And so to Monaco, best-known of the F1 tracks. It’s also quite quirky and distinct in a number of important ways. Believing that run-off areas are for girls, the circuit owners have made it almost entirely run-off free (I can think of one, off a corner, and another which cuts a corner and rejoins the race track). If you make a mistake, your car has a fight with a big metal barrier.
As well as near certain doom awaiting those who make such an error, it’s also very narrow and very difficult to overtake another car. Not to say it’s impossible, but it’s highly unlikely someone starting middle of the grid will do well. The circuit was also a real tyre-shredder last year, to the great advantage of Button, whose smooth driving style made it quite easy for him. Apparently the tyres stand up much better this time, and Button isn’t in the best car this race, but he may still do well.
Finally, in relative terms, the driver matters more and the car less at Monaco. Naturally, most top drivers have top cars. However, if a top class chap is in a slightly underperforming car then this is a good track for them. Kubica, Sutil and Barrichello (most especially Kubica) may have value.
In P1 Alonso topped the timesheets, followed by Vettel, Kubica, Webber, Massa, Schumacher, Hamilton and Button. Notable how far down the McLarens are and that Schumacher outpaced Rosberg, a feat he did not repeat in P2). Also interesting is Kubica’s 3rd in the Renault and Ferrari getting top slot.
P2 again saw Alonso fastest, followed by Rosberg, Vettel, Massa, Schumacher, Kubica, Hamilton and Sutil. Button was in 9th. On both occasions Schumacher and Kubica were faster than both McLarens and Alonso was fastest. Sutil came in the top 10 (9th and 8th respectively) both times as well.
In P3 Alonso crashed, and it’s unclear at the time of writing whether he’ll be out for qualifying and if he is whether he’ll have a serious chance. Button complained about lack of grip, and didn’t do so well, coming 10th. Kubica was fastest, then Massa, Webber, Hamilton, Vettel, Schumacher and Rosberg.
In the last moments of P3 we saw the type of traffic issue that may bedevil qualifying. I doubt this will affect Q1, because 7 cars drop out and the bottom 6 (HRT, Virgin and Lotus) are so much slower they’re almost certain to drop. The issue may play out in Q2, when there’ll be 17 cars on track, and traffic may cause some to drop out due to traffic.
For me, value most lies with Kubica at 9 for pole position. I’m also tempted to lay Vettel at 3. He’s not had a great record at Monaco, did well in P1 and P2 but poorly in P3. However, he’s too often defied practice sessions, traffic could play into events and I tend to dislike short odds, so I’m only going to bet on Kubica. There may well be ample opportunity to lay in the last 5 minutes of Q3 (which I brilliantly did last time to dilute my Webber winnings).
Will a Pole be on pole? Let’s hope so.