The Monaco Grand Prix is a part of motor sport’s triple crown, the three most coveted races for any racing driver to win.
The circuit is also one of the most famous in the world alongside the likes of Indianapolis, the Circuit de la Sarth (Le Mans) and the Nordschleife at the Nurburgring. Here’s a chance to learn some more about one of the most recognised stretches of road in the world.
The track is the shortest on the F1 calendar at just 2.089 miles (3.3km) long and has the highest number of laps for a single Grand Prix at 78.
The track is an anomaly nowadays in F1 with escape roads at only a few corners and no run off areas. The cars have to be specially set up for the challenge of Monte Carlo, the biggest wings for maximum downforce and the softest tyres because of the gripless surface, yet the Monaco street circuit has the slowest and one of the fastest corners in F1.
The track hasn’t changed too much in the 85 years of visiting Monaco, the chicane after the tunnel used to be a high speed right, left though now it is a much tighter complex while the turns around the Swimming Pool were introduced in 1973.
In 2004 a massive redevelopment took place with a new pit lane being built, the barriers at Ste Devote were taken away as they were at the Swimming Pool, the entrance to the Rasscasse was also widened.
Due to the close confines of the street circuit, every corner has it’s own little challenges, enjoy Nico Rosberg's pole position lap from last year before I look at some of the key areas around this tight and twisty track that can make or break a lap.
The first corner Ste Devote, named after a nearby church, can get a lap off to the best or worst possible start, a tight approach makes the start here one of the most tense for those in the garages and the right hander demands a good exit meaning drivers can’t just ease their way into a fast lap.
Taken at around 70mph (110kph) clipping the apex is a must otherwise a trip to the tyre barrier on the exit is almost guaranteed, carry too much speed into the corner and the consequences will be the same.
A drag up the hill leads to the next key corner Massanet, coming up over the crest at around 160mph (270kph), the car goes light at the front just as you need it to bite into the road for the sweeping left hander, taken at around 100mph (160kph) hugging the inside barrier is key because if the car moves slightly offline, the marbles will send the car into the barrier on the outside.
Through Casino Square and avoiding the big bump before braking for Mirebeau, one of the most famous corners in F1 lies awaits, the Loews Hairpin, also known as the Grand Hotel Hairpin, it is the slowest corner in F1, the turn is so tight in fact engineers have to put a special steering rack on the car just so the cars can get round.
It can be a possible passing place but most attempts there end in a broken front wing and a traffic jam.
Still going downhill, the cars head through Portier, the first a more open right, but the second right is much tighter and demands a good exit as the driver’s prepare to enter the tunnel. Heading into the much better illuminated tunnel the sweeping right kink is one of the fastest corners in F1 taken at around 165mph (270kph) and any error there ends in a severe crash.
The best overtaking area is into the Nouvelle Chicane from 175mph (285kph), the driver’s head slightly downhill and the bumpy surface makes for a challenging braking zone. If the car goes light a big crash can follow as Sergio Perez showed in qualifying in 2011.
The chicane itself consists of a tight left, right taken at 50mph (85kph) with a flat out right, left exit.
A short straights leads upto Tabac another key corner, named after a nearby kiosk, it is one of the fastest on the track taken at 120mph (200kph) this left hander demands precision, turn too early and the apex barrier awaits, go slightly wide and the outside barrier is there just as Hamilton found in the wet race in 2008.
The Swimming Pool chicane is next, the first is a high speed left, right sweeping complex while the second part was opened up much more in 2005. A tighter right, left chicane, drivers must avoid the barrier on the inside of the first apex, and don’t take too much kerb at the second apex.
The Rasscasse corner was also opened up on approach in 2005 and is now a quick approach into a tight right with a late apex, while accidents are fewer here now it still remains one of the trickier corners to get absolutely perfect.
The final corner Anthony Noughes, named after the founder of the race, consists of a tricky right with an off camber exit tending to slide the cars towards the barrier on the outside. A drag to the finish line completes the lap.
That’s a look the at the layout of the Monaco street circuit and why it remains one of the biggest challenges in motor sport, this year the challenge is only increased by the increased torque of the V6 power units and the turbo as well as the reduction in downforce. It promises to be a spectacular weekend.
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