Monaco Grand Prix thoughts

I always find it such a shame that the most famous race on the Formula 1 calendar is also often one of the most boring. This is the nature of the twisty streets of Monte Carlo, where overtaking is a rarity. It is the place where people say, “If they thought of holding the first race today, they’d laugh at you.” You sense that they have been saying that ever since the second race was held in 1930.

Still, nothing beats the spectacle of watching beautiful grand prix machines charge their way through this picturesque but intimidating circuit. It makes for a great practice or qualifying session, albeit often not a great race.

A Monaco with rain is always great fun. But it was bone dry last weekend which meant that we had to make do with a procession. Not only that, but the magic dust is fast fading away from the fairytale Brawn story and for the sake of the championship we must all hope that a major contender emerges.

Looking first at Brawn though, far from losing their advantage, they only seem to be increasing it. The cars gained a reputation for their sluggish starts after the first few races. But Rubens Barrichello got the jump on Kimi Räikkönen, despite the Ferrari being equipped with kers.

From then on, Brawn were never going to face any real difficulties. Jenson Button’s victory was further eased by the fact that Barrichello (accidentally, but usefully for Button) held up the Ferraris in 3rd and 4th due to his fading super-soft tyres.

Jenson Button was superb. Once again, from absolutely nowhere he pulled an excellent qualifying lap out of the top drawer. I confess that I thought Räikkönen had it in the bag. Button’s lap certainly confused Barrichello.

Hearing the things that Ross Brawn has to say about Jenson Button, it seems as though he is becoming an absolutely top-notch driver in front of our eyes. Stepping up to the plate, the Brit is clearly applying himself far more than he has ever done before. He says he has become “a right boring bastard“, but that is a small price to pay to become the World Champion.

For years, the potential he showed in his first year back in 2000 was not realised. In his tenth year at motorsport’s top level, we are seeing what was merely a good driver become a true great. What a pleasure to watch!

Credit, as always, must also go to the Brawn team and Mercedes. They made history at the Monaco Grand Prix, as it was the first time the same engine had won three races. An amazing statistic.

But who can we turn to in the search for a rival to this stunning team? At the start of the season it looked like it might have been Red Bull. Their Monaco form left a lot to be desired though. Their new diffuser showed little benefit in its first race, though in fairness you wouldn’t expect the new part to be all that advantageous at Monaco.

But the Red Bulls generally lacked the pace required if they want to challenge Brawn at the front. Sebastian Vettel qualified a disappointing 4th on a very low fuel level, and his first stint during the race was nothing short of a disaster. The super-soft tyres were wearing out too quickly in the first part of the race, and for some reason Vettel seemed to struggle in particular, at one point losing a massive 4.5s to Button in just one lap.

In the attempt to make up for lost time, Vettel binned it early on in his second stint. The performance rounds off a hat-trick of highly disappointing races for the hotly-tipped youngster. Vettel remains 3rd in the Championship, but with less than half the number of points that Button has accumulated.

It was again left to Mark Webber to salvage something from the race, finishing 5th. The Circuit de Monaco is a unique circuit, so this could have been a one-off for Red Bull. Surely they can’t rely on wet races to grab all their best results?

If they are not careful, the Prancing Horse will gallop past the Red Bull in the Championship. Ferrari’s performance in Monaco was very strong. The car was quick, the drivers seemed confident (with the exception of a ragged Massa during qualifying) and the reliability issues that have dogged the car were nowhere to be found. Stefano Domenicali was beaming after the race, and they must be confident that they can now rise to the challenge.

You cannot have a more contrasting fortune than that of Toyota. After snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Bahrain, a mere two races later in Monaco they turned up with arguably the slowest car. Such radical changes in fortune do happen when the grid is as tight as it has been for the past couple of years, but John Howett will want to find the cause of the new problem if he wants the team to stay in contention.

It is quite a similar story with BMW. I can scarcely believe how bad their season is turning out to be. The only saving grace was that Toyota were even slower. BMW ran with a special message on the car marking the Mini’s 50th birthday. But their performance was no way to celebrate it, and the only time TV viewers got a good glimpse of the message was when Kubica’s sick car was unceremoniously being wheeled into the garage.

I am reluctant to say that BMW need to return to the drawing board. They turned up in Spain with practically a new car, and if anything it has made the situation worse. What a disaster from the team that sacrificed the 2008 Championship campaign in order to focus on this year.

Finally, congratulations to Giancarlo Fisichella for finishing in 9th place. I am no fan, but his performance in Monaco was stellar. For once, his experience shone through. It is particularly notable in the light of Adrian Sutil’s inability to repeat last year’s charge to the points paying positions.

3 comments

  1. I don’t understand how BMW can be so bad. In Australia they almost had 2nd place and both cars qualified in the top 10.

  2. “I don’t understand how BMW can be so bad. In Australia they almost had 2nd place and both cars qualified in the top 10.”

    1. They decided not to introduce any incremental improvements during the flyaways, opting instead to introduce them all at the same time in Spain.
    2. They may have gone the wrong way in certain areas of development and/or lack the testing time needed to finetune them (thanks to the in-season testing ban).

  3. My theory is that this year the cars are so close together that it doesn’t actually take that much of a performance deficit to find yourself at the back of the grid. Once upon a time, if a car didn’t suit a particular circuit it lost them a couple of places. Now it loses them a several places.

    It was similar last year, but this time Force India have lifted themselves from the bottom. This year, only Brawn can really afford to slow down much — not that they will want to of course!