June 22, 2024

Brighton Journal

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A simple change in the rules could make the Monaco GP exciting again

A simple change in the rules could make the Monaco GP exciting again

With Formula 1 machines becoming larger and heavier than ever before, it is clear that the cars have surpassed the famous street cars in terms of the ability to deliver exciting wheel-to-wheel action.

Sometimes there have been calls that it is the design that needs to be changed to try and open up a suitable overtaking opportunity somewhere.

Ideas ranged from the possibility of modifying the Nouvelle Chicane (could it be made wider and more visible, so that it became a transient space?) to actually creating some new angles.

One idea that has been talked about often is for cars to turn left at Portiers, and travel the roads along the beach there for a bit before returning to a much longer straight (and DRS zone) to the turn.

When asked about the possibility of modifications to the track, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said: “Monaco is continuing to reclaim land, so I think it is something that we collectively and for Formula 1 have to look at because it is a great place.

View of the circle and surrounding buildings

Photography: Mark Sutton / Motorsport pictures

“There’s a lot of history here but it’s all evolving. I think the cars are so big now. If you compare them to the cars of 10 years ago, they’re almost twice the size, so it’s something we need to look at collectively – as a sport with promoters – “How can we provide the opportunity to overtake?”

However, making a radical change by creating extra turns would not only be very expensive, but would also not guarantee that the race would be better.

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Overtaking is difficult in modern Formula 1, and there are plenty of venues – just look at Imola the week before – where overtaking places are very limited.

This year’s Monaco GP was particularly processional due to the circumstances surrounding the red flag on the first lap.

It effectively turned the race into non-stop tire management, where the name of the game was to go as slowly as possible to avoid the need to change rubber.

As George Russell, who ran very fast, admitted, there was nothing to gain by going faster because all he was risking was problems later in the race.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

Photography: Zach Mauger / Motorsport pictures

Monaco is not the only one suffering from tire strategy conditions that hamper the potential for excitement. Formula 1 has suffered several times in the recent past when an early safety car forces a first pit stop long before teams want it, and the race then turns into extreme management until everyone makes it to the end – which is not very exciting.

As Formula 1 has well recognised, the key to delivering good racing and overtaking is ensuring the performance difference between the cars in the different stages of the Grand Prix – and the best way to do this is with tire strategy.

Monaco has always guaranteed itself to be a one-stop-shop because the low power demands of the track mean that the existing tires can last for the entire race and undercutting is largely ineffective.

This means that there are very limited possibilities to balance the strategy, and a distinct lack of the kind of risk you take in other places where cars burn through their rubber.

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Lewis Hamilton was quick to point out after the race that the problem lay with the tyres.

“In the end, I think our tires are capable of running a full race,” he said. “The tire compound is very difficult here. You have to find ways to spice it up, maybe three obligatory stops or something to spice it up a little more.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W15

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W15

Photography: Eric Junius

Forcing drivers to stop multiple times might be seen as a bit artificial, and would likely make the race more of a lottery given the work that goes into securing those grid slots at the front.

But Hamilton’s teammate Russell has perhaps come up with the most obvious and logical solution to ensure Monaco never repeats the type of racing we witnessed last weekend.

“I think if we only brought soft tires,” he said. “A soft tire won’t last the whole race. You might even need to make two stops. Someone might try one stop. I think just spending the whole weekend on soft shoes would solve a lot of problems.”

And he is absolutely right. Getting only soft rubber will be a management challenge and will lead to a range of different strategies up and down the field – from those who choose to go full out thinking that extra stints on fresh rubber are better than ‘slow and steady’ and don’t need that extra leg. Tire performance compensation can open the door to some passes, and the undercut will be very strong.

There will be more opportunities for teams to roll the dice and be aggressive in their pit stops, and this will ensure there is no way for drivers to lock up tires at the start of the race and expect to get to the finish without stopping.

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For change to happen too, it would require neither spending millions on creating new corners, nor complex simulations and FIA approval.

Alternatively, it could be done through a simple vote in the Sports Advisory Committee and then the F1 Commission to push a rule change to the regulations only counting for that one race.

Formula 1’s sporting regulations already have a clause in Monaco that allows the race to continue for 260 kilometers instead of 305 kilometers as elsewhere, so why not also have a specific rule stating that for just this one race, Formula 1 is moving away from bringing in the mandatory three Vehicles that are taken everywhere else and will be operated exclusively?

Few would resist such an idea, especially since it couldn’t make things any less exciting than they were last weekend.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24, Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38

Photography: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport pictures

As Max Verstappen said about the openness to trying something different: “In general, the weekend is really great, just Sunday is a bit boring unfortunately.

“But the spectacle is still great. If we can find a way to race a little better, why not? That would be my preferred solution.”