Monaco F1 GP Auto Racing

Race strategy? It wasn’t really possible at Monaco

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The Monaco Grand Prix may not normally be the most thrilling, edge-of-the-seat racing, but no one can ever deny that it’s not short of incident. Sunday was no different. Despite the race doing nothing to appease the growing number of complainers of F1’s current format, it certainly managed to hold the interest until the end.

Monaco may be the most unlikely of settings for a race track. It’s a far cry from the wide, modern arenas designed by Herman Tilke, yet it is a very special venue on the calendar. Having been lucky enough to experience the winning feeling here on a number of occasions myself at McLaren with Coulthard, Raikkonen, Alonso and Hamilton, I can testify that it means something just a little different than at any other GP. The team feel it as much as the winning driver and unsurprisingly, the celebrations are unlike any other race of the year.

I spoke about the methods used to decide a team’s race strategy in my last entry, but in Monte Carlo it’s a different set of parameters that come into play.

Here, track position’s everything and as we’ve seen over the last few races, Mercedes have the current upper hand when it comes to qualifying. Their downfall, on a regular circuit, has been the inability to maintain that position throughout the course of a race as the tires lose performance and rivals are able to pass them during phases of the race when their cars are faster or when their strategies put them at a different comparative pace.

In Monaco a team’s race strategy is largely decided before even arriving at the event, as qualifying high up the order is key to a decent race result. Whereas at other circuits teams may establish cars to be quick in a straight line for example, the thinking being to avoid the threat of attack under DRS zones in the race, the streets of Monte Carlo are different. Here, there was no real need for Mercedes to be too concerned about tires going off or challenges coming from DRS attacks, as no matter what tools are deployed or strategies utilized, the actual act of overtaking is incredibly difficult. As a result, it was all about starting the race from the front row and getting off the line well … which this particular team did very well.

In terms of actual race strategies, there’s very little left to do. The teams outside the top 10 can opt to start on the prime tire, something which would put them onto the faster option, or super soft tire toward the end of the race when the cars were lighter, the track surface a little more grippy and the field a little more spaced out, but the theory still relies on drivers being able to pass slower cars later in the GP. That, unfortunately is the biggest problem here.

As it was, any strategies that were deployed by teams were largely nullified during the afternoon by the incidents bringing out the first appearances of the safety car, and just after midway through, the red flags and resulting restart. No matter what anyone had planned, the opportunity to stop under safety car conditions and not lose track position was there for all and to a certain extent made the rest of the race predictable. When the red flags came out late on and everyone was given the chance to fit new tires on the grid for the restart, it was almost a foregone conclusion to the end.

An excitable Sergio Perez was perhaps the most interesting car to watch on circuit as he muscled his way past his team mate, then Fernando Alonso, finally colliding with Kimi Raikkonen late in the race to take away the last remaining strategic gamble.

Raikkonen, the only contender to restart after the red flag on soft tires, could’ve caused an upset towards the end as the rest of the field on supersofts began to struggle after a long 32 lap stint. In the end Perez’ optimistic lunge caused a puncture to the Lotus and deprived us of the last remaining strategic battle playing out and it was a slightly predictable run to the finish.

This circuit, special though it is in terms of glamor, noise levels and history, never provides the best racing. All the data in the world gained from practice sessions can tell teams the theoretical quickest route from lights out to chequered flag, but ultimately it’s about starting in front and staying there. Mercedes did exactly that, Nico Rosberg drove impeccably, controlling the race and no one else was able to do anything about it.

Their domination here isn’t necessarily indicative of the team’s current performance and the coming races will show how much, or little, they’ve actually improved after their struggles in Spain a few weeks ago.

Marc Priestley can be found on Twitter @f1elvis.

Formula E adds Hong Kong race for October 2016

Photo: FIA Formula E
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The FIA Formula E Championship will add Hong Kong to its calendar for its third season, 2016-2017.

The race will take place on October 9, 2016 – exactly one year from now – around the city’s Central district. The 2km circuit will run between Lung Wo Road and the Star Ferry, with cars reaching speeds of up to 225kph (140mph).

The launch event today featured the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Honourable CY Leung; Mr. Gregory So, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development; Mr. Alejandro Agag, CEO, Formula E Holdings; Mr. Lawrence Yu Kam-Kee, President of the Hong Kong Automobile Association; and reigining FE champion Nelson Piquet Jr.

“The Hong Kong ePrix will be one of the highlights on the FIA Formula E Championship calendar,” Agag said in a release. “As one of the most innovative, cutting-edge and fun-loving cities in the world, Hong Kong and Formula E share many of the same qualities. We look forward to bringing all the fun and entertainment of Formula E to this amazing city, and international motorsport back to Hong Kong.”

The track map is linked below.

Hong Kong track map

Prema Powerteam to race in GP2 next season

MACAU, MACAO - NOVEMBER 16:  Prema Powerteam driver Esteban Ocon of France in action during the Formula 3 event as part of the 60th Macau Grand Prix on November 16, 2013 in Macau, Macau.  (Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images)
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Prema Powerteam has confirmed that it will enter GP2 for the first time in 2016, taking over the entry of Team Lazarus.

Prema has established itself as one of the most formidable teams in junior motorsport over the past 30 years, winning countless championships – including the last five FIA F3 titles – and helping to launch the careers of Ryan Briscoe, Roberto Merhi and Esteban Ocon (pictured).

In 2016, it will enter GP2 – Formula 1’s feeder series – for the very first time, taking over Lazarus’ entry as its four-year association with the series comes to an end.

“We are delighted to line-up for this exciting new adventure in the GP2 Series,” Prema manager Rene Rosin said. “Prema always followed the evolution of the GP2 concept as an interested spectator, and it is now finally time to join the game in first person.

“The move to the GP2 Series is a logical step for Prema, following the successful experiences in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and in the Italian and the German Formula 4 Championships, which will continue with the same level of commitment.”

Series CEO Bruno Michel was pleased to welcome Prema to GP2, and believes that it will adapt quickly to life in the championship thanks to its impressive racing record.

“I am very pleased to welcome Prema to the GP2 Series,” Michel said. “Their remarkable track record makes me believe that they should be able to adapt quickly to our category.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank [Lazarus team principal] Tancredi Pagiaro and his team for their hard work and dedication for the past four seasons. I wish them the best for the future.”