Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturday: The Jewel of the Calendar; and News

After a week off to get manicures, stylish haircuts, and have their tailors dress them in the latest haute couture, the drivers of Formula 1 are set to return this weekend. While making fun on the erudite aspect of the series is one thing, it belies the fact that the drivers and teams are just as hard-working as any in the motorsports realm. That, of course, doesn’t mean that giving them a bit of a ribbing isn’t worth it at times.

This weekend represents the race that stands as the jewel of the schedule: The Monaco Grand Prix. The race, held annually on the streets of Monaco (and set to run until at least 2020), is roundly considered to be the race. The prestige that accompanies it is about mystifying from a competition standpoint because passing is difficult, more so that at any other track, making qualifying the equivalent of fighting for a finishing position. Sure, that may seem a bit of an overstatement but it’s not that far from the truth.

The reality is that the drivers really aren’t racing each other as much as they’re trying to keep their focus on the narrow, unforgiving streets for 78 laps because any mistake tends to be unforgiving and brings with it a DNF. While that axiom is often thrown about in racing, there is a certain validity to it for this race. One oops and it’s over.

Then again, cruising the streets of Monaco makes for a beautiful spectacle, especially hitting the Grand Hotel Hairpin (turn 6), or blasting through the tunnel (through turn 9) and then hitting the Nouvelle Chicane. In many ways, this course is a driver’s course with less left to the engineers. Former champion Nelson Piquet is often quoted as saying that a Monaco GP win is worth double the win anywhere else.

One thing that adds to the prestige is the ridiculous environment that surrounds the race. The cars race by a harbor of million-dollar yachts that bring with them the celebrities and the powerful of the world. Then there’s the accompanying fashion aspect, as detailed by CNN here, that adds to the glamour. It’s no wonder that the sport becomes an easy target for its pinky-out, nose-up attitude under these conditions.

It’s still a race, however, and one that could either bring about a challenge for the championship or cement that it is a foregone conclusion – looking at you Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

In the News

There’s been a few items of note since we’ve been away.  Here they are in no particular preference.

  • Hamilton finally signed an extension with Mercedes, something that seemed to incur way more drama than ever was necessary. The 30 year-old Briton signed on for three more years at the Silver Arrow in a move that seems like an obvious one even if the British press tried to stir up some silliness by wondering if he might move to Ferrari. While there will always be an allure to suiting up for that little Scuderia outfit, there’s no reason for a change at this point – especially one that would jeopardize his 2015 championship hope. The one thing that came from the contract being finalized was that Hamilton is rumored to be making $140 – $155 million for his efforts. Just keep that in mind while watching. Apparently Hamilton has been buoyed by these proceedings, as he posted the fastest times in the first two practices of the weekend.
  • The sport has decided that everything they have been doing is wrong. Or something like that. The F1 strategy group, awaiting approval from F1 Commission and the World Motorsport Council, has pushed for a number of changes for the 2017 season. Notable measures include the return to refueling, higher revving engines to bring back a louder engine noise, wider tires, and taking away aerodynamic aspects to slow the cars. En totem, the moves will push engineers to deal with different aspects than with which they currently do. The question, of course, is whether it will improve the racing but the mixture of these things should at, the very least, bring about a shake up and for now, maybe that’s all that’s needed. Fernando Alonso, never one to hold back, noted that these decisions show that the sport had been headed in the wrong direction for the past couple years.
  • The country of Iran announced that it would be building an F1-caliber track. This move is a strange one for a number of reasons. First, there is the fact that it is Iran, with its questionable track record on a lot of things – but hey, that hasn’t stopped Bernie Ecclestone from racing in some countries. To follow is the fact that it would mark another race in the Middle East and continues the distancing of the series from its European roots. Is that really what fans want to see when tracks in Europe get ignored? To add to the situation is the fact that there’s been no announcement that the track in Iran would actually get added to the schedule – though one would certainly think that if the country is building it that it is a likelihood.

The Race

The Monaco Grand Prix began in 1929 and has been a staple of the auto racing schedule. Its contiguous streak reaches back to 1955, and though the track has undergone some slight revisions over the years, it has pretty much stayed the same.  It’s a 78-lap affair that features 19 turns and is just over two miles in length on the winding streets of the city. Oddly enough, the race is one of the shortest in distance on the schedule and doesn’t conform to the distance required for other tracks.  Ayrton Senna leads all drivers with six wins, though Graham Hill with five was considered Mr. Monaco. Of the current drivers, Alonso and Rosberg pace the field with two wins apiece.

The race can be seen on NBC at 8:00 a.m. ET on Sunday, May 24.

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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While it is easy to make fun of F1, it also has one thing that the #2 racing series does not. On the track it’s still racing as opposed to entertainment.

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