Monaco Grand Prix 2014

New restrictions, new rules… so what can you expect from this year’s race?

With the backlash against new sound restrictions of Formula One cars, together with new fuel efficiency rules limiting performance, there’s been plenty of controversy in the racing world. So, what can we expect from the Monaco Grand Prix this May?

Each Formula One season comes with its set of changes to technical and sporting regulations. This year, the new V6 engines have fuelled an early season controversy as they mark a clear departure from their V8 counterparts from previous years.

“Now in Formula One, we really have a hybrid car,” Christian Tornatore, deputy commissioner general of the Automobile Club of Monaco (ACM), told The Riviera Times. Thanks to its new energy recovery system, Tornatore explained, the car can reach a total of around 800 horsepower.

But fuel efficiency regulations have forced teams to ease up on the ‘revs’ (revolutions per minute) in order to keep their fuel flow under 100 kilograms per hour at top speed.

Technical terms aside, the result has been an additional two seconds in lap timings on average compared to last year, and the engines’ roars have been more akin to a cat’s purr.

Defending champion Sebastian Vettel, who watched the Australian Grand Prix from the trackside, called the new engine’s sound “sh*t”, telling, “I was on the pitwall during the race, and it is better [quieter] than in a bar!”

But Christian Tornatore of the ACM expects little to change for the Monaco race. “The sound, which is unique here in Monte Carlo because of all the buildings and constructions around the circuit, will not be so different,” he says.

And with Monaco being the slowest Grand Prix of the championship, Tornatore says performances should be