By: Shaelyn Winters
Edited By: Kylie Augis
It is finally race week again as Formula 1 turns its focus to the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix from May 26th-May 28th. Here is everything you need to know ahead of the race weekend.
History of the Monaco Grand Prix
The Monaco Grand Prix occurs at the Circuit de Monaco – a track which has been utilized within Formula 1 since the establishment of the World Championship in 1950. Following its origination, the circuit has been utilized all but four times in its 72-year involvement in Formula 1: 1951 (citing financial and regulatory constraints), 1953-1954 (citing limited car regulations), and 2020 (citing the COVID-19 pandemic).
Ayrton Senna currently holds the most race wins in Monaco at six, followed by Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher with five apiece. Most recently in 2022, Red Bull won in Monaco for the second year in a row, with Sergio Perez crossing the finish line ahead of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen.
The street circuit has become an essential race on the calendar each season, in large part due to its extensive history. Prior to its introduction in Formula 1, motorsport has occurred on the streets of Monaco since 1929. Its inception can be traced back to Antony Noghés, who coordinated racing on the circuit in connection with the Automobile Club de Monaco. This year marks the 80th grand prix to occur at the circuit – the 69th in Formula 1 history.
Technically speaking, the track is known for its extremely narrow roadways, making pole position especially important due to the difficulty involved in overtaking. The circuit is 3.337 kilometres in length and 78 laps in total. There are 19 turns involved in the circuit. Lewis Hamilton currently holds the fastest lap record at 1:12:909, which he set in 2021.
The Haunting of the Home Race: Charles Leclerc’s Struggles in Monaco
Born and raised in Monaco, Charles Leclerc spent plenty of time driving around the streets he now races on. Yet, the Monegasque native has only successfully crossed the finish line once in his five races at home. His unparalleled luck has been a topic of discussion over the last six years and is sure to be mentioned over the course of the weekend.
In 2018, Leclerc competed in his first ever Monaco Grand Prix, racing with Sauber. After qualifying in fourteenth, he experienced an issue with his brakes and crashed into the rear-end of Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso on lap 70. He finished the race in 18th.
The following year, in his first season with Ferrari, the novice qualified 16th but crashed into the wall in the 17th lap of the race. While he attempted to recover, a puncture in his rear-right tyre resulted in an early retirement.
With the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in the cancellation of the 2020 Monaco Grand Prix, 2021 was a fresh start for Leclerc at home. He accomplished his first pole position in Monaco – but not without struggle – as he crashed his car with less than thirty-seconds remaining in the final qualifying sector. The team did not recognize the issue with his driveshift until Sunday morning which prevented the driver from starting the race altogether.
Following the race, Leclerc took to social media to highlight his unfortunate luck while racing in Monaco: “Monaco I love you and hopefully one day you will love me back.”
In 2022, Leclerc raced across the finish line for the first time at the Circuit de Monaco. Once again, he achieved pole position on Saturday – but fell to fourth place after a disastrous double-pitstop by Ferrari. While he openly discussed his disappointment with his performance, the accomplishment of completing the race may mean that the haunting of the home race is close to being extinguished by the driver.
What to Expect This Weekend
1. Upgrades Following Imola Cancellation
With the cancellation of the Imola Grand Prix due to extensive flooding in the northern region of Italy, many teams with scheduled upgrades for the previous weekend will be displaying their improved cars in Monaco. Three teams, who were scheduled to demonstrate their upgrades in Italy, are willing to take part this weekend: Mercedes, Ferrari and AlphaTauri.
Mercedes has yet to display any significant modifications to the W14 since its introduction. Yet, it is believed to include modifications to the floor and sidepods and an entirely new front suspension. AlphaTauri is also set to introduce a new floor in Monaco. It is yet to be confirmed whether Ferrari, who updated their floor in Miami, will introduce a modified suspension this weekend.
It is clear that all three teams will attempt to close the gap between themselves and the Red Bull, who currently lead the Drivers and Constructors Championships.
Courtesy of Formula 1
2. Pressure on the Rookies
It is not only a battle at the top of the grid for championship points this weekend as rumours have circulated regarding two rookies potentially losing their seat to reserve drivers in the near future.
Following the Miami Grand Prix, two rumours have circulated regarding reserve drivers replacing main drivers in the near future.
On May 13th, rumours began to circulate that Daniel Ricciardo, the current reserve driver for Red Bull, had a meeting with AlphaTauri which consisted of a seat fitting. It was reported that Nick de Vries was ridiculed by Helmut Marko, claiming that the driver must experience a greater degree of success in his next three races (which originally included Imola) in order to maintain his seat in Formula 1. These reports were silenced the same day as multiple outlets claimed AlphaTauri personnel denied any conversations with Ricciardo regarding a potential swap.
De Vries has struggled to achieve points in his first six races of 2023. His highest position is 14th which he achieved in back-to-back races to open the season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. He retired in Azerbaijan as he crashed into a wall on lap 10.
In the same week, additional speculation spread about Mercedes reserve driver Mick Schumacher replacing Williams’ Logan Sargeant. In large part, this is due to the close relationship between team principals Toto Wolff and James Vowles and Sargeant’s lack of success this season. The American rookie has yet to score a point in his first six races in Formula 1. His highest finish was 12th at the Bahrain Grand Prix. While he anticipated success at his home grand prix in Miami, the driver finished at the back of the grid in 20th.