(Motorsport) Formula 1 team Red Bull have utterly dominated the 2023 season so far, winning every race and are undoubtedly the fastest car on the grid. Rivals Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari haven’t even come close to catching up with the RB19, but that could change in the upcoming Monaco Grand Prix.
The Circuit de Monaco is a unique track, given the slow-speed nature as the average speed is so low that an exception is made for the 305km minimum distance for a race, as Monaco is just 260 km. This means that the speed of the car won’t be enough to win this race, rather the efficiency of the drivers compiled with a good team strategy can make all the difference. During Ferrari’s dominance in the early 2000’s and Mercedes’ supremacy during the turbo-hybrid era, the Monaco GP was always the track where rivals could pounce and this time around it’s no different.
Despite Charles Leclerc’s dismal record at his home Grand Prix, the Monegasque driver qualified fastest in Monaco twice. He has failed to finish the race in 2018, 2019 and 2021 and a strategy blunder last year saw him from starting first to finishing fourth at a time when Ferrari was competing for the world championship. It’s no secret that Leclerc is arguably the best Formula 1 driver over one lap and has the ability to take the car to its absolute limit and this might be the time he finally gets lucky.
Leclerc is the only non-Red Bull driver who has managed to finish pole this season, showing that he was faster than Verstappen on those twisty 90 degree corners, a factor that will be important in Monaco as well. At the Baku City Circuit, he was 0.144s faster than Verstappen in Sector 2 and has shown that Ferrari has good traction and mechanical grip. This could make all the difference in the qualifying and with the circuit being so hard to overtake in, finishing on pole could determine the winner.
“I like city tracks in general,” Leclerc has said previously. “Baku, Singapore, Monaco – they are tracks I really enjoy. You can really play with the limit compared to a normal track. The limit is a hard limit, as it’s the wall, so you cannot overstep it and it’s a game about building up to be close to the wall without touching it.”
While Red Bull’s RB19 is the fastest car on the grid, we have seen that the car is beatable over one lap as getting the car’s tyres up to ideal temperature is one of the few weaknesses of an otherwise masterpiece. Majority tracks on the Formula 1 grid allow the RB19 to make up that deficit over the course of the race but if Red Bull miss out on pole, there is a realistic possibility the could not finish first due to the nature of the track.
There will be eyes on McLaren as well, who have had an extremely disappointing season so far and the upgrades they implemented in Azerbaijan have failed to make a significant impact. However, Lando Norris has expressed his confidence in the MCL60’s ability to perform in slow-speed corners, suggesting that it can match Red Bull. He said “It’s tough. Like straight-line speed, we know where we are, but it’s still pretty shocking. It’s not like we have a lot more downforce in the corners to catch up and then [we are] slow on the straight; we are just the same in the corners and [then] slow on the straights.”
As for Mercedes and Aston Martin, Fernando Alonso will fancy his chances this weekend as the AMR23 has been slightly better than Red Bull on slower tracks this year. The Spaniard said “We seem to have a car that is maybe not the fastest on the straights. We need to improve that, but we are very good on the corners. So I would say that the slowest speeds of the championship, let’s say Monaco, Budapest, Singapore [is where we could win]. These kind of circuits, I think we put our main hopes at the moment.”
Mercedes will be implementing some very big upgrades ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix including a new floor, new front suspension and new bodywork. The upgrades are intended to put the Silver Arrows on the right development path but Monaco doesn’t seem like the ideal track to judge whether those upgrades have made a significant impact or not. The best of the rest – Ferrari, Aston Martin and Mercedes will look at the Monaco GP as a rare opportunity to defeat Red Bull and it promises to be a blockbuster weekend at one of Formula 1’s most iconic tracks.
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