Formula 1 Insight

Monaco 2009 - Qualifying

Even at Monaco, the Brawn BGP 001 remains the car to beat it seems. Raikkonen did an impressive job in Q3, going quicker with each lap and finally setting a fastest time that looked as if it must secure pole. But Button and Barrichello were still on their final laps as he did so and Jenson pipped him at the last, Rubens also putting in a good one to secure third on the grid.

Jenson Buton
Jenson Button

The Brawn is clearly a championship-winning car, flexible enough to be good on all types of circuit and Button is beginning to assume the aura of a driver on his way to becoming champ. Barrichello has considered using the unequal treatment excuse but thought better of it and accepted his fate manfully in the post-qualifying press conference.

Massa had looked the better of the two Ferrari drivers until he broke the nose of his car early in Q1. Although he was able to continue, he appeared rather more tentative afterwards and it was Kimi who came to the fore and showed what the Ferrari could do. He must fancy his chances of getting the jump on Button at the start tomorrow and perhaps giving the team their first win of the season.

Hamilton's mistake in Q1 was a lot more costly than Massa's, the McLaren ending up with bent rear suspension and leaving Lewis down in the dungeon of the bottom five. He was in good company, however, both the Toyotas and BMWs continuing their miserable Monaco form to allow Force India to break though into Q2. Kovalainen carried the McLaren banner from then on and he looked good in the first two sessions, less so in Q3.

Much the same could be said of Rosberg, who faded at the last to sixth spot, and Webber, whose eighth position was less than he had been promising. Vettel did better, getting the most from the RB5 to grab fourth place on the grid. And Alonso did well to get into Q3, settling for ninth in the end.

But so much depends upon the fuel weights amongst the top ten. The only obvious candidate for a heavy fuel load was Nakajima, in Q3 for the first time this year but nearly two seconds slower than his best time from Q2. Alonso and Webber, perhaps Kovalainen, put in performances that speak of medium loads, and the rest are likely to be fairly light.

Ross Brawn says that Button has enough fuel for twenty laps and, if so, I would guess that the Brawns are a bit heavier than their closest competition. But we will know soon enough when the weights are published by the FIA. I just wish that Williams would put both their drivers on very light loads for Q3 to give them a chance of leading for a change.

For the race itself, the favorite has to be Button, although many will go for Raikkonen, no doubt. The problem for Ferrari, however, is that Ross Brawn sits in the Brawn GP pit, pulling the strings and arranging stops to best advantage. It is hard to see anyone coming from the second row before the first corner, the starting straight being so short in Monaco, and I do not see KERS making any difference either.

What could shuffle the deck is a big accident on the first lap, quite likely in view of how closely matched the cars are at the moment. Any hopeful lunges into the first corner or after the tunnel could create an awful mess. Otherwise, it will be down to pit stop strategy and a bit of luck. But that is Monaco for you.

Fuel Weights Update

The fuel weights have now been published and Keith Collantine gives his usual excellent extrapolation of the potential laps of each car on the F1 Fanatic blog. There are no huge surprises and Ross Brawn was telling no lies about Button's likely first stop - it will be at about 23 laps.

As I suspected, Vettel's time in the RB5 was largely due to running light (14 laps) with Webber carrying significantly more fuel (23 laps); a case of splitting strategies to increase the team's chances, I think. The rest of the top ten are good for about 20 laps, apart from Alonso and Nakajima who are considerably heavier.

Below that, everyone except Hamilton is heavy, with Fisichella, Bourdais, Kubica and Glock apparently going for a one-stop strategy. The McLaren driver has enough for about 22 laps, no doubt hoping to gain a few places early in the race.

Barring incidents, it looks as though the Brawns will be hard to beat.


I definitely see Monaco as a race where making a pass in the pits can be huge. Being able to pull off a few extra laps on a tank of fuel or having a pit strategy that allows their drivers to pick up a few positions may be crucial to the outcome of the race.

Fuel weights will be interesting to see. Ferrari has always been a bit heavier at the start of races as compared to the Brawn's.

As you have stated Clive, Brawn has always been good at this.
Date Added: 23/05/2009

Still waiting to see the fuel loads of the cars. I would be surprised if the Ferraris were heavier than the Brawns in this instance, however. That would make them scarily fast in the race!
Date Added: 23/05/2009

I really can't see what McLaren is thinking. If Hamilton didn't get ahead of Fisi on the start his race is done.
Date Added: 23/05/2009

I guess the idea is that Hamilton might gain a few places at the start and then be quick enough to pass a few more in the early laps, Filipe. With Lewis being so far back, he does not really stand much chance of points and might as well try a chancy strategy therefore.
Date Added: 24/05/2009

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