Yachts, Boats, fancy cars and a beautiful riviera South of France. But thats not all that the Monaco GP embodies, it is one of the trickiest circuits with slow cornering speeds and high downforce levels, allowing the least overtaking with current generation of F1 cars and a playground for pitstop strategies. However a different story unfolds behind the scenes, and I usually write this column on my blog on a Thursday, but with Monaco being the longest race weekend of the year and anticipating the drama that was going to unfold, I saved this one till the weekend was over.
I’ve written about this in my previous Spanish GP diary post, but this time was in discussion again since I was about to interview Monisha on Wednesday. My interview with her went well as usual, as she was the first person in the paddock I had interviewed on my first race in F1, and opening to with in a candid manner is easy. Nevertheless, the interview left aside the topic that often baffles all is whether Sauber was right signing Honda. Audi’s Le Mans team used Sauber’s R&D facility in Hinwil to develop their prototypes, so its understood that the reason Honda ties up with Sauber is they get one more facility in Europe to develop their engine at. In 2018, Sauber might not get a winning engine but they do have a chance of targeting podiums. Honda’s progress with McLaren has been slow, however 2018 might be a different scenario with three facilities in total for the Japanese engine maker.
With the Monaco weekend coming to an end, McLaren host the Indy 500 at its hospitality motorhome. Apart from Fernando’s stellar performance and engine failure compromised weekend, it was a delight watching to other familiar faces form Formula 1; Max Chilton and Takuma Sato. While Takuma Sato won the race,it finally brought a smile to the faces of the Honda personnel in McLaren. Nevertheless, after watching the greatest racing spectacle, I would conclude, that yes one sees more passes being made. However, the cars have zero downforce, the crashes are dangerous, with Scott Dixon’s crash being the most horrific to watch. And having said that, the race is only a spectacle, and somehow lacks the sophistication of F1. What Formula 1 can learn from it is how to gather a live audience of 300,000- 400,000 to watch one race, and how overtaking changes the level of entertainment in racing.
Is Valterri Bottas better with understanding his tyres than Lewis Hamilton? Last year reliability cost Lewis a title, however this year tyre woes have seem to struck the triple World Champion’s 2017 title run. Sebastian increased his points lead by 25 points, but for Lewis getting the tyres into the optimum temperature window was a hard task. In other words, even if his rear tyres were in the required temperature window, the fronts wouldn’t be the same. However the question lies, did Lewis test the 2017 tyres enough last year, he was unwell at one test post Abu Dhabi, and Pascal Wehrlein had done the other tests. As far as the other drivers on the grid are concerned a lot of them were testing the 2017 tyres extensively through the 2016 season. According to his post-race media debrief, his Monaco tyre woes remain a ‘mystery’ to Mercedes. While on the other hand Valtteri almost had a lap good enough for pole position. According to Lewis, the tyre factor will make a ‘comeback’ at future tracks too. Wonder what fleet street has lambasted at the Briton? Some would say it has been a constant repeating trait for him at tracks with low abrasion, short duration corners, and low degradation track interface. But with Vettel hungry for a fifth and in a more reliable car, such glitches might cost Lewis his fourth title. This is probably where Sebastian’s confidence, form and lead, can trigger the psychological war.
Ferrari saga :
Kimi Raikkonen’s defeat at Monaco and his thundering expression on podium is a sight very few have seen with the icy Finn in his F1 career. Has the Maranello squad returned to its old tricks of team orders? The paddock has been divided in its opinion, where some would say Ferrari was right letting the Sebastian win, and prioritising his strategy while some suggest Kimi could have won the race and that he deliberately slowed down to reduce the power of the Sebastian’s over-cut strategy. As per se, what it appears to be is that from the team’s point of view, it was the logical best strategy at that particular time, and with the current F1 rules not prohibiting team orders, it wasn’t illegal either. However, it looked pre-meditated although Sebastian denied it in the post race interviews, but it was his best chance to win with Lewis in struggle mode. This scenario was unlike the one in 2010 when Ferrari had to pay a hefty fine for team orders, when they asked Felipe Massa to give way to Fernando Alonso.
Given the circumstances, Kimi’s mood post-qualifying itself was an indicator that he would be denied a win, and the mood that followed into the green room and the podium triggered the debate. Kimi’s fans and followers are obviously furious over the scenario, and as Ferrari’s last world champion, maybe the team could have risked 7 points this early in the season and helped him get ahead of Valtteri Bottas. Were those points severely needed? In the past championships have been lost over half a point. To be fair to the 2007 World Champion, Maranello might have to favour him with a win at some point of the future before circumstances grow awkward. We’ve seen how psychological wars can create a negative environment for the entire team to function amidst. But what the Finn is going to have accept is that it is not the same scarlet outfit he won a title with in 2007.
For the longest race weekend of the race year and after three weeks in Europe, its an Au Revoir to Monaco and a wrap from me until Baku GP in Azerbaijan.