A few days on from the Spanish Grand Prix, the Formula 1 World Championship is back on track for the most unusual race on the calendar, the Monaco Grand Prix. It's the home race for Charles Leclerc and it is the shortest race of the season, at 260 kilometres, rather than the usual distance of just over 300. It is also the hardest track on which to overtake.
There are hardly any quick sections on the circuit, which is extremely narrow, with ten right hand turns and nine to the left. Many of them, such as Ste. Devote, Mirabeau, Rascasse and the 180 degree hairpin outside the Fairmont Hotel, have earned their place in the Formula 1 history book. It goes without saying therefore that these characteristics mean that qualifying at Monaco is more important than at any other track. Last year, Charles took pole position, but had a mechanical problem as a result of a crash on Saturday, which meant he was unable to start the race. Carlos Sainz went on to take second and secure his first podium finish with Scuderia Ferrari.
There is one major change to the weekend timetable. The tradition of having the first day of free practice on a Thursday has come to an end and, for the first time, the event will fall into line with every other Grand Prix, with practice taking place on Friday. The first session is at 14 CEST, the second at 17. The third and final hour of free practice takes place on Saturday at 13 followed by qualifying at 16. The race gets underway at 15 on Sunday, over 78 laps of the 3.337 kilometre track, for a distance of 260.286 kilometres. There is just the one DRS zone, on the main straight, although it usually does little to aid overtaking.
Three questions to...
You are heading to your home Grand Prix fighting for the championship. Will that change your approach to the weekend?
Charles Leclerc: "The attitude is always the same and the approach is always the same, regardless of whether or not we are leading the championship. Every point is valuable. Our competitors are very strong and we all know that even the smallest mistake can make a big difference. Since the beginning of this season, the team that did everything perfectly was the one to win. We will do everything to be that team. We have the confidence that we can make it, which is a good starting point, but at the same time, we are aware that it will not be easy to achieve our goals."
The Monaco Grand Prix has a new format this year. What will that change for you?
CL: "It's the first time that we will see a standard race weekend format in Monaco, with practice on Friday, qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday. In the past, we used to have practice on Thursday and no racing action on Friday, at least for Formula 1. I think it puts us into the rhythm of all the other races which could be good, so I'm looking forward to giving it a go!"
What is your favourite part of the circuit?
CL: "My favourite part of the track is definitely the 'Piscine', which is the corner combination of two esses by the swimming pool. It just feels amazing, I really enjoy driving there. It's also where I learned how to swim as a child, so I have an emotional attachment to it, making it even more meaningful".
Ferrari in Monaco
GP entered 65
Debut 1950 (A. Ascari 2nd; R. Sommer 4th; L. Villoresi ret.)
Wins 9 (13.85%)
Pole positions 10 (15.38%)
Fastest race laps 17 (26.15%)
Total podiums 43 (22.05%)
Monaco GP: facts & figures
0. The number of overtaking moves in the 2021 and 2003 Monaco Grands Prix. As mentioned, overtaking is very difficult on the streets of the Principality and, in the past 40 years, the average number of passes per race is 10. Over the same time period, the race with the most overtakes was the 1983 edition, when there were 26.
2. The area in square kilometres covered by the Principality of Monaco, the second smallest state in the world after the Vatican City. To put that in perspective, it is only just bigger than half of New York's famous Central Park.
3. The best result for a Monegasque driver in their home race. Louis Chiron did it in 1950 at the wheel of a Maserati. Charles Leclerc has taken part in two events here, but has never finished. In fact, in 2021 he was unable to even start, having previously claimed pole position.
52. The number of Formula 1 drivers who have raced at least once in the Monaco Grand Prix at the wheel of a Ferrari. In fact, the Scuderia's adventure in the blue riband category of motor racing began in the Principality on 21 May 1950. On that day, Alberto Ascari, Raymond Sommer and Luigi Villoresi all lined up for the Prancing Horse at the wheel of 125 F1s. Six of its drivers have won here: Maurice Trintignant (1955), Niki Lauda (1975 and 1976), Jody Scheckter (1979), Gilles Villeneuve (1981), Michael Schumacher (1997, 1999 and 2001) and Sebastian Vettel (2017).
519. The number of police officers in the Principality of Monaco, meaning that, on average there is one for every 73 inhabitants. It is reckoned to be one of the safest places to live, with the lowest crime rate in the world.
At Ferrari 75 years ago
It is the 25th May 1947 and a Ferrari 125 S, bearing the number 56, is entered in the Rome Grand Prix at the Caracalla Circuit. 40 laps lie ahead, making a total distance of 137.6 kilometres. The start-finish area is located on the road in front of the eponymous baths and from there, competitors tackle the roads that run alongside the Ardeatina Gate, the Roman Walls, the Cestia Pyramid and the San Paolo Gate. The six kilometre track is particularly demanding, but also picturesque with many gradient changes that challenge the driver and can cause problems to even the most experienced among them, making the race result hard to predict right down to the final few metres. After taking part in the race at Piacenza a fortnight earlier, Franco Cortese once again lives up to Enzo Ferrari's expectations. The driver from Piedmont dominates the race, even slowing the pace in the closing stages once the win is in the bag. He wins at an average speed of 88 km/h ahead of Guido Barbieri in a Maserati and Guido Stanguellini in a Stanguellini SN1100. A Ferrari win: it's the first of many and the wins keep coming right up to the present day.