Why 2024 Monaco GP six-way fight for pole cannot be missed

Qualifying in Monaco is crucial because overtaking is extremely difficult in the Grand Prix

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Not everyone is a fan of the Monaco Grand Prix because you can’t overtake and the drivers simply cruise around for 78 laps, saving their tyres and keeping out of trouble. However, no one can deny that qualifying is the best session of the Formula 1 calendar.

Three-time F1 world champion Nelson Piquet described driving a racing car around Monaco is like “riding a bicycle around your living room”. Unless you have a massive house, that’s a tricky task.

Max Verstappen has been the driver to beat in F1 for the last few years but he’s coming under increasing pressure from McLaren and Lando Norris. That should continue this weekend, where Ferrari will be in the fight too.

Red Bull must raise their game

Finding the optimal setup was a problem for Red Bull in Miami and Imola. McLaren‘s upgrades too has seen Red Bull‘s advantage completely wiped out.

Monaco is all about confidence and building into qualifying on Saturday, so Red Bull cannot afford to struggle in practice this weekend or else they will be found out.

If there is one small weakness of Red Bull‘s ground effect-era cars, it’s the car’s tough ride over bumps and kerbs, which was highlighted at the 2023 Singapore GP, when both Verstappen and Sergio Perez were knocked out in Q2 and failed to finish on the podium.

Race winner Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Race winner Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

“Looking at the track layout, it’s probably not going to be our best track, just because our car normally struggles a bit over bumps and kerbs,” said Verstappen.

“We did work on it a bit compared to last year. I think so far, on most of the tracks that we’ve been to, our low-speed performance has improved a little bit. But I don’t think this is going to be a very easy weekend.

“I think Monaco never is very straightforward, even when you are supposed to have the best car. Monaco is a very tricky track to get everything to work, get the tyres to work, in a quali lap, for example, red flags, there’s always a lot of disruption and a lot of things can go right, but also a lot of things can go wrong.

“We just need to be on it. Of course, Imola started off really bad and we managed to turn it around. I wouldn’t want to have a weekend like that again. It’s quite stressful and not nice, but we know that this is a more difficult track for us, even though we have won here in the past.”

Race winner Max Verstappen and McLaren’s runner-up Lando Norris talk in parc ferme after the 2024 Emilia Romagna GP at Imola | Mark Thompson/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Ferrari quietly confident

Charles Leclerc has had nothing but bad luck at his home event. The driver who got a bus to school on the streets of Monte Carlo has shown superb speed in Monaco but is yet to stand on the podium.

In 2021, Leclerc took a surprise pole position for Ferrari despite Mercedes and Red Bull having the quickest cars that season. Ferrari have always gone well around Monaco over the years, there’s just something about the cars they make which suits slow-speed corners and kerbs.

Leclerc, who is 48 points behind Verstappen in the F1 driver standings, is exceptionally quick over one lap too and you feel like he will win it or bin it this weekend.

“I feel like in Monaco, you always start a little bit from scratch,” said Leclerc. “As much as what we’ve seen in the last few races, I think it won’t be too different.

“There still can be some surprises. We’ve seen it in 2021, I think, with us, where we were nowhere but then we got to Monaco and our car was working very well. So we will have to see after Friday where we are compared to the others. But I will be surprised if we are not in the mix for pole, at least.”

What about McLaren’s chances?

As for McLaren, their primary weakness this year has been navigating slow-speed corners. However, they remain optimistic about their performance in Monaco, as they can specifically tune the car for the tight turns.

Norris believes their struggles are mainly in slower corners on tracks that also include medium and high-speed sections, which should allow them to remain competitive this weekend.

“It’s still our biggest weakness,” said Norris. “Even in Imola, Turn Seven (the hairpin) was our worst corner and so was the chicane.

“I don’t think we are bad. When I say it’s our biggest weakness, we are talking about half a tenth. But Monaco, you set up only for slow-speed and that’s where maybe it’s not as far fetched compared to some other circuits.

“Last year was not our best year in terms of delivering in Monaco. We have not been bad here in the past and have clearly improved a lot since then.

“We didn’t have our upgrade last year. A lot of things have improved since then and we definitely improved slow-speed as well, so I’m hopeful. I hope it stays dry, rather than rain.”

Six-way fight for pole

One car will probably have the edge come Q3 but the driver can make the crucial difference in Monaco, just look at Verstappen‘s astonishing final sector on his way to pole in 2023 as he edged out Fernando Alonso.

Verstappen, Sergio Perez, Norris, Oscar Piastri, Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will all be in the hunt for pole. Who dares risk the most, who wants to get the car close to the barriers to find speed?

Traffic will no doubt play a part and so will the timing of yellow or red flags. Think Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg or Perez making mistakes or “errors” in Q3 which stopped other drivers from finishing their flying laps from over the years in Monaco.

John Smithhttps://total-motorsport.com
Editor at Total-Motorsport.com and all round Motorsport journalist specialising in Formula 1, IndyCar and Formula E.
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