happen, but this entire GP was full of potential events that failed to materialise, but might’ve happened on any other day.

    2. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
      30th May 2018, 16:21

      considering how quickly Hülkenberg paced away from Sainz, in a normal race, he could probably have challenged Gasly

  2. Again with blaming the tyres? Bottas had a wonderfully racy set but it didn’t change the fact that he couldn’t get within half a second of the car in-front despite being seconds a lap faster in clean air. Cars can’t follow wing-to-wing and it’s a problem, it’s been obvious since the season opener.

    They went the wrong direction with the 2017 aero changes and it’s only getting worse as teams develop more winglets. What’s laughable is that certain teams (*cough* Red Bull) don’t want to fix the situation ASAP. They should let this podium be Newey’s swan song and signal the end of an era.

    1. @skipgamer, you make a fair point re wings but you must also realise that the drivers could cope with the lack of ultimate grip in another cars wake but the tyres can’t, so no point in racing nose to tail for a couple of laps because even if you make a pass you will have to pit again for new rubber.

      1. I don’t believe it. If Vettel was able to get close enough to Ricciardo to get a slip stream on the start-finish straight or through the tunnel of course he would have, no matter the cost to the tyres. He wouldn’t have passed and then said “oh now i need to pit for fresh rubber!” that’s a bit silly.

        1. @skipgamer Turbulent air preventing cars following closely has never really been a problem at Monaco because of how slow most of the corners are. It’s really only Tabac, The 1st part of the swimming pool & to an extent massanet/Casino where following another car is difficult.

          Turbulent air only really starts to badly affect following cars in medium/high speed corners where the cars are most reliant on downforce. In slow speed corners it’s much less of an issue which is why you tend to get the most overtaking on parts of tracks that feature a slow corner that leads onto a straight, Cars can follow through the slow corners so are better positioned leading onto the straight to pick up a good tow.

          Even in lower categories like F2 which has less downforce & Even back when F3 & GP3 ran at Monaco with even less downforce there isn’t/wasn’t much more overtaking despite those cars been able to follow one another much closer because that isn’t the thing that limits overtaking opportunities at Monaco.

          1. “Cars can follow through the slow corners so are better positioned leading onto the straight to pick up a good tow.”

            Yet they couldn’t follow at all. I’m not saying there’s going to be overtaking every lap, or that the track is great for overtaking… Ofcourse it’s not, but it’s the same as Melbourne, there has usually been an opportunity or two to at least get close and try something in a faster car. These cars can’t do anything once they get within half a second of another, it’s like they stop working or something.

          2. @skipgamer They could follow, The problem at Monaco is that the cars can actually follow too closely through the corners leading to the best overtaking spots because of how slow/tight they are.

            If you watch in-car shots of the cars through the portier section or through the final few corners, The car behind can follow within a few inches of the car ahead, However due to this the car behind is always having to delay getting back on the throttle which allows the car ahead to pull an advantage onto the straights.
            You also often see the driver ahead overslowing his car through the apex of those corners & then gun it on the exit which forces the following car to have to hesitate getting back on the throttle which allows the car ahead to pull a gap onto the straight. It’s the same sort of thing you see on SC restarts, The lead car controlling the pace & accelerating suddenly to catch the following car out & pull a bit of a gap.

            It’s the same reason the chicane before the final corner at Barcelona hasn’t worked to improve overtaking, The exit is too slow/tight. A car behind can get close to a car ahead through it but the car ahead always has the advantage when it comes to getting back on the throttle so is able to pull a gap leading onto the straight.
            You see the same sort of problem with Indycar at Long Beach, Cars can run right behind one another through the hairpin but cars behind always lose ground on the exit as there having to wait before getting back on the gas. The straight running down to Turn 1 at Long Beach however is long enough that there able to gain back the time via the tow before getting to the next turn.

        2. @skipgamer, yes, it would be silly, which is why none of the top 5 tried it.

    2. Keith’s point seemed to be not that faster, more durable tyres would have improved the ability for teams to overtake more (or at least much more) or even that it would improve the racing, but that better tyres would have allowed them to push during the race. In my view, Monaco is a race that has never been about somebody chasing someone down and overtaking them, but about the skill and bravery of driving near the limit on the most unforgiving of tracks.

      When Ricciardo first had his MGU-K issue, and Vettel was pushing from behind, that made for fascinating viewing – even though the ultimate pace had dropped. That was partly because of the larger implications for the race and championship, partly because of 2016 and Ricciardo’s flawless weekend until that point, but mostly because suddenly it became clear that the drivers were really pushing.

      Bad aero is an issue at all races, but while it limits overtaking at most tracks it doesn’t prevent drivers for really going fast, albeit further back than they or we would like. Bad tyres, though, remove much that is great about F1 at Monaco. I watch F1 for the racing and technology. I watch Monaco for the driving – and if a race happens to break out, so much the better.

      Teams have special parts for certain tracks – special wings for Monza, special steering racks for Monaco – and I don’t see why Pirelli can’t have special tyres for Monaco. If the track will never allow for great racing, at least give the drivers what they need to provide the spectacle of great driving.

