Abu Dhabi

Last Race: 23rd Nov Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi GP Results
Pos Driver
1 Lewis Hamilton
2 Felipe Massa
3 Valtteri Bottas

Monaco Grand Prix Preview

Wednesday 23rd May 2012



Lewis goes for a Personal Best in drive-through penalties, 2011

Lewis goes for a Personal Best in drive-through penalties, 2011

F1's glam-fest GP couldn't be more open - will we get six winners in six races? Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton are great round Monaco.

For 19 races in the season F1 acts all serious with Charlie Whiting exercising meticulous control control over every aspect of safety. And then for one week of the year there's Monaco with no run-off, a tunnel and corners so tight even Felipe Massa has difficulty pushing people off the road. But F1 needs it because this is where the 'glamour' is; deals are done, the top clients are entertained and the fans know that they can get closer to the cars than at any other circuit.

It's also the chance for movie stars at the nearby Cannes film festival to shuffle along the Corniche and schmooze round the grid in perfect bewilderment as to what is actually taking place.

As a spectacle it's unmissable. If you only ever get to watch one GP in your life then it should be at Monaco, because watching F1 machinery get hurled through the Swimming Pool complex is an awe-inspiring sight. That awe takes a quantum leap when drivers do it in the wet.

Since the last race in Barcelona people have been saying with a certain amount of self-righteousness - Pastor Maldonado, you can't call him a Pay Driver now. Where have these people been? That much was obvious from the Monaco Grand Prix of last year when he took an underperforming Williams and was about to deliver some serious points for the team when he had a misunderstanding with Lewis Hamilton into Ste Devote. Lewis contributing more to the misunderstanding than Pastor. Only the best drivers succeed in Monaco and Maldonado proved that he was up there with a strong drive that ultimately ended in a DNF.

One of the improvements the organisers have made to the track this year is by pushing back the barrier that Sergio Perez hit last year. And about time, too. That barrier should have been removed after Karl Wendlinger's accident there in 1994. It tells you something about the complacency of the organisers that something they could have changed a long time ago was left in place so long.

The big question of course will be how Pirelli's tyres shape up around the tax dodger's principality. With such a premium on qualifying and such difficulty in overtaking - DRS or no DRS - then there's unlikely to be a whole lot of tyre saving going on in qualifying. Everyone will be going flat out to get the best grid slot possible. And Mercedes won't get that much return from their double DRS with so little straight running.

Tyres can and do go off spectacularly in the race, as witnessed by Rubens Barrichello making a successful overtaking move between Rascasse (the Schumi Parking Zone) and Antony Noghes because the car in front had lost traction in such a big way.

McLaren, with good low-speed traction, will be favourites to take pole and they will want most of all to have an error-free GP weekend. Lewis Hamilton's pole time in Barcelona was so much faster than anybody else, all he needs to do now is make sure his gearbox stays intact and that he doesn't tread on any cracks in the pavement during practice.

Reassuringly it's "our Noige" helping out the stewards this weekend as the driver representative - so at least it's someone who's driven the race many times at a top level, instead of a sportscar driver or an F1 makeweight that they've had for some GPs in the past.

As for the rest of the front five rows of the grid, it could be anybody. And there's no guarantee that it will be McLaren and Red Bull at the front either despite the nimbleness of the machinery. It could equally be Lotus or Williams or Sauber or Ferrari - but probably not Felipe Massa. Felipe says he wants to wipe the slate clean and start his 2012 season again in Monaco. Last year he was more fixated at keeping Lewis behind than bringing his car home in one piece and suffered the ignominy of crashing in the tunnel.

As for the thousands of Italian fans streaming over the hills from Italy, can Fernando Alonso deliver another strong result from a resurgent F2012? It will be interesting to know how much life was taken out of the race engine in Spain when Alonso was allowed to run it at the maximum towards the end of the last race. Felipe Massa will possibly be hoping that Fernando has a race like 2010 when he hit the barriers at Massenet. In previous races he's qualified badly but made fantastic starts and clawed back places. Fat chance in Monaco.

Michael Schumacher has yet to have a podium result since his comeback, something returning World Champion Kimi Raikkonen has breezed into already. With a five-place grid deduction for crashing into Senna at the Spanish Grand Prix Michael's chances at reversing his fortune don't look great. But at least Mark Webber and Dieter Mateschitz have helped air his side of the argument versus Pirelli.

Some of the best TV coverage from last year was not during the race but around the pool celebrations at the Red Bull Energy Centre afterwards where the great and the good of F1 got lobbed into the pool to celebrate Seb's win. Eddie Jordan had come equipped with some super-strong adhesive to keep his 'syrup' in place for the inevitable dunking and as David Coulthard remarked at the time off camera, admiringly, "it's holding in place very well..."

Andrew Davies

Vettel's Maiden Ferrari Run