When watching Formula 1 races, I steer clear of Twitter. It’s for the same reason as for why it’s best to avoid reviews of a film before watching it for the first time – it’s better not to have someone else’s opinion impeding on your own impressions.
My first reaction when the chequered flag fell on Sunday afternoon – ‘what a brilliant race.’ Safe to say, it was rather surprising to see that the Twitter machine had fired into a frenzy to the contrary, with fans lamenting what they believed to have been a boring race.
Even Fernando Alonso powerfully described it as “the most boring F1 race ever.”
While the top six may have finished in the same positions that they started and overtaking was at a premium, the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix was far better than the critics would lead you to believe.
There is something magical about Monaco. The most densely populated country on the planet invites the Formula 1 circus to put on a showpiece event every year – a 78 lap blast around a location entirely unsuitable for hosting a grand prix.
Nelson Piquet Jr famously described the challenge as like riding a bicycle around your living room. Simply lapping the circuit at the limit of adhesion alone is enough of a trial – overtaking on Monaco’s impossibly narrow streets is the work of a moment of magic.
It may be a procession on Sunday. It may be a winner from pole position and a one-stop strategy. Regardless, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about F1’s blue ribbon event.
In Spain, Mercedes’ mistake afforded Red Bull the opportunity to snatch victory. Just two weeks later it was Red Bull who, having dominated the weekend, made a costly error to allow Lewis Hamilton the opportunity to take his 44th race win.
Such is the speed at which fortunes can change in motorsport, pole sitter Daniel Ricciardo saw his maiden win at the Principality slip away, when a miscommunication between pit wall and garage saw him arrive in his pit-box, while his mechanics were still fumbling over which compound of slick tyres to fit.
Elation on Saturday became heartbreak on Sunday for the Aussie.
Monaco has been the venue for many a memorable story-line since 1950. 12 months ago, Hamilton and Rosberg’s qualifying battle wrote the back page headlines but in 2015, it was the race which sparked debate. Lewis Hamilton controlled proceedings before a late Safety Car was called. In response, Mercedes decided to fit the option tyre to Hamilton’s car in an attempt to strengthen his grip on the top spot, however, a misinterpretation of the timing screens meant that the Briton fell behind Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel – a third position from which he was unable to improve. The inquest has begun following a costly and uncharacteristic blunder by a usually slick Mercedes outfit.
It is quite remarkable that the driver billed to be the most naturally talented of his generation by many analysts, had never taken a pole position around F1’s most iconic circuit. However, Lewis Hamilton has addressed this oversight today, claiming a maiden Monaco pole position in style, recording two laps which were both good enough for top spot. Nico Rosberg seemed the favorite to win this particular act in the Mercedes inter-team scrap, as Lewis struggled through the opening two segments, but the German could not match his teammate in Q3, with his final attempt to usurp him scuppered by a lock-up into Sainte Devote. In the most important qualifying session of the year, it was Hamilton who hit the jackpot.
Not only on account of the fact that both FP1 and FP2 took place in the unique-to-Monaco spot of Thursday, but the track action itself made for a rather peculiar first day of running. The weekend in Monaco is a story of unrelenting track evolution, but the rubber laid down in today’s opening session was soon replaced by puddles, as FP2 was riddled by showers which kept the majority of drivers in the confines of the garage for a full hour. Rain, therefore, doing the work which is usually done by Thursday and Friday evening’s parties at Monaco’s social hotspots. Just like those enjoying the perks of attending this particular weekend, Lewis Hamilton will be sporting a smile heading into the heart of the weekend, as the Briton topped the timesheet’s in both of today’s sessions.
Not just in the context of F1, but sport as a whole, the Monaco Grand Prix is a truly special event. The marquee race within the exclusive club of blue-ribbon venues. It is a huge challenge for drivers as they look to thread their cars in-between the famous barriers which punish the smallest of mistakes. With Nico Rosberg having won the previous two Monaco Grand Prix, he will bid to become only the fourth driver to win three consecutive races, following in the footsteps of Graham Hill, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. However, Lewis Hamilton will look to halt his teammate’s momentum and secure his fourth victory of the campaign, on the back of the confirmation of his contract extension.