      1. It wasn’t the tyres that were slowing them down though. Put any of those cars on the exact same tyres for the same amount of laps in clean air and they would have been able to push.

        Sure, fix the tyres… I actually wouldn’t mind seeing Michelins or Bridgestones, just to see if the cars would have the same problems and if the racing would be the same. My bet is it would be.

        1. Some suggestions on other sites for making it rain or flooding the track or …..??
          Why does Pirelli deliver super sticky tyres for this race.? So the cars are faster.?? So what, there are so many marbles that no one can go off line and stay on the track, let alone pass.
          When we had Michelins and no tyre changes, they were hard enough that there weren’t any marbles and passing was easier and possible. Don’t get me wrong, I am not promoting going to no tyre changes, just asking what is wrong with forcing the use of less grippy, longer lasting tyres that don’t produce as many marbles. It will still be a one-stop race, but the drivers will need to actually drive and manage the cars. A less than totally artificial means of stirring things up.

        2. @skipgamer Not sure how you can not blame the tires, since it is all they talked about all weekend, and after the race it is what LH and SV both lamented about their day. As soon as Seb got close to DR he said his car started to slide. LH basically said it was an excercise in preventing as much graining in the fronts as possible.

          1. It’s the symptom, not the cause. Sigh…

      2. @bookgrub: Well stated.

        But why stop at special tyres? Why not special cars too? Shorter, lighter, narrower with manual gearboxes and no MGU-Ks!

        Monaco is about the bling, the glamour and extravagance – nothing says F1 extravagance like a purpose-built one-race-only car. Make it happen, Liberty – give every team a $50 million Monaco allowance.

        1. And more diamonds on the cars.

        2. @jimmi-cynic The gearboxes are already manual, though. The only real difference is that they’re changing the gears by two paddles using their fingers rather than taking one hand off the wheel like in a road car, but the point is that transmission is ‘technically’ manual as long as you’re changing gears yourself regardless of how you do it.

          1. @jerejj: Let me rephrase – foot operated clutch with as, @hohum suggests, a diamond-encrusted, hand-operated gear change lever. And diamonds on the soles of their shoes for chic heel and toe style.

    3. @skipgamer For Bottas he did have to make up a significant gap to Kimi before being in a position to even think about a pass and the tyres let him do that however, by the end of the race the supersofts looked almost as bad as the ultrasofts! If Bottas had come out of the pitstops closer to Kimi it might have been more interesting.

  3. @keithcollantine, Good to have you onboard.

  4. Duncan Idaho (@)
    29th May 2018, 0:50

    I’m sure that Pirelli do their math to match the different tyre performance vs life with a range of finish strategies but it doesn’t seem that there’s enough tools in the arsenal in Monaco. As it’s a unique track perhaps it needs a unique FIA tyre policy.
    1. Allow teams to run a single tyre – just make sure the Q2 tyres can’t do the whole race.
    2. Guarantee all teams a set of each hardness for the start of the race – that teams didn’t have enough to run either harder compound in FP pretty much guaranteed they all know that it’ll be a one stop.

  5. Pirelli’s tyres are broken for many seasons now. The intention was that:

    1) The tyres would have enough delta difference so that for example a 2 stop vs 1 stop could work.
    2) When the tyres reach the end of their life, the cliff should be very damaging, like 2 or 3 seconds per lap, so that you can’t just nurse them and defend.

    None of these 2 conditions are valid for quite some time. It’s time to move to more durable tyres and simplify the compounds.

    1. @afonic The tyres are already very durable, though. A lot more durable than they were from 2011 to ’16.

      1. We wouldn’t know, they just push them as much as they are allowed in order to keep them alive. Certainly they are more durable that before but the most common radio message after a pit stop is not “go get him”, it is “take care of those tyres, we are taking them to the end”.

  6. Ricciardo wins the great Monaco go-slow show

    The rhymes in that title, though – Ricciardo wins the great Monaco goslow show

    Ho ho ho.

  7. @keithcollantine, is no-one talking about the fact that the Force Indias waved through both Mercedes? I was so shocked. This is so bad for racing!

    1. @shimks I was surprised, but not much though. It actually portraits (as has been argued in other posts) the need for blue flags when it comes to factory teams and their junior or customer teams.

    2. @shimks Because this is a non-story to those of us who have been watching Formula 1 for many years! A Mercedes Junior Driver in a Mercedes customer car, in a team where we may see that relationship get even closer……… Toro Rosso / Red Bull would be exactly the same and so would Sauber / Ferrari. It’s a non-story.

    3. The reason they waved the mercedes cars through was because they didn’t want to kill their tyres fighting with both Hamilton and bottas. And their strategy worked well finishing in 6th place. Maybe force India know how to go racing just a little bit more than you?

