The Monaco Grand Prix - wet or dry?

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  • The harbour at Monaco (Port Hercules). Photo: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

    The first corner of last year's Monaco Grand Prix. Photo: PA Wire

    Sebastian Vettel on his way to winning the Monaco Grand Prix in 2011. Photo: PA Wire

    Jenson Button last year. Photo: PA Wire

    Lewis Hamilton taking the chicane during qualifying in 2011. Photo: PA Wire

  • The Monaco Grand Prix - wet or dry?
    25.05.2012 09:42

     

    Formula 1 racing has arrived at what it considers it’s most glamorous race, the Monaco Grand Prix.

    There are some who would argue that, given the lack of overtaking opportunities, it can also be one of the most tedious on the track.

    Whether or not you agree, that could be different this weekend with the weather gods possibly throwing spanners into the highly-tuned works. It was damp at times during free practice on Thursday, and Friday’s rest day is susceptible to some rather heavier showers or thunderstorms.

    The same goes for Saturday, and this is where things get interesting because that, of course, is qualifying day.

    There is a high probability of showers or some more persistent rain, and given that it looks potentially thundery as well there will be a risk of significant downpours. When rainfall is showery it can be a bit hit and miss but there is a high probability of having at least some of qualifying in the wet – about 75 per cent.

    This means the teams relying on rainfall radar and meteorologists for advice on when best to make their qualifying runs. They usually have outriders at all points of the circuit and even spotters in helicopters but this is less useful at a compact circuit like Monaco.

    The starting order may be shaken up depending on how the weather behaves, and depending on how easily the drivers can stay on the circuit. When it gets slippery on Monaco’s tarmac it is all too easy to end up in a wall or barrier and for the qualifying session to be disrupted.

    Moreover, it will be hard to retain heat in the tyres given that it will be rather cool for an early summer day in the south of France. Much of the UK will be warmer and certainly drier and sunnier.

    If it’s wet throughout qualifying then this might have implications for tyre use during the race itself on Sunday, unless that is also drenched.

    There is a risk of showers again during the race but rainfall looks like less of a threat than during qualifying – a 20 to 30 per cent probability. The race might start dry, in that case, and if qualifying is wet then the teams will have been able to save their dry tyres.

    Showers might skirt the circuit entirely, in which case might we see teams trying for a one-stop race? Sebastian Vettel's tyres were degrading badly last year, though, on a one-stopper with Fernando Alonso and Jenson  Button rapidly closing on fresher rubber, but a convenient red flag allowed Vettel to grab new tyres for the last few laps.

    Pirelli seem to be hinting that it might be possible to change tyres only once during the race, but track temperature might play a role in tyre integrity. It won't be particularly hot with afternoon temperatures peaking at 21 or 22C with partly cloudy skies. Any lengthy sunny spells, though, would push track temperatures into the 40s.

    The rules state that those drivers taking part in the ‘top ten shoot-out’ have to start on the tyres with which they set their fastest lap. However, that only counts if dry-weather tyres were used to set the grid time and if dry-weather tyres are used at the start of the race.

    If showers break out later then we may see all the strategy and brinkmanship that ensues as the pits scurry to react to or anticipate the changing conditions. Which may be nothing to the scurrying and jockeying proceeding on the circuit if a wet qualifying day plays havoc with the status quo.

    You can keep an eye on any rainfall with the radar website of our colleagues across the Channel, MeteoGroup France: Pleuvra? Pleuvra pas! 

    By: Etienne Davenport