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Formula E preview: Monaco

Written by Vyas Ponnuri

Season 10 of Formula E will officially head into half-time as the drivers and teams head over to the scenic locales and sights of the Principality, for the Monaco E Prix. Be it in Formula One or Formula E, one saying remains common — it's a race everyone wants to win.

While Formula One has been a staple on the streets of Monaco in the past, Formula E has raced in the Principality for as long as the series has existed. In fact, Monaco was among the first tracks to host Formula E, with the streets of the Principality set to host the inaugural Monaco E Prix on a shortened version of the full Grand Prix layout — the cars not having enough battery power to run a full race on the Monaco layout.

The first three Monaco E Prix races were run on the shortened layout — the drivers taking a right around turn one, Sainte-Devote, a sharper right taking them along the run to the Nouvelle chicane, bringing them back in tune with the Formula One layout. The layout then followed its Formula One counterpart, traversing the Tabac corner, the quick swimming pool chicane, Rascasse, and taking the drivers back across the start/finish line.

Despite missing out on iconic corners such as the Casino Square, the iconic hairpin, and the tunnel section, Formula E in Monaco remained a rather thrilling affair, largely due to the pandemonium ensuing at Sainte-Devote, or on the narrow run down to the chicane. Drivers could get caught up on the exit of the chicane too, as evidenced by Jean-Eric Vergne and Nelson Piquet Jr coming a cropper in 2017.

The trio of Monaco E Prix run during these times also ran during alternate seasons, with seasons two and four not hosting the flagship event, clashing with the Historic Monaco Grand Prix.

However, ever since Formula E's return from the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season, the all-electric series made a much-awaited change to the race — From then, the drivers would use the full Grand Prix layout. The move was welcomed by everyone on the paddock, and those watching on too, as they would finally get to watch Formula E cars race to their full potential along Beau Rivage, Casino Square, the iconic hairpin, and the Monaco tunnel.

The original Monaco Grand Prix layout would be used from season eight, with minor modifications made to the Nouvelle chicane and St Devote in season seven done away with.

Even so, the Monaco E Prix has continued to be the spectacle it has been, with the smaller Formula E cars proving a right fit for the narrow streets of Monaco, and the races being far from a processional affair.

That said, Season Ten's running of the event will be the sixth in the Principality, and with the championship battle heating up in Misano, we head into Monaco with two contenders level on points at the top, and the chasing pack not too far off.

Thus, the ever-popular Monaco round will become even more crucial in the charge for the championship, and with as many as six different drivers and teams triumphing atleast once this season, the race can be anyone's to win. The grid will be motivated by the glitz and glamour of the event, and will be pushing even harder to etch their names into the iconic list of Monaco victors.

The track layout for the event

After a series of new rounds and tracks, Formula E returns to its usual spectacle at Monaco, for the sixth running of the Monaco E Prix.

While races have been run on the shorter Monaco layout before, and on a slightly-modified version of the track, Saturday's race will be third to run on the full Grand Prix layout, the track used by their Formula One counterparts.

Each corner on this famed circuit serves as a spot for action of any form, and has its own story to tell. From the Monaco hairpin to the famous Monaco tunnel, with the Nouvelle chicane and Sainte-Devote in between, expect plenty of racing action on Saturday, with drivers and teams set to battle it out fiercely for what can be dubbed as the biggest honour in the series.

While the layout is the same compared to previous seasons, the racing here is once again expected to be top notch. Last year's race drew as many as 116 overtakes, and if anything is to go by from the action we have witnessed this season, expect similar figures at the end of Saturday's race.

Who are the favourites for the race

With a fierce championship battle leaving Pascal Wehrlein and Jake Dennis in the top two spots of the drivers' standings, expect them to be slugging it out for the top step of the podium on Sunday.

Neither have triumphed in the Principality, however, with Dennis finishing third and ninth in his last two Monaco E Prix, and Wehrlein having experienced heartbreak in the past, retiring from the lead of the race in 2022. Saturday stands as the latter's chance to redeem himself, given his form in 2024.

