Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Monaco and its black heart

If Monza is the spiritual home of F1, Silverstone its mechanical heart and Singapore the gateway to the new world

Then it is Monaco that is the beating black heart of its financial world. Bernie and Todt will join all the team principles here this weekend, doing deals to sell acres of prime carbon fibre advertising space and glad hand long term partners. The race really is secondary to the circus at times here; it just gets in the way of the face time and base touching. But there are few better places to get up close and personal with a 1000bhp snarling spitting Formula One engine.
For the lucky few in hospitality and those with invites to the corporate yachts moored on the waterfront. You just can’t get much closer to those cars that have the companies name smeared all over it. To see where the pension fund has gone and the “Global brand reimagining” is taking place. Primary colours of international brands scream past selling watches, petrol and computers to the punters hanging precariously to the cheap seats on the cliff.

There are companies with office space on the trackside, who rent out their 3rd floor balcony with views of the start line. This money pays the rent for the next 6 months. Imagine how much that is for a second; 1000 square foot of prime office space on Monaco’s waterfront. No wonder the locals head out of town for the week, staying would be like sitting in the garden burning bundles of used £20 notes.

Whilst all this financial black magic is going on, the team are hidden away in a multi-story car park round the corner. The super rich don’t want to get any oil or dirt on their Prada collection now do they! The glamour is strictly reserved for the front of house staff, not the people that do the actual work.

Then there are all the drivers, who have to negotiate between the corporate suits and a high speed steel trench. Nelson Piquet once descried a lap of Monaco as “like racing a bicycle round your living room” It’s not for the faint hearted or Maldonado’s of this world. Calm and collected through the Armco lined trench, get it wrong and it can be very painful. Kiss the barrier, even give it a playful slap now and again, but get too rough and it’ll snap back and take a wing off. Suddenly the grip will be all gone and the barrier embraces the car with warm enthusiasm.
Canada might have a short wall of champions to catch the unwary. Monaco is all concrete and steel.
This weekend, well yes it’ll all be about the tyres I’m afraid, and who is positioned best when the black stuff gives up. The smart money is on another Mercedes front row lockout and with overtaking being almost impossible, being at the front is what’s important. But the Merc don’t have the lightest touch with their tyres, so despite raw one lap speed, they might struggle to turn that into a win. But if they can control the pack, work together, it might work for them.
Last time in Spain Ferrari knew from the first practice they were going to go with a four stop race and planned accordingly. The teams that tried to be clever and work a three stopper, failed. Being realistic about they tyres, understanding what they will do rather than what they hope they’ll do will be key for the team on pole.
If Merc get it wrong, then Alonso and Kimi will be right behind them to pick up the pieces. Monaco is a proper drivers circuit, but it still needs a car that can deliver the driver to the front. Ferrari and Lotus look to have just such a car. Redbull… well the last three years have been good to the Milton Keynes chancers, with Webber having two wins to Vettels one. Can they make it four on the bounce, I don’t think so, but if Vettel plants it on pole then he’ll stand just as good a chance as the rest.
Qualifying starts on Thursday here, for reasons unknown, so please update your predictions before Wednesday midnight.. cheers

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