Daniel Ricciardo’s victory in the Monaco Grand Prix this past weekend was a marvellous triumph considering his Red Bull was running at 75% power for more than half the race, but the very fact he was able to effectively cruise to victory in the end suggests that the modern day Monaco race is nothing more than a showcase of heritage.
Why do we expect anything else when Formula One gathers in the Principality? For the past generation, and particularly since the regulation revamp in 2016, the race has been little more than a procession. Whilst it is an incredible feat to wrestle a modern day F1 car around the tight streets of Monte Carlo at racing speeds without careering into the barriers, the lack of overtaking, the domination of safety and the preference to finish the race with the car intact rather than risk rising through the ranks.
Daniel Ricciardo’s race win is the perfect example. If we were at any other circuit and witnessed the race leader lose 25% of engine power and unable to venture to gears 7 and 8, he would have slowly descended to the lower midfield or, worse, retired, with over half the race distance still to go. Sebastian Vettel, upon hearing the news that the Red Bull in front was somewhat stricken, went hell for leather at first, trying to usurp the Aussie whilst his tyres still had life in them. However, unable to overtake the Red Bull within the following ten laps, the German decided to settle for a P2 finish and let Ricciardo seal his first win in F1 since Monaco 2016.
Likewise, Lewis Hamilton, cruising in P3, did not have the grip to keep up with Vettel and Ricciardo, so he sat back and steered the car home for the remaining 40 laps, assured that any overtake on him was all but impossible.
At one point in the race, Lance Stroll, one of the drivers propping up the bottom of the finish board, was lapping over 5 seconds a lap quicker than race leader Ricciardo. What kind of sport features the backmarkers lapping the leaders by such mammoth lengths. It’s absurdity at its finest and its unique to Formula One.
After the race, Hamilton described the race as boring, likewise Fernando Alonso. Ricciardo clearly wasn’t complaining, but he must’ve felt very fortunate to have clinched victory with limited power on Sunday.
We all know Monaco is not fit for purpose anymore, so why don’t we just admit it?
Yes, it’s a brilliant spectacle. Watching 20 cars power around the streets of Monaco, whizzing past the casino, edging around the hairpin and angling around the Swimming Pool chicane, all the while only being mere inches from the barriers and certain retirement, is a joy to behold. As are the dozens of yachts that come to witness the action, the A-List celebrities that flock to Monte Carlo for the weekend, and the glitz and glamour of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene welcoming the drivers onto the podium.
But from a racing perspective, it rivals Barcelona for being the worst race on the calendar.
How can we change it? Put simply, we can’t; it’s more than likely here to stay in it’s current form. There’s absolutely zero chance of the race being removed from the calendar – Monaco, much like Ferrari, is Formula One. You cannot imagine a world without it. Such is the adulation of Monaco within the sport, they are the only circuit not to pay a fee to host Formula One every season.
We could extend the circuit by opening up more streets in the Principality, widening the circuit and allowing drivers to clock higher speeds. We could create a series of mini-races that accumulate points through the weekend. We could make a two-stop strategy mandatory to encourage greater reshuffling of the grid.
However, these are all tampering measures that only serves to intentionally disrupt racing, much like watering tracks before hand with sprinklers. Changes to the format won’t happen.
Monaco is here to stay, so we better enjoy the ride.