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F1 2017: Monaco Gp Preview – The Eternally Sublime Monte Carlo

The Formula 1 paddock arrives in the Principality of Monaco this weekend for the sixth round of the 2017 season around the famous streets of Monte Carlo.

The Monaco grand prix has long since been regarded at the most glamorous and prestigious race on the calendar. Celebrities pour into the Principality and parties spring up in every corner of the Monegasque country. But, truthfully, this isn’t what makes the Monaco grand prix exceptional. Instead it’s the severe juxtaposition of trying to thread an immensely fast racing car through such tight confines.

Like the tickets to the grand prix passing is at a premium on the Monaco streets. Its tight and twisting nature means that any overtake is attempted is at a high risk. This year it will be exponentially more difficult given the increased width of the cars. The best opportunity for overtaking on this track has always been under braking into Ste Devote, turn one, and at the exit of the Tunnel under braking for the Nouvelle chicane. Traditionally, the start of a race has been the best time to make up positions and given the difficulty of overtaking here it could translate into a frenetic opening lap.

A lap of the Antony Noghès circuit, at 3.3 km in length, lasts just over seventy-three seconds. But its intimidatingly tight and the walls lurk ready to punish the smallest of errors. “There is no such thing as a low risk lap in Monaco, it doesn’t exist if you want to be fast because you have to be on the limit,” says Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.  So unique is the Monaco grand prix that the first two practice session for the grand prix take place on Thursday.

Monaco 2015_T1Track position around Monaco is king and For Red Bull and all other teams Saturday qualifying could be the most important day of the weekend given how challenging it is to overtake on the streets. While there are still 73 important laps to survive on Sunday a good lap in qualifying is nearly half the job done.

The lesser focus on power unit performance could bring Red Bull into the mix, especially if they choose to optimize their one-lap performance. The Austrian team is still lacking quite a bit in race pace but has edged closer in quali-performance. Still, Mercedes and Ferrari should have enough in hand to see of the Ricciardo-Verstappen threat. The combination of tyre compound, ultra- and supersoft, will be to Ferrari’s advantage. The key to good tyre performance will be the ability of the driver to limit rear tyre wear.

Felipe Massa_Monaco 2015An old friend returns to the paddock too in the form of Jenson Button who steps into Fernando Alonso’s McLaren cockpit while the Spaniard runs his first Indy 500 race in the United States. It certainly wont be an easy weekend for Button given McLaren’s woes. However, a few things will count in his favour. The race in Monaco is often a war of attrition and if he can manage to get to the chequered flag there is a possibility of scoring some points.

The Honda-powered team is also introducing the second part of the major upgrade package in Monaco, which they hope will catapult them into the points paying positions. The final aspect in his favour this weekend is that JB is a bit of a Monaco specialist who has always shone on the Monaco streets.

Though it is one of the shortest laps on the calendar and not as physically demanding as others the Monaco grand prix is the jewel in Formula 1’s crown and victory here means immortality.

About Natalie Le Clue

Natalie Le Clue is an F1 aficionado of the most dedicated vein. And, true to form for any F1-enamoured junkie, she readily admits to crying the first time she saw a F1 car, calling it an ‘overwhelming moment’. Natalie has won the 2010 gSport Woman In Media award, the 2015 Woman In Media Print award, and has been named as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in South African Sport by the Department of Sport and Recreation. Natalie is currently serving as SAfm's F1 correspondent. Follow Natalie on Twitter @nlc27

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