Mercedes reveal plan of attack for Monaco GP with ‘lousy’ race pace consideration

Thomas Maher
George Russell, Mercedes, 2023 Monaco Grand Prix.

James Allison has shared his thoughts on the strategy calls Mercedes have to consider for this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix.

Mercedes’ James Allison has revealed the setup considerations his team will be taking into account for this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

With the Monte Carlo circuit notoriously difficult – to the point of near impossibility – when it comes to overtaking, securing a good qualifying position is the most critical aspect of the entire weekend.

James Allison: Being on track critical for finding Monaco confidence

With the Monaco track a complete outlier in terms of its demands on the cars and drivers, with maximum downforce requirements and more focus needed on honing mechanical grip rather than aero, Saturday’s qualifying session is the most important one of the entire season.

Track position is king in Monte Carlo, with cars able to run several seconds a lap off the pace without rivals getting past – as evidenced by Daniel Ricciardo’s famous win in 2018 despite an ailing Red Bull.

While race pace is obviously still important, the question over whether to set the car up best for qualifying to secure as high a grid slot as possible was posed to Mercedes’ technical director James Allison ahead of the weekend.

“Yes and no, at the same time,” he said.

“I think one of the main things you need to do at Monaco is to make sure that you spend as much time on the track as possible in the free practice sessions.

“Things change so dramatically from the opening laps of FP1 to the end of FP3. Generally speaking, the teams that do well there are the ones that do not hang around in the garage but are just out there on the track, remembering what it takes to drive at Monaco, finding the confidence to push nearer to the walls and just tuning the car as the weekend conditions change. That is the sort of overriding compulsion when you are wanting a good Monaco weekend.

“While it is the case qualifying is super key at Monaco, you cannot afford to ignore the race pace on top of that.

“You cannot afford to because imagine you do a wonderful qualifying session and you manage to get the car right at the best it could be if it were just focused on a single lap.

“Come Sunday you will find a trail of cars behind you and, at a certain point, you will get frightened that they are going to undercut you and get past you into the lead and so you will probably stop sooner than you want to stop because you are frightened about losing the position to all those people behind you.”

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If a team does go all-in on its qualifying setup, Allison pointed out how this could backfire on race day – even if a driver is able to keep a gaggle of cars behind them for a long time.

“You will find as soon as you come in the pits if your race pace was lousy those cars will just go ‘Thank you’, and then they will just hair off into the distance in free air,” he said.

“They will not stop, they will just run long, they will overcut you because they have been sitting on their tyres gently and they have got loads left in the car and they will just disappear.

“You must have half an eye on the race pace and half an eye on the qualifying pace and spend as much of the weekend as you can on the track trying to get the most from that very unusual circuit so that you are good in both those conditions.”

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