But the Porsche-powered duo will definitely be facing stern competition from the rest of the grid, not least their closest championship contenders Oliver Rowland and Nick Cassidy.

Rowland and Nissan come into Monaco on the back of a heartbreaking last-lap DNF from the lead of the Misano E Prix, having benefitted from Antonio Felix Da Costa's disqualification 24 hours earlier. It appeared Rowland's race was doomed even before it started, the team having fed incorrect data into the system, which caused Rowland to be misled in terms of the lap count and energy consumption.

However, Nissan would be encouraged by the tighter confines of the Monaco track, where qualifying will carry greater importance than it did at Misano. Rowland would relish qualifying around the street track too, his poles earlier this season coming around two street tracks — Diriyah and Tokyo. He would be looking to add a third pole to his repertoire in 2024, could Monaco be the scene of yet another Rowland pole?

When it comes to qualifying and Monaco, expect Rowland's teammate Sacha Fenestraz to be in the fray. The young French-Argentine driver coincidentally took pole here last year — only for it to be withdrawn hours later due to a technical infringement. Fenestraz enjoys qualifying on street circuits, and revels in the pressure of the situation, and with more experience under his belt, could he be challenging his teammate? Only time will tell.

Do keep an eye on Maserati MSG's Max Gunther too — with Monaco being the home race of Maserati's principal sponsor Monaco Sports Group (MSG), he would be raring to go for glory at the team's home race.

Having taken a podium at one home race already, could he double the tally of home podiums for the team? With Gunther already bullish about expectations, a strong showing at Monaco could bring him into championship contention for the second half of the season.

With Monaco rewarding qualifying performances, could Jean-Eric Vergne bring himself and DS Penske a strong result? The Frenchman, the only double world champion in the series, he has already shown his qualifying smarts, with a pole earlier this year at Diriyah.

With Vergne known for his stoic defensive drives in the past, could he take a surprise pole position, and net himself and DS Penske a victory this season? Only time will be able to tell us the tale.

Timings for the weekend

The Monaco E Prix is a rarity, as all four sessions will take place on the same day itself: Saturday, 27th April, 2024. The timings for the weekend's proceedings (in track time) are as follows:

Timings: Track time (BST time)

Free Practice One: 7:25 - 8:15 (6:25 - 7:15 BST)

Free Practice Two: 9:05 - 9:55 (8:05 - 8:55 BST)

Qualifying: 10:40 - 12:03 (9:40 - 11:03 BST)

Main Race: 15:03 - 16:30 (14:03 - 15:30 BST)

Championship Standings heading into the Monaco E Prix:

Drivers' standings

Pascal Wehrlein (TAG Heuer Porsche) - 89 points

Jake Dennis (Andretti Formula E Team) - 89 points

Oliver Rowland (Nissan Formula E Team) - 80 points

Nick Cassidy (Jaguar TCS Racing) - 76 points

Max Gunther (Maserati MSG Racing) - 63 points

Teams' standings

Jaguar TCS Racing - 128 points

TAG Heuer Porsche - 112 points

Andretti Formula E Team - 109 points

Nissan Formula E Team - 100 points

DS Penske - 75 points

Vyas's predictions

Monaco need not always be a straightforward race, as proven in the past, as it is not a slam dunk pole position to victory race. With the nature of the series providing for bountiful overtaking action, one should definitely expect overtaking action on race day.

That said, I expect Oliver Rowland to bounce back and put his Nissan on pole position once again, continuing his strong form on qualifying at street circuits this season. I would expect drivers to come through the field though, and go left-field with the prediction of Jean-Eric Vergne pulling off a special victory for Penske, with another of his characteristic defensive drives.

I would predict Oliver Rowland taking yet another podium this season, and bouncing back from last-lap heartbreak at Misano, with one Porsche-powered car taking up the final podium slot.

With that said, all eyes turn to the streets of Monaco this weekend, to see who rounds out the first half of the season on a high. Do make sure to tune in to the racing action this weekend, with all action taking place on Saturday, 27th April, 2024, with free practice one kicking off at 7:25 local time.


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