2013 Monaco Grand Prix Preview

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The streets of Monte Carlo welcome Formula One for its annual event, attracting the rich and famous from all over the globe for the sport’s jewel in the crown: the Monaco Grand Prix. It is the ultimate test of a driver’s talent behind the wheel and his mental agility, requiring 78 laps of near-perfect precision; anything less sees them finish in the wall, which is never too far away. In Formula One, it doesn’t get much bigger than winning in Monaco.

Monaco Grand Prix Talking Points

Can Mercedes win, finally?

It’s been a talking point since the start of the season, and Mercedes will now be keen to get the monkey off their back. In Spain, overtaking was easy, making Rosberg and Hamilton susceptible to overtakes. Monaco is a different story though, with there being only two real overtaking opportunities on the track. Good tactics and a resolution of their rear tire issues could see the Silver Arrows finally win a grand prix in 2013; their pace in FP1 and FP2 is an encouraging sign that this could be possible.

Just how much of an issue are the Pirelli tires?

Monaco has always been relatively kind on driver’s tires, with a one stop strategy being utilized by most of the field last year. Sergio Perez is confident that he can stop just once on Sunday, and Pirelli have stated that a two-stop will be the optimum strategy for the front runners; a far cry from the four-stop ‘fiasco’ that ensued in Spain. Monaco could see Pirelli regain some credit.

Three and easy for Red Bull in Monaco?

Red Bull Racing has a fine record in Monaco, claiming its first podium there in 2006 and winning the last three races in the principality. As a result, it may surprise many to see them languishing towards the bottom half of the top ten in practice, and the pressure is on for them to return to winning ways this weekend. Luckily, they have the drivers with the most combined Monaco wins of any team on the grid (3), and cannot be written off after practice alone.

Mixed signals from Williams after an odd Thursday

After faring so poorly in the opening five races, you may expect Pastor Maldonado’s P6 finish in FP1 to bring some joy to Williams. However, their response after practice was still somewhat subdued, admitting that the changes made to his car for FP2 (where he finished P14) did not work. Regardless, this race still appears to be the team’s best chance of scoring any points so far this season.

Caterham and Marussia pin their hopes on a crazy race

Monaco has a tendency to produce a crazy race every now and then. In 1996, just three cars finished and Olivier Panis won for Ligier in what is widely considered to be the most surprising race of all time. Therefore, maybe, just maybe, if Caterham and Marussia can keep it on track, they could possible record a strong finish to give either team a stranglehold on P10 in the constructors’ championship. Points may be out of the question, but if it’s going to happen anywhere, it will be at Monaco.

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Track: Circuit de Monaco, Monte Carlo (3.34km)
Laps: 78
Corners: 19
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:14.439 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Super-Soft (Option); Soft (Prime)
2012 Winner: Mark Webber (Red Bull)
2012 Pole Position: Mark Webber 1:14.381
2012 Fastest Lap: Sergio Perez 1:17.296
DRS Zones: Main straight (T19 to T1)

Thursday – Free Practice 1: Session report
Thursday – Free Practice 2: Session report
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 11:00am local/05:00pm ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 14:00pm local/08:00am ET
Sunday – Race: 14:00pm local/08:00am ET

Schmidt Peterson aiming high with Hinchcliffe, Wickens

Photo: IndyCar
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The new Schmidt Peterson Motorsports duo of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens expressed a high amount of confidence during Wednesday’s confirmation of Hinchcliffe’s return and Wickens’ signing, as the pair looks to return the Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson co-owned team to prominent status within the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“We’re hoping to give Toronto and Ontario and Canadian sports fans in general something to cheer about over the next season,” Hinchcliffe quipped during a teleconference on Wednesday.

Granted, there are likely to be several challenges to overcome, notably for Wickens, who returns to single-seater competition for the first time since 2011, when he was a champion of the Formula Renault 3.5 series and served as test driver for the now defunct Manor Racing (then known as Marussia Virgin Racing).

Having spent every year since then in DTM, where he won a total of six races and finished as high as fourth in the championship (2016), Wickens knows returning to open wheel competition will be an adjustment. However, he explained that the history of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, specifically its Indy Lights history, speaks to their ability to help a driver adapt, and he rates the program they’re putting together very highly.

“I think Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have a fantastic driver development program. They showed that in their multiple Indy Lights championships along the way. I think we will have a strong program in place. I have a feeling that the simulator will be my new best friend,” Wickens said when asked about getting reacquainted with an open-wheel car.

Of course, having an experienced teammate like Hinchcliffe to lean on will undoubtedly help the transition, something Wickens readily admitted.

“I’m very fortunate that I have James as my teammate because he’s so experienced, I can learn off him. Because we already have such a good off-track relationship, I feel like you can just take his word, trust him, kind of move forward with it,” he revealed.

They’ve been teammates before, both in karting where they first met in 2001, and then in the now-defunct A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008, a series that pitted nations against each other in spec open-wheel cars. Funnily, that A1GP type of vibe returns as Schmidt Peterson Motorsports now has that with its “Team Canada” mantra while all four of Andretti Autosport’s full-season drivers are American.

For Hinchcliffe, Wickens’ background, even if it hasn’t been in the single-seater realm since 2011, was a big selling point in adding him to the team.

“In Robby, we have a proven winner at a very high level. The level of technical expertise that he comes with from his time in DTM is very impressive,” he said of Wickens’ technical background.

Hinchcliffe added that Wickens’ ability to analyze the car and its setup was evidenced in two outings: one at Sebing International Raceway in March, in part of a “ride swap” between the two longtime friends, and a second at Road America, when he subbed on Friday practice for Mikhail Aleshin.

Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda earlier this year. Photo: IndyCar

Hinchcliffe revealed that Wickens’ feedback to the team and his ability to quickly adapt to the chassis took everyone somewhat by surprise.

“We did our ride swap. He had two hours in the car, hardly anything even resembling a test day, and his performance was pretty impressive. No doubt the time in Road America helped because that really gave us a better sense of his technical feedback, integrated with the team a little bit more. Everybody was happy to work with him on that day,” said Hinchcliffe.

Further still, Hinchcliffe is firm in his belief that the 2018 aero kit and its reduction in aerodynamic downforce will fall right into Wickens’ wheelhouse, based on Hinchcliffe’s own take after sampling Wickens’ DTM Mercedes earlier this year.

“In all honesty, I was saying earlier today, the 2018 car is probably better suited for him than the 2017 car because of the experience he’s had the last handful of series,” Hinchcliffe asserted.

“The (aero kit) was such high downforce, it would be a big change coming out of DTM. But with the loss of downforce that we’ve seen, the car is moving around a little bit more, brake zones, things like that, it won’t be as big a transition I think. Just based on the experience that I got in our ride swap, I think he’s going to adapt very quickly, be comfortable very quickly, and as a result be competitive very quickly. So it’s going to be exciting.”

As for expectations heading into next year, team co-owner Schmidt did not mince words and expects the team’s performance to resemble what they did in 2012, 2013, and 2014, when they won a total of four races (with driver Simon Pagenaud) and finished in the top five in the championship each year.

“We had a stint in ’12, ’13, ’14 where we finished fifth in the points (or better. I think we want to get back to that level of competition,” Schmidt added. “We felt like we were missing things in having two cars with equal funding and equal drivers and equal capabilities. We think this gets back there.”

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