      1. Ads, is there really any need to be rude?

  8. I do not think you will ever solve the problem with Monaco.
    Current rules “You must use 2 different tyre compounds”.
    So teams will always 1 stop. We’ve all seen the Senna \ Mansell clip. Track position is the key.
    If they could get away with not stopping at all, they would.
    Quite frankly with all the money spent on that circuit, I’m surprised that they still leave the bump in the road after Casino and before Mirabeau. I don’t think flattening it would help an overtake into Mirabeau, but you never know.
    Anyway, for the last free to air race of Monaco in the UK, I enjoyed it.

  9. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    29th May 2018, 9:12

    I know I’ve moaned about these things before, but that picture with Ricciardo. Only about 3 or 4 people are actually watching the moment with their own eyes. Everybody else watching it through a screen as if they are not there. I may be in the minority but I think that is a bit sad really. From some scientific experiments that have been done, you usually remember things better if you watch them for real. I know if you record it, you will be able to look back, but unless you look over your camera, you won’t have a real life memory of the exact image of it. I’m not sure why so many people use their phones. They may watch it for real at the time then watch video’s that often get uploaded on Youtube with decent camera rather than a phone.

    I guess the reason will be that people like their own copy of things. But when I see spectators of F1 on my TV, it seems so many of them just record and take pictures on their phone at the start of the race. I sometimes wonder why they don’t just watch it and then view professional replays without the barriers in the way when they get home.

    Call me grumpy about this if you like, but it’s just my opinion :D

    1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
      29th May 2018, 9:17

      Just to add, I’ve never been to see F1 for real, but have been to some motor sport events. And the thing that puts me off F1 is exactly what annoys me here. In the crowd, I to often have people hold up their phones to record infront of my face :D It just blocks the view. It is even worse in concerts when people start recording it all and you have multiple bright screens in a dark room blocking your site of the band.

    2. +1 to this, @thegianthogweed

      The other question is how many of them actually go back and savour what they recorded/clicked. Sometimes you should just live the moment and not worry about posterity (does not apply if you’re a professional photographer).

    3. @thegianthogweed you’re not alone on this. I understand that some people might want to have a video (maybe just to send it to friends), but I don’t think they need to have the phone in front of their faces to record it. They’re paying a lot of money and not fully enjoying some of the key moments of that experience just so that they can have a low quality recording which I’m sure they’ll watch once, tops.

    4. @thegianthogweed Absolutely this! It’s a disease of modern-life and not related to motor-sport. For the specific example above I don’t understand why you would not just watch and then go find one of the MANY professionally taken pictures, for all the idiots on their phones above I hope they see this picture and realise what a bunch of plonkers they look like! A waste of a potential memory.

  10. That pool image, though.

  11. I think one of the problems is actually the available points positions.

    These days, the top 10 effectively get told to hold station as the points are too valuable and there’s quite often a fair gap to the rest after (say) P8.

    Consequently, pit stops, strategies etc are not geared to be attacking for about 1/2 the field. If we recognise that the bottom two or 3 are effectively “nowhere”, then there’s actually very few that are in a position where they need to go on a massive attack to try to get among the points.

    Maybe if we made it harder for teams to get points and widened the points gap from p3 onwards, we’d create more incentive for teams to try alternate tyre strategies and try a few overtake risks.

  12. Those who want to tear up the harbour in the hope of turning every Monaco Grand Prix into the Daytona 500 can learn to live with their disappointment.

    Part of me thinks nothing drastic is even required. Remove the chicane after the tunnel and make it one big DRS zone. You will see some incredibly dicey overtakes going into the swimming pool section….

    1. I think the chicane is a safety precaution and so unlikely to be removed. Without the drivers would spend an awfully long time driving full throttle at a packed grandstand otherwise. Imagine Leclerc’s brake failure in a hypothetical 2018 Monaco GP without the chicane, would have been pretty damn severe.

  13. @keithcollantine I didn’t see any team radio articles this year, are they gone? Why?

    1. Good point … why is that ?

  14. He had good reason to feel slighted. After all if the massive tyre degradation and Ricciardo’s MGU-K failure had demonstrated anything, it was that there’s no upper limit to how slowly a driver can lap Monaco with little threat of being overtaken.

    Wow that’s short sighted.

    Hulkenberg actually finished right behind several other cars. Perhaps indeed you can’t normally overtake cars there, but it does happen that cars have a moment and they do change positions.

    Besides, Verstappen went past Sainz and did not get past Hulkenberg. Had Hulkenberg been stuck behind the slow driving Sainz, he would have been overtaken too. Losing Renault points.

    Sainz should just learn to deal with the fact that it’s a team sport. He was slow and Hulkenberg was much faster. What’s the point of keeping Hulkenberg behind? Let alone risking Renault to lose points just to pamper to Sainz’s pride?

  15. Ah, yes, I’ve been very critic towards red bull before this race, as in saying that they kept claiming to have the best chassis, so they HAD to beat ferrari and mercedes in qualifying here, or at least get much closer than usual, and ricciardo proved like a 2 tenths margin on ferrari which proved a 2 tenths margin on mercedes, so unlike mclaren, red bull proves the validity of their claims, it’s definitely the engine holding them back in qualifying, so if they had a ferrari or mercedes engine, they’d probably have more chance on the title than either of them, validating the reasons why they don’t want to supply them.

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