Well, it’s that time of year already. The Principality of Monaco closes its streets and opens up to fans of Formula One. The tiny principality is home to one of the most historic races in history, but it is also one of the hardest to finish. The reason for this is what Nico Rosberg calls “risk management.” I find this to be a very good term for racing on the streets of Monte Carlo as you have to assess whether or not the risk is going to be worth the reward.
Although the race does not officially get the green flag until Sunday, the real race starts to take place on Saturday. These are some of the closest quarters for racing on the planet and whoever captures pole position will be the heads on favorite to take home the trophy and get to stand on the top step of the Prince’s box. The real maneuvers for the weekend will come in two or three different places. The first is at the Nouvelle Chicane after coming out of the tunnel. The second is potentially at Rascasse, while the third is after the pit straight at Sainte Devote. These three corners (especially Sainte Devote) will determine the race on Saturday and Sunday. Of the last three years of this race, these have been the corners that have caused the most heartache. Last year, it was Kimi Raikkonen coming out of the tunnel, losing the back of his car, and crashing into Adrian Sutil. It seems that every year someone will put the car into the wall at Sainte Devote, while the big controversy a couple of years ago was Michael Schumacher stalling his car at Rascasse during qualifying. Watch for these corners to again make for a dramatic race weekend.
But getting back to Rosberg’s term or risk management, this race, maybe more than any other on the calendar is going to be the most strategic of the year. It will be all about fuel loads and pace on Saturday, while Sunday will be about traffic management and pushing the car as hard as possible. Traffic is not far off either on this track because it is comprised of public streets. There really is nowhere to pass (with the exceptions being the corners I listed – but even then the driver has to have some big balls) and that means that the way you qualify is even more important. This means that the way you push is about risk vs. reward as well. If you, as a driver, are going to push your car to the max, then you had better have some incredible concentration. One slip and you are in the wall. However, this can work for the driver as well because if you are behind another competitor, you can stay as close to them as possible and try to make them skip a beat and lose control. Risk vs. reward says that it is safer to try and coax someone into making a mistake, rather than having you make a mistake while trying too hard. Essentially it all comes down to whether or not the driver will attempt the passing maneuver or not. Personally, I hope they do. If I had to make a prediction (which I already have) I would say that Rubens Barrichello is going to win. The team needs him to take the win because he is unhappy about the last race that he had to give up to Jenson Button and they certainly don’t want him to be angry about being a second driver on the team when there isn’t supposed to be a number one driver. I also look for Felipe to bounce back this race and potentially get on the podium (presuming his team can fill him with enough fuel of course). Rubens, Button, Massa is my podium. On to the race.