Circuit de Monaco
|Circuit de Monaco|
|Location||Monte Carlo, Monaco|
|Events||Formula One; GP2; Euro F3|
|Record driver||Kimi Räikkönen|
Circuit de Monaco is the name given to a motor racing circuit laid out on the city streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine around the harbour of the principality of Monaco. The circuit is used on one weekend in the month of May of each year to host the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix.
The idea for a Formula One race around the streets of Monaco came from Anthony Noghes, the president of the Monegasque car club and close friend of the ruling Grimaldi family. The inaugural race was held in 1929 and was won by William Grover-Williams in a Bugatti.
It is also worth noting, that Formula One's respective feeder series over the years, namely; F2, F3000 and GP2, also visit the circuit - concurrently with Formula One.
The circuit is commonly referred to as "Monte Carlo" because most of it is inside the Monte Carlo neighborhood of Monaco.
Due to the tight and twisty nature of the circuit, it favours the skill of the drivers over the power of the cars. However, there is very little overtaking as the course is so narrow and dangerous. Racing round the course has been likened to riding a bicycle round your bathroom or, in Nelson Piquet's words, "Flying a helicopter in your living room".
The famous tunnel section (marked in white in the circuit diagram above) is said to be difficult for drivers to cope with due to the quick switch from light to dark, then back to light again, at one of the fastest points of the course.
The circuit is generally recognised to be less safe than other circuits used for high profile events such as Formula One. However, due to the history and glamour associated with the circuit, it is said to have a safe place on the Formula One calendar. A few people, however, disagree that it is a suitable track for the current car types of modern Formula One, and would like to see the Monaco Grand Prix struck from the calendar.
Also, with the previously mentioned lack of overtaking, people are now started to doubt the overall 'racing' of the race. Most results are decided by crashes, failures, and the ever important pit stops.
The circuit has been worked on over the past years in order to improve cramped conditions in the pit garages. In 2003, a substantial amount of land was reclaimed from the harbour to slightly change the shape of one section of the circuit, which in turn - left more space for new pit garages. These pit garages were debuted in the 2004 event.
The building of the circuit takes six weeks, and the removal after the race another three weeks. The race circuit has many elevation shifts, tight corners, and a narrow course that make it perhaps the most demanding track in Formula One racing. Despite the fact that the course has changed many times during its history, it is still is considered the ultimate test of driving skills in Formula One, and if it were not already an existing Grand Prix, it would not be permitted to be added to the schedule, for safety reasons. To say that the Monaco course is an anachronism unsuitable for the race does not make sense as it has always been the case since 1929. It should rather be called a "paradox".
A lap of the modern day circuit
The lap starts with a short sprint up to the tight St. Devote corner. This is a nearly 90 degree right-hand bend usually taken in third or fourth gear. The cars then head uphill, before changing down for the long left-hander at Massenet.
Out of Massenet, the cars drive past the famous casino before quickly reaching the aptly named Casino Square. A short straight then leads to the tight Mirabeau corner, which takes the cars into a short straight to the Grand Hotel hairpin (formerly known as Loew's Hairpin, or Station Hairpin before that). This is a very tight bend, for which the drivers have to use full steering lock. It is a corner which has been used for many overtaking manoeuvres.
After Mirabeau, the cars negotiate a double right-hander called Portier before heading into the famous tunnel, a unique feature of a Formula One circuit. As well as the change of light making visibility poor, a car can lose 20-30% of its downforce due to the unique aerodynamical properties of the tunnel.
Out of the tunnel, the cars have to brake hard for a tight left-right chicane. This has been the scene of several large accidents, including that of Karl Wendlinger in 1994, and Jenson Button in 2003. The chicane is another popular overtaking place. There is a short straight to Tabac, a tight fourth gear corner which is taken at about 120 mph. Accelerating up to 140 mph, the cars reach Piscine, a left-right-right-left section which takes the cars past the swimming pool that gave its name to the corner.
Following Piscine, there is a short straight followed by heavy braking for a quick left which is immediately followed by the tight 180 degree right-hander called La Rascasse. This is another corner which requires full steering lock. This takes the cars into a short, adversely-cambered, straight that precedes the final corner, Virage Antony Noghes. Named after the organiser of the first Monaco Grand Prix, the corner is a tight right-hander which brings the cars back onto the start-finish straight, and across the line to start a new lap.
As Monaco's street circuit demands a lot from the car, the cars are set up with high downforce, since this will increase the car's cornering speed. The teams also use a close-ratio gear box, as there are hardly any long straights in Monaco. Some Formula One teams have also made components specifically for Monaco's circuit:
- Toyota's TF106B, a deeply revised version of the car that started the season, both mechanically and aerodynamically. One key change is to the front suspension geometry, aimed at improving the way the car works with its Bridgestone tyres; the team struggled to get them up to working temperature earlier in the season. The connecting point for the push rod link to the torsion bars and dampers inside the chassis is now much higher. This provides an increased damping rate and allows a slight reduction in camber angle. This enables the car to better exploit its tyres' potential, and improves its handling.
- Not strictly a new feature, but a key one at Monaco. Brake wear is not a problem here. Instead the low speeds mean the issue is keeping the brakes up to working temperature. The only heavy braking points are at the chicane after the tunnel, and to a lesser extent the Ste Devote and Mirabeau corners. With a lack of temperature, brake bite becomes a problem, as the surface of the carbon brake disc becomes smooth as glass, reducing friction between the pads and the disk, hence lessening braking power. To combat this, Montoya adopted discs with radial grooves that increase the bite rate between disk and pads, hence increasing the average temperature of the brakes.
- Teams will use any method at their disposal to gain more downforce at Monaco. In the 2006 race, Williams went for a simple but effective triple mid wing on the FW28's engine cover. This not only adds downforce in the centre of the car, it also helps to manage airflow passing to the rear wing, hence increasing its efficiency.
- McLaren also adopted a new design for Monaco, with completely different main profile and flaps to the car's front wing. The main profile now has a double curve as it extends away from the nose, with the outer extremities bending noticeably upwards. As a result the central spoon section is effectively widened, meaning more airflow over this area, hence greater downforce. The flaps are now much deeper, which also adds downforce. While the revised main profile is likely to be retained for many tracks, the flap changes will probably only be seen in Monaco and Hungary, both high-downforce circuits.
- Renault were another team in 2006 that made changes especially for Monaco: a slight change to the winglets on top of the sidepods for the high-downforce Monaco circuit. Their profile has a larger surface area – to generate more downforce – combined with a bigger endplate. Two horizontal slits in the endplate help to limit the increased turbulence caused by the element's enlarged dimensions.
Circuit de Monaco in Computer Games
- The Côte D'Azur Circuit in the Gran Turismo Video game series is a version of Monaco with a slight change. There are barriers at the Nouvelle Chicane that prevent cutting the corner, instead of simply markings on the track, as there on the real course. This is because Gran Turismo has no penalties for cutting corners.
- The Monaco Circuit was featured as the fourth race in the 1987 racing game Continental Circus from Taito.
- In modded versions of F1 Challenge 99-02 the chicanes change from barriers, to extra yellow/black striped kerbs in place of the barriers.
- Needless to say the Monaco Circuit also appears unchanged in all Formula One games
Deaths from crashes
- Monaco Grand Prix
- Automobile Club de Monaco
- Circuit de Monaco History and Statistics
- Ciro Pabón's Racetracks 3D views and virtual laps of all F1 circuits, including this one, via Google Earth