Automotive engineer Ashwin Issac analyses data from previous races that present characteristics similar to Monaco to explain why Leclerc-Ferrari should be strongest in Monaco – over Aston Martin, Mercedes and even Red Bull Racing
2023 Monaco Grand Prix
The Formula 1 community was disappointed with the cancellation of the Grand Prix in Imola. Still, in hindsight, learning about the devastation incurred by the incessant rains, a race weekend should only be an afterthought.
We move on to Monaco, the ‘Crown Jewel’ of Formula 1. The unforgiving walls beckon the mavericks who are the pilots of Formula 1.
This track and layout need no explanation, it’s a unique track to which the teams land with a setup exclusive to these streets which makes it challenging to conjecture on would ace the weekend.
Recent history has somewhat established a pattern where the Scarlet team trumps on Saturdays but astonishingly fails to convert to wins on Sundays. It is astonishing because Monaco is one of those places where the race result can be determined a day before the race!
Let’s take a look at who holds the aces up their sleeve for the 2023 Monaco GP and why I pick Leclerc-Ferrari for success in Monaco over Aston Martin, Mercedes and even Red Bull Racing.
For the comparisons, data with similar variables are selected to make a viable analysis. For instance, the fastest sectors by a team and not individual drivers are considered for the qualifying analysis. Lap times are collected for the same tyre compound at identical periods of the race.
2022 Monaco GP
Even though the cars and the hierarchy of the current top 4 have changed since last year’s grand prix, it is still important to look at the qualifying results to see where each team had its advantages.
The RB18 was starting to get on its stride at this point of the season but it was the Ferrari, at least in the hands of Charles Leclerc, that had a distinct advantage on Monaco and this was not something to be surprised because that year’s car was no slouch and in recent history at Monaco the Ferrari package has worked effectively well.
It is to be noted that the gap that Mercedes and Aston Martin had last season will be drastically lower since they have made progress with their cars and also the uncertainty of the updated silver arrow holds a lot of intrigue.
Let’s take a look at where the Ferrari took advantage when we compare their mini sectors.
2023 Formula 1 Season
From the mini sector chart of last year, it is clear that the Ferrari has an advantage on traction zones, that is the acceleration off of corners, this has been a trait of the Ferrari since last year. The combination of their traction and their specific car setup for Monaco have helped them with their performance in the Principality of Monaco.
The streets of Monte Carlo are a combination of slow-speed corners, it in fact holds the slowest corner in the Formula 1 calendar, the Grand Hotel Hairpin, to which the teams design a track-specific steering rack to help the cars turn.
So to predict the qualifying order for this weekend, it is safe to look at which team has been doing well in the slow sections of the recently concluded races.
2023 Azerbaijan GP
There are very few similarities between Baku and Monaco; the one to focus on is the middle sector. The tight and slow section could give us an insight into how the top 4 would perform.
It is fairly close between Ferrari and the Red Bull but any advantage over the RB19 is an advantage nonetheless. Aston and Mercedes are closer to each other but did lose a lot of time to the top 2 ahead.
When we look at the mini sector map below, Ferrari’s traction advantage is clearly evident.
2023 Miami GP
Though the circuit in Miami on the whole is very different, the end of sector 2, from turn 11 through turn 16, has many characteristics that are similar to the track in Monaco.
The fastest on this part of the track was the scarlet red car of the Monegasque.
From the chart above the gap between Max and Charles is minuscule but if we consider sector 2 as a whole, the majority of that section is straight, only at the end it gets very technical and tight.
We know how fast the Red Bull is down a straight, especially with its DRS open, and also how Ferrari comes short with their top speed.
What this suggests is that Leclerc made up the deficit to Verstappen in the last part of this sector. The minisector map below proves the same, we can see a lot more red patches in that section.
Nothing is certain and nothing can be predicted until the last drop in Formula 1, that’s the way it should be but there are a few things that we can predict based on history.
In recent history, Ferrari has been really good in the princely state of Monaco and there is evidence to suggest that they have an advantage over others in slow-speed corners and slow sections of a track as a whole. With the stellar Saturday form of Leclerc, we can safely say that Ferrari will be the team to beat and that Leclerc-Ferrari should halt Red Bull Racing’s win streak in Monaco.
Red Bull will definitely be there on their heels given their dominance in this season. Will the race pace of the Bulls be a factor? Will an undercut or an overcut determine the race result? That is a question that will be answered on Sunday.
The other two teams in the top 4 appear to lack some performance in such tight, twisty sections but the slated updates specifically on the Mercedes could change the pecking order.