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Vilardo: 2023 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix Preview

This is the one race on the calendar in which every team and driver wants to do well

Posted on May 26, 2023

  By Stephen Vilardo, SWS | Dane Miller, Series Editor

The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the premier events in all of auto racing.

Love it, which many do, or hate it, which many also do, this race is the one on the calendar in which every team and driver wants to do well.

The glitz and glamour of Monte Carlo brings all the sponsors to town, and those who cut the checks will be on hand to witness both the good and the bad.

I preview the Monaco Grand Prix here, complete with a television schedule, quick facts, and recent winners. The picks of our Formula 1 writers and broadcasters appear at the bottom.

Television Schedule

Free Practice 1: Friday, 4:30 am PT, ESPN2
Free Practice 2: Friday, 8:00 am PT, ESPN2
Free Practice 3: Saturday, 3:30 am PT, ESPN2
Qualifying: Saturday, 7:00 am PT, ESPN
Race: Sunday, 6:00 am PT, ABC

Monaco Grand Prix Quick Facts

Location: Monte Carlo, Monaco
Track: Circuit de Monaco
Track Type: Temporary Street Circuit
Turns: 19
Lap Length: 2.07 miles
Race Length: 78 laps
Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton 1:12.909 in a Mercedes, 2021
Qualifying Record: Lewis Hamilton 1:10.166 in a Mercedes, 2019
Most Wins by Constructor: 15 – McLaren
Most Wins by a Driver: 6 – Ayrton Senna

Overtaking can be virtually impossible on the winding, narrow streets of Monte Carlo.

Although it has the slowest average speed of any circuit on the calendar, at around 93 miles per hour average for the lap, the demands on the car and driver are immense.

There is next to no runoff between the circuit and the barriers, forcing the drivers to be precise and punishing mistakes.

One lap around Monte Carlo consists of up to 50 gear changes, too, making almost 3,900 for the duration of the race.

Monaco is not only the shortest lap of the year with the lowest average speed, but it also has the slowest corner of the year.

To cope with this, the teams use a high-downforce package with a specific front and rear wing to balance downforce levels.

Fairmont Hairpin at the Monaco Grand Prix |

There are also bespoke aerodynamic appendages, as well as adjustments to the steering to provide the extra lock needed to get around the Fairmont Hairpin.

One corner comes quickly after another at Monaco, making it relatively easy to warm up the tire to put them into their ideal operating windows, especially the softer compounds.

The teams will run high-downforce set-ups to maximize as much mechanical grip as they can. This is for the slow, tight corners with short straights, but also to combat the surface offering very little grip.

On Pirelli’s grip scale, the surface is one out of five. The tire stress and abrasiveness of the surface are also both one out of five.

In other words, the surface is slippy with not much tire wear. As a result, the softest tire compounds will be the top choice.

One oddity of the circuit is that the track is opened up to normal traffic every evening, which makes it hard for rubber to build up on the racing line.

Track evolution should normally be high on a street circuit, but it becomes a bit of a crap shoot in Monte Carlo – and not just at Casino Square.

Casino Square at the Monaco Grand Prix |
Casino Square at the Monaco Grand Prix |

Track position and pit strategy for the Grand Prix is critical. Qualifying is extremely important as a result, with the pole sitter winning 13 of the last 19 races.

In fact, the last 26 Monaco Grand Prix have been won from one of the top three grid positions.

The furthest back a driver has started and won this race is 14th, accomplished by Olivier Panis in 1996. Just four of the 21 drivers who started the race that year were running when the checkered flag waved.

The event featured wet weather, numerous crashes, and mechanical failures. An anomaly for sure.

While passing along the narrow streets of Monte Carlo can be difficult, no other track on the calendar offers the same opportunity for the entire field that Monaco does.

Technical shortcomings with the car can be overcome like no other track, and surprises can spring.

But again, the qualifying lap is key.

Look for the race to be decided on pit stop strategy with the winning overtake potentially being made during a pit cycle.

Speed Points

• The Monaco Grand Prix is the first race in Europe for the 2023 season.

• For tax purposes, almost all of the drivers have a home in Monaco, so the race provides an opportunity to sleep in their own bed during the week.

• In the previous 68 F1 races at Monaco, the winner has started in the top three 59 times.

• Ferrari has five consecutive top-two finishes at Monaco.

• Mercedes won four straight races in Monaco between 2013 and 2016.

• Red Bull has six wins at Monaco, with the first coming in 2010.

• Ferrari has just one win at the track since 2002.

• Monaco is the shortest track on the calendar.

• Some of the figures that it takes to turn Monte Carlo into a race track: 13 miles of safety rails, 215,278 square feet of wire catch fencing, 1,420 tires for tire barriers, 800 fire extinguishers—one every 49 feet, and 1,100 tons of grandstand seating for spectators.

Recent Winners of the Monaco Grand Prix

2022Sergio PerezRed Bull
2021Max VerstappenRed Bull
2020Not Held
2019Lewis HamiltonMercedes
2018Daniel RicciardoRed Bull
2017Sebastian VettelFerrari

Our Writers’ Race Picks

—More from Stephen Vilardo—