Monaco Speed Trap: Who is the fastest of them all?

© XPB 

It’s the most iconic and challenging track in Grand Prix racing, with as many pitfalls as it has corners, one of which is the slowest in F1.

But there's one thing justifiably missing from Monaco's layout: a long straight.

As a high-downforce venue, the Principality’s legendary street circuit puts very little premium on top speed, which isn't to say that maximum velocity doesn't matter.

The 'Nouvelle Chicane' is arguably the only spot where a driver is offered a reasonable opportunity of overtaking a rival. So, a car's speed through the tunnel and beyond is important to pull off the always bold feat.

The speed delta between the fastest and slowest runners in the field is significantly reduced in Monte Carlo, precisely because everyone runs their car in a high downforce configuration to maximize grip and stability through the circuit's tight and twisty corners.

Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg were fastest through the speed trap with a top speed of 285.7 km/h registered at the midway point between the tunnel’s exit and the entry to the ‘Nouvelle Chicane’.

However, both drivers were thrown out of qualifying after Saturday’s session because of a non-compliant rear wing, or more precisely a DRS opening that exceeded the regulation’s 85 mm limit.

There’s really very little useful information to take away from the readings.

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But digging deeper into qualifying data, Formula Data Analysis notes that Charles Leclerc was quickest in just 13% of the track, the Ferrari charger building his pole lap mainly in Sector 1, although he was still very fast elsewhere.

Runner-up Oscar Piastri believed after qualifying that the sum of a few small mistakes deprived him of pole. The McLaren driver was nevertheless quickest in several corners, but mainly in the slowest section (T5-T7) and at the Nouvelle Chicane.

Compared to last year, when qualifying was held in similar track conditions, McLaren is the team that has improved the most, with team papaya shaving 1.8s off its best flyer from 2023.

On the strategy front, a one-stopper featuring the medium and hard tyres is pretty much obligatory. But that’s assuming we’re treated to a clean race, void of chaos, safety cars or the weather wreaking havoc on proceedings.

“Those who opt to start on the C3 (hard) will aim to extend the first stint as much as possible, hoping for an eventual Safety Car to give them a cheap pit stop in terms of time taken,” noted Pirelli F1 boss Mario Isola.

“In fact, it’s quite difficult to predict the ideal pit stop window as that will depend on whether or not incidents on track create any opportunities.

“But in theory, they would be between laps 25 and 35 for those on a Medium-Hard strategy and between 45 and 55 for those running Hard-Medium.”

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