MPH: Monaco GP is Alonso's best chance of beating Red Bulls. Unless...
- Last updated: May 24th 2023
For the first time in 2023, Red Bull looks vulnerable going into the Monaco Grand Prix. The slow-speed F1 circuit should suit Alonso and Aston Martin, but there's also someone else to look out for, writes Mark Hughes
Fernando Alonso has let it slip once in conversation already this year: “Just wait until Monaco,” he said to the Red Bull drivers with a smile in a green room. Just how seriously he rates his chances there is difficult to know, but of all the tracks on the calendar this is the one where the thus-far dominant Red Bull might be exposed.
On the evidence of GPS traces from qualifying at all the tracks this year, it’s clear that the Aston Martin is comparably fast to the Red Bull through the corners but that it’s nowhere near as aero-efficient, inducing a whole lot more drag than the Red Bull in creating its downforce. That’s not such a problem around Monaco, with only the tunnel section really paying back on low drag.
It’s also very clear that the Red Bull’s advantage is far greater on race day than in qualifying. The extremely stable aero platform, its resistance to pitch and dive, which allows the car to be run so low also makes for a car which can be a little reluctant to have its front tyres fully up to temperature by the beginning of a qualifying lap. It can also be prone to locking its front brakes, a trait often associated with cars running a lot of anti-dive in their front suspension geometry as it doesn’t give the same level of feel through the brake pedal.
Even last year we saw the Red Bull drivers struggling for front tyre temperature in qualifying and that indeed was part of the whole Sergio Perez Q3 crash controversy, the red flags he caused preventing Max Verstappen from finishing a lap which would likely have aced Perez’s. Both were having to do multiple-lap runs to generate the required front tyre temperature around a track which induces lower cornering loads than any other. Making them more vulnerable to red flags. This year’s Red Bull appears even more prone to that trait and the usual race day reward, once its tyres are up to temperature, is neutralised because of the extreme difficulty in passing here.
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So a car which is struggling for tyre temperatures and without great feel in the brake pedal might not be the best tool around Monaco on Saturday. But a car with a lot of downforce, great braking and a balance which allows a great driver to fully express himself, such as Alonso’s Aston, might be just the thing. Even if it is slower on the Sunday.
But actually there’s another possible disruptor here: Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. It’s a combination which has been on pole here for the previous two years. The Ferrari’s great agility into slow turns and Leclerc’s outrageous ability to sit the car on the outer edges of possibility for a lap make for a truly formidable Monaco combination. The Ferrari also tends to fire up its front tyres just fine, better than the Aston, in fact.
If there’s going to be an upset to Red Bull domination anywhere this year, it’s going to be here. That’s before we even get into the likely in-team rivalry between Verstappen and street circuit ace Sergio Perez.