Round five of the 2021 Formula One World Championship takes us to the south of France for the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix.
The race is arguably the most famous on the calendar, having been present since 1955, although it was absent last year due to Covid-19 restrictions.
The race is also unique due to its low speeds, a result of its historic setting in the tight confines of Monaco. Normally this may seem bad but it makes it real challenge for drivers as there's no margin for error. It also means that outright power isn't much of an advantage, with the average speed only about 100 mph. Just 45% of a lap is at full throttle, compared to almost 80% at a circuit like Monza.
Circuit de Monaco, home of the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix
The layout of the 2.1-mile Circuit de Monaco has remained largely unchanged over the years, the biggest updates taking place in 2004 when a new pit complex was built. Grip levels are low since the circuit consists fully of public roads that open to normal traffic each evening of the race weekend, so there isn’t much rubber left on the surface by the time of Sunday’s race.
Pirelli has nominated its three softest compounds for Monaco, C3, C4 and C5, and as is usually the case in Monaco teams will likely target a one-stop strategy for the race.
To be successful in Monaco, a driver needs to find a perfect rhythm. Another, equally important aspect is concentration. Monaco sees around 80 significant changes of steering direction and 50 gear changes (25 up and 25 down) during each lap which lasts about 70 seconds. When you add the constant throttle and brake paddle inputs, you can see just how hard the drivers are working on every one of the race’s 78 laps.
Featured in the above video is McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo who provides a good overview of what each section of the track entails.
After the practice sessions on Thursday, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were the two fastest drivers, followed closely by Mercedes-Benz AMG's Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen.
Going into Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race, Hamilton leads the 2021 Drivers' Championship with 94 points. Verstappen is second with 80 points and Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas is third with 47 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Mercedes leads with 141 points versus the 112 of Red Bull and 65 of McLaren. The winner of 2019's Monaco Grand Prix was Hamilton driving for Mercedes.