Monaco Grand Prix Preview: Monaco
Pirelli’s P Zero Red supersoft tires make their 2014 debut at Monaco, alongside the soft tires that have already been seen in three of the five races that have been held so far. With Monaco having the lowest average lap speed of the year, as well as the slowest corners of the season, the cars rely almost entirely on mechanical rather than aerodynamic grip – which is generated only by the tires.
A quick tire warm-up is essential, to allow the compounds to deliver maximum adhesion as quickly as possible. A slippery surface, with the usual street furniture found on a street circuit – such as painted lines, manhole covers and bumps – only adds to the challenge for the tires. Part of the circuit has been resurfaced this year, after the exit from the tunnel.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “Monaco is obviously a showcase event for everyone involved in Formula One, with a unique atmosphere and a special challenge that you just don’t see anywhere else. The supersoft tires make their debut in Monaco, which like all our 2014 slick tires have new compounds and constructions this year, designed to improve their durability. Wear and degradation is traditionally very low in Monaco, so it’s possible to do the race with just one pit stop.
However, that’s not always the quickest way, therefore strategy will as always play an important part: particularly with Monaco being such a difficult track to overtake on. This also increases the importance of qualifying. Any race strategy has to be flexible as there is a high probability of safety cars on the narrow circuit, so reading the race to make use of any potential opportunities exactly as they happen will once more be key to success.”
The circuit from a tire point of view:
Monaco has a unique format, with free practice taking place on Thursday and then no Formula One action until Saturday, as on Friday afternoon the track is open to general traffic. This affects the usual pattern of track evolution, with much of the rubber laid down on Thursday disappearing during Friday, while normal road traffic also drags dirt and debris onto the surface.
The exit to all the slow corners that characterize Monaco means that wheelspin is a constant risk. That risk is increased this year due to the extra torque from the turbocharged engines, so looking after the tires by avoiding wheelspin will become all the more important.
With mechanical grip being a more significant influence than aerodynamic grip, getting the tires into the ideal operating window and keeping them there is essential. A consistent and smooth driving style, with a proper tire warm-up, is vital to achieve this.
The supersoft tire is a low working range compound, capable of achieving optimal performance even at low temperatures. The soft tire is a high working range compound, suitable for higher temperatures and more strenuous track conditions. The weather in Monaco can be variable.
Monaco is rarely won from beyond the front row of the grid, putting the emphasis on qualifying. However, even the quickest cars can be caught out by traffic on the tight confines of the track, meaning that finding a clear window to run in during the session is as important as ultimate pace.
Nico Rosberg won for Mercedes last year, having qualified on pole. He claimed victory with a two-stop strategy (supersoft-soft-supersoft) but the race was also affected by two safety car periods, which effectively handed drivers a ‘free’ stop.