News and views on motorsports

Monday, May 29, 2006

Monaco GP

No one expects any overtaking to happen on the narrow streets of Monte Carlo. Given that lack of expectation, one could then simply enjoy the race which was in fact quite exciting to watch. Or at least until Kimi Raikkonen and Mark Webber retired. Up until then, they were giving the world champion a helluva run for his money. I think if Michael were in the mix today, he could have taken all of them.

Its funny this circuit. You watch cars following one another nose to tail and it seems that even on the faster bits of the circuit through the tunnel, later on at Tabac and the swimming pool, the cars seem to have no problems at all following the car in front. At some stages Kimi Raikkonen looked like he would crash into Fernando Alonso's gearbox. I suspect that had this been a touring car race, some nudging would not go amiss. But the fragile wings and bodywork of a Formula 1 car simply would not do.

I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps because on this circuit the wings are set at their maximum angles and somehow are not so sensitive to the dirty air in the wake of another car. Perhaps the turns are simply too slow to create much turbulence in the first place. But I couldn't help but feel that if the circuit were just a little bit wider, there would be more of the brake locking tyre smoking lunges that Giancarlo Fisichella and Michael Schumacher made during the course of their progress. But then again, if the circuit were any wider the turns would be faster and there goes the aero once more.

Starting on pole with Michael nowhere near him, you felt it was always going to be Alonso's race. But Kimi I thought had a definite chance of winning had that safety car not come out. As Dennis would say in the McLaren press release, he had more fuel in the tanks than Alonso did. A lot more.

Praise must also go to Mark Webber for driving a brilliant race. He too was going very quickly and fully deserved at least a podium spot. David Coulthard I thought drove solidly but was hampered by the mobile road block named Rubens Barrichello. Later on his speed was not very apparent as the Red Bull team had switched him from a two stop strategy to just a single stop and he was carrying a lot of fuel. Had he been able to execute the two stop strategy I'd bet he would have been right up there with Montoya at least if not kissing the gearbox of Mark Webber.

Sneaky Schumi in fact drove a faultless race and ended up quite a brilliant fifth despite starting at the very back on a circuit with few overtaking options. Jenson Button in fact wilted under Scumi's pressure and had to give way. But his teammate Rubens, still smarting from last year, would give Michael no room at all. But Michael's speed today was undeniable. His fastest lap way faster than that of Kimi Raikkonen's.

As I said, given the lack of expectation of any overtaking, watching the traffic jams in Monaco was actually fun. Witness David Coulthard for instance who was simply all over the place trying to keep Michael behind him in the middle of the race. Limited opportunities perhaps but a driver still needs to keep the line covered just in case.

Strategy is everything on these streets. And it would have been interesting to have seen how it would all pan out after the second stops. In the end, reliability won the day for Alonso. This level of completeness, the blend of speed, tactics and reliability (and now it seems, fair play) from Alonso and the Renault team are what will win Alonso the championship for the second time.

1 comment:

Checkpoint10 said...

Monaco parades tend to be more fun to watch because it feels like watching people running on a tightrope. The fact that most of the drivers went round and round without incident really shows the incredible talent and focus they have. In contrast, the Tilke-designed circuits do very little to show off the speeds of these cars.