top of page

Catching up with Formula One: Monaco

Written by Sofia Costantino, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri 


This weekend’s racing takes place in the streets of Monte-Carlo, the 81st Monaco Grand Prix, the eighth round of the 2024 Formula One season. One of our favourites for sure. 

  

The metronomical Dutch driver Max Verstappen, leader of the drivers' championship and winner of four of the first six races of this campaign, now fancies taking the outright record for consecutive poles, one he shares with the legendary Ayrton Senna. 


He took pole at the 2023 season finale in Abu Dhabi, and the seven in a row this season, equalling Alain Prost, who achieved them in 1993 with the extraordinary Williams/Renault FW15B.


Image credits: Motorsport images

However, it is becoming increasingly clear that Red Bull and Verstappen no longer have the exaggerated advantage of the first two years, in the new regulations introduced in 2022 for the aerodynamic grip mainly produced by the suction of the floor, rather than that generated by the wings. 


Finally, two teams have shown that, with the modifications introduced to their single-seaters, the current advantage over McLaren and Ferrari is limited to one or two tenths of a second per lap, and in some circuits and circumstances, even these may be better.


This is how it was seen, first in Miami — the sixth valid — with Lando Norris triumphing, and the last weekend in Imola, the Briton besieged the Dutchman in the final laps of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, to reduce what was a deficit of 6 seconds with 15 laps remaining, to finish just 0.7 seconds behind.


Image credits: Motorsport images

Verstappen won as usual, but he had to work a bit harder, and sweat a little more to achieve the win. One more demonstration, that the current Red Bull without the Dutchman would no longer be in that privileged position. 


Verstappen endured the McLaren's onslaught without making mistakes, and without having the luxury of another track limit violation, which would incur a penalty to his final time, which would undoubtedly have taken away the win.


Helped by the Safety Car when he led in Miami, and with his team-mate Oscar Piastri penalised at Imola with three grid positions that promoted him to the front row, Norris has become Verstappen's main competitor on the track.


Image credits: Motorsport images

To know if McLaren and Ferrari progress towards Red Bull is definitive, we'll have to wait for the Canadian race performance. 


On the other hand, this weekend in Monaco, it's more about the driver than the machine. McLaren will also pay homage to three-time champion Ayrton Senna, as well as his single-seater to produce a magic lap, to put himself in contention for a second win in 2024. 


It would be the perfect tribute to Senna, who dominated the streets of Monaco in the 80s and 90s, winning a record six times, five of them in a row from 1989 to 1993. 


Image credits: Marca.com

In addition, it is possible that the classification for the starting grid in the principality will be in the rain (a probability of 50%), reminding us of another great performance of the magical Senna. 


His spectacular driving in this GP of 1984 — his debut year in the top category — with a car from the heap (Toleman with turbo Hart engine), finishing second, behind winner Alain Prost, favoured by the premature end of the race due to adverse weather conditions, just as the Brazilian passed him by the first place.


From that famous pole in the McLaren/Honda MP4-4 — one of the most reproduced videos in the history of F1, Senna himself later explained that he had entered a kind of trance, which he defined as above “conscious comprehension”, being faster and faster without knowing how, until he awoke from that driving instinctively, after closing the historic lap, stating that he could no longer race that day.


The same phenomenon happened to Jochen Rindt, posthumous champion in 1970, on this same track. In a quiet race from eighth place in his Lotus 49C/Cosworth, he inherited second place, as other racers fell by the wayside, to sit around nine seconds behind leader Jack Brabham (Brabham/Cosworth BT33), even with five laps to go. 


Lap-by-lap Rindt closed in by over a second a lap, and faster than even a qualifying lap. Finally, the three-time Australian champion panicked and crashed into the last corner of the last lap, to give that unlikely victory to the Austrian, who was emotional when he heard the Austrian anthem on the podium.


This very particular phenomenon of pleasant trance was very well detailed and expressed in the book of positive human psychology, by Hungarian author Mihaly Csikszntmihalyi, entitled “Flow” (Fluir)... very appropriate.


Comments


bottom of page