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Pick and mix - More than meets the eye in Monaco - Reliability trouble, ironic moments, and driver compromises

Published by Christine

It’s been a topsy-turvy season of Formula One so far. Some races have failed to deliver when expectations were high, and others have blown all predictions out of the water and provided brilliant entertainment. Monaco was a mixture of both.

We were hoping it would be a good race, but the Monte Carlo track tends to provide racing more processional than otherwise. In the end, we had great overtaking moves and an awful lot of incidents and off-track events to ponder. Here are some of the things that caught my attention from the Monaco weekend.

1. Preparing for the principality

Nico and Tanja making pizza
Credit: Daimler AG

Drivers tend to prepare for races in different ways. Some train harder, some rest up. Some spend time at the factory working hard on pre-race prep, whilst others spend longer walking the track to get a feel for the tarmac. For Monaco, things were as hectic as ever, with the inclusion of the Amber Lounge Fashion Show for those drivers willing to strut their stuff along the catwalk for charity. There was also the charity football match in which players indulged in some ball sports before getting behind the wheel for the weekend.

It was quite telling the difference between the two Mercedes’ drivers preparations. Nico Rosberg appeared relaxed heading to his home race, and found time to whip up some pizza, one of his favourite activities of late. Lewis Hamilton had his nose to the grindstone, so much so that he was in early before practice on Thursday, but then arrived late for the first session after a nap took a little longer than expected. The two Mercedes drivers claim no mind games are going on, but if there is a battle for who is the most relaxed before and after each session, it was close pre-practice on Thursday.

It’s also worth a mention here for the simulator work that drivers do. Monaco is tight and twisting, with imposing barriers and buildings on every side and that makes it quite a challenge. For Jenson Button, it’s reportedly too much of a task! He said: “Basically, I can’t drive around Monaco in the simulator because I get sick. I don’t know why but I get sick in it so I can’t drive it. It used to be Hungary as well but we’ve changed it ... so I can drive it now.” I can see why a simulator would make you sick, although not specifically one track. That can’t help get you in the right frame of mind for driving the circuit on race day though!

2. Return of Renault's reliability woes

There were eight retirements in Monaco, not a particularly high number given the expected attrition rate around the principality. What was unusual was the number that related to the power units - something that has been a problem in the past, but was thought to be under control. Renault, in particular, saw more than their fare share of issues.

DriverLap retiredReason
P Maldonado0Stalled on grid
S Pérez2Accident
S Vettel8Turbo failure
D Kvyat12Exhaust failure
A Sutil25Accident
JE Vergne53Exhaust failure
V Bottas57Power unit failure
E Gutiérrez62Accident

Vergne saw plumes of blue smoke pouring from the back of his car during the race, and he just about managed to get back to the pit lane so as not to cause any trouble out on track. Although not directly attributed to Renault, the team have admitted exhaust failure and that something could have affected the power units to cause the issue. Either way, the French suppliers are investigating what happened and if they need to fix anything.

Maldonado’s power unit problem emerged only on the grid. Although the team haven’t given any specific reasons for the failure yet, Pastor said the engine just switched off. Another one that needs further investigation.

Sebastian Vettel had a turbo failure that started behind the safety car. Christian Horner has been vocal about their ability to remain calm and work with Renault on the continual issues, but the frustration is starting to show. He said: “It’s a Renault issue so I think you need to speak to Renault about that reason. It’s obviously frustrating as it is really what destroyed his weekend.”

It’s like that the creeping number of reliability problems we had here was due to the unique nature of Monaco, and the sheer number of slow safety car periods we saw. However, it’s a sign that shows there’s still a long way to go on getting these new technologies running smoothly.

3. What's vexing Vettel?

Vettel, ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix
Credit: Vladimir Rys

As mentioned above, Vettel’s race come to an early end after his car slowed to almost a crawl. He got back to the pitlane, where a plaintive: “Come on guys,” on the radio, was followed up with a more understanding: “Well I guess you’re doing all you can.” They sent him on his way but he was back one lap later having failed to get out of first gear.

Clearly the Monaco weekend was one for Vettel to forget, and seeing his teammate up on the podium for the second race in a row can’t have helped. But the defending champion does think he’s turned a corner, and I thought this analysis of what has been ailing the German very interesting.

The change in regulations doesn’t just mean adapting to a whole new car, but for Vettel, it’s a complete change in driving style that is favouring his teammate over him. According to the BBC, Vettel hadn’t adapted in the early part of the season in the hopes the team could adjust the car according to his likes, but now realises it’s going to take some compromise on his part.

Even with the struggles, Vettel has finished in the points of all the races that he has finished, so if he can turn it around, he may provide another area of competition for the all-too-dominant Mercedes.

4. Irony is lost in Formula One

Three smaller items to finish on, most centring around the fact that this weekend in Monaco provided all sorts of ironic moments that no one really seemed to notice.

  • The driver numbers were brought in to give a bit of personality, help distinguish between the drivers. Yet, just six races in and the FIA have lost the plot. At least twice, they used the wrong names in the Race Control messages, and in a post-race statement, they confirmed that Kimi Räikkönen had a reprimand for an incident with Jenson Button, when it was actually Kevin Magnussen (the difference between car 20 and car 22). At one point, they were investigating Daniil Kvyat for a recent incident, when he had already retired from the race. Confusion reigns!
  • Mercedes have made a big fuss about talking to Alain Prost for help on their teammate relationship issues. I can only assume they are asking him what not to do, because surely Prost is most famous for not ever being able to get on with Ayrton Senna?
  • When trying to decide if Nico Rosberg had stopped during qualifying on purpose, Sky decided the best person to talk to was Flavio Briatore to establish his innocence!

There’s often talk that Bernie is scripting the F1 seasons, but I think if that is the case, this year can only be a comedy!

All content in the series Monaco 2014