Ferrari: Getting to Monaco is half the battle

As F1 gears up for this weekends Monaco Grand Prix, we have been gratefully receiving press releases and interesting video interviews from the teams as they prepare for the singular street circuit–the crown Jewel of F1.

In particular I found the Ferrari press release very interesting as it does a very nice job of describing the some of the details and challenges a team faces when racing on back-to-back weekends and especially when one of these races being Monaco.

Round 6 of the Formula 1 World Championship sees the teams set up camp at the most famous, glamorous and charismatic venue on the calendar – Monte Carlo. However, the street race’s status as the sport’s jewel in the crown comes at a price, namely that logistically it is the hardest to deal with. This has always been the case for a variety of reasons: the fact the paddock and pit facilities, despite improvements, are still the most basic of the year, the length of the race weekend, which stretches from Thursday to Sunday, the fact that additional spare parts are required because the risk of damaging the cars is so much higher on the twisty street circuit and a myriad of other minor irritations. However, this year, these difficulties have been compounded in that the race follows on just one weekend after the Spanish Grand Prix and with free practice starting on Thursday, that makes it the shortest back-to-back in the history of the sport. When the calendar first appeared, the Scuderia’s logistics staff predicted a difficult time and that has indeed proved to be the case.

The majority of the team and of course, all the equipment, travelled by road from the last race and although the distance is not that great the amount of work involved is much more intense than it would be at some of the back-to-backs outside Europe. In those cases, equipment and cars simply have to be packed into boxes and they are delivered to the next venue, where the only set up work involves building the interior of the pit garages. However, here all the trucks have to be got into position and the motorhome set-up crews, independent of the actual team members, have to rebuild the entire team “village” in the space of just thirty six hours. Fortunately, the reappearance of the infamous Icelandic ash cloud did not impact on the team, as those engineers who were supposed to return to Maranello in between races, were able to take their scheduled flights, carrying out the post-race debrief on Monday in the factory, before driving to the Principality on Tuesday.

Ferrari are conciliatory on their need for more downforce and Monaco usually plays right in to that scenario. Barcelona has been likened to Monaco and there may be similarities, such as no overtaking, but in the end, most teams have a Monaco Spec that they bring. In the past, they car was a completely different car for this one-off race but Ferrari seems to imply that this is not the case any longer due to regulations.

From the technical point of view, the two F10 cars were prepared at the Catalunya Circuit after the Spanish Grand Prix and the only change in terms of specification is that they will not be fitted with the blown rear wing, used for the first time in Barcelona, as the low speed Monaco circuit means the system has no great value, as maximum downforce is required at all times. Setting up an F1 car to drive on roads not designed for racing is not straightforward and in the past two years, the Ferrari engineers adopted a different approach, running the car with softer settings than in the past, with positive results. As for the cars themselves, this race usually involved building bespoke “Monaco-spec” machines, however the new regulations forbid making such major changes, so apart from different downforce levels, the only significant change is to the steering, giving the driver more leverage and a tighter turning circle to cope with corners such as the hairpin.

Most likely the race will be an interesting spectacle with 24 cars on the grid and perhaps qualifying will catch a few of the top teams and drivers out behind traffic. Suffice to say Ferrari have taken the checkered flag eight times here but of late, this has been an elusive goal for the Italian team. They intend to remedy that situation and you never know what Fernando Alonso or Felipe Massa may do should there be qualifying attrition at Red Bull or McLaren.

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