F1 2018: Monaco and Canada showed that 2019 regulations are a step in the right direction
Back to back two races, which usually turn up to be a stunner, have been called into critique for being dull because of little to no overtakes around the course of the whole race.
But, it would be unwise to just label these races as boring and move on without dissecting and analyzing the whole story.
Let’s start with Monaco. The crown jewel of F1 calendar, Monaco threw a train of a race, even by its own standards.
Leading the “boring race” charge were Hamilton and Alonso, the two juggernauts on the Grid. But, its necessary to look into what prompted these two men to be so vocal, especially Hamilton who went so far as suggesting making alterations to either the circuit or the way the race is run itself.
In Monaco, the Brit finished P3 behind title rival Vettel. While Vettel spent the whole race close on the heels of Ricciardo, who ran into engine trouble from lap 28 itself, Hamilton was nowhere near.
He struggled with the tires, the balance of the car and finished more than 17 seconds behind eventual winner Ricciardo. Mercedes were never the favorites coming into the race and the weekend was very much about damage limitation for them.
Alonso, on the other hand, qualified P7 and retired from the race after running P7 for the majority of the race.
Coming into Monaco, and being out-qualified by the Force India of Ocon, brutally exposed the Woking-based squad’s myth that their chassis had been the best in the recent years and it was the Honda engine that was dragging them down.
While the Renault powered McLaren has failed to be even the midfield leader, Red Bull powered by the same engine had taken the second win of the season. The cocoon of “It’s all Honda’s fault” was crumbling race after race and Monaco dealt the biggest blow.
So it begs the question, would Hamilton and Alonso have been equally vocal had they been nearer to the front end of the grid?
But this doesn’t absolve Monaco of all guilt. In defense, Monaco had never been associated with overtaking ever since Grand Prix cars started racing on the streets of the principality.
In Monaco, barring any upheaval, the race is usually over on Saturday. Monaco’s spectacle is watching driver fling their cars as close as they dare to the barriers.
It is a testimony to ultimate driver skills and chassis superiority. The 2018 race wasn’t without any highlights.
While Ricciardo was untouchable and glided his Red Bull to pole, the Mercedes and Ferrari snapped close on his heels to line up behind him. Ocon was superbly impressive, posting 6th fastest time in a Force India overshadowing the likes of McLaren and Renaults.
In the race as well, the moment Ricciardo hit trouble, everyone’s hearts were in their mouth for a couple of laps, expecting the Red Bull to be devoured by the Ferrari.
While that didn’t materialize, the lingering tension that any moment the Renault engine could go up in smoke kept things interesting.
Behind the two, it was interesting to see Hamilton struggling and his frequent radio outbursts kept us entertained.
Watching Bottas fly on the supersofts added another narrative to look out for. Behind them Verstappen scythed through the field, Hulkenberg made an alternate strategy work and home hero Leclerc was on course for a strong result before his breaks gave way.
There was enough to watch the race and be entertained, but the general consensus is that it was a boring race, even by Monaco’s standards.
Highlighted by the fact that Verstappen despite having the fastest car could only march up to 9th, Hulkenberg spent a good dozen laps within half a second of Gasly, but couldn’t manage a way past.
F1’s decision to go with wider and more downforce producing cars have tumbled the lap times but have made wheel to wheel racing that much difficult. Given overtaking in Monaco is difficult but not impossible, the numbers from the 2018 result are surprising and in a bad way.
Two weeks later, Canada faced a similar brunt as Monaco. Once again there were various narratives to keep one intrigued, but the lack of wheel to wheel racing and overtakes meant that the race was considerably down on Canada’s standards.
Both the races vindicate FIA’s iron fist decision to introduce critical changes into the cars for next year onwards. A simplified front wing, changed bargeboards and bigger rear wing are slated to allow cars to follow each other more closely and aid in overtaking.
Agreed they’ll make the cars slower by 1.5 seconds, but as Verstappen said, he doesn’t want lap time records, he wants greater wheel to wheel racing and overtaking opportunities and that’s what is in the best interest of the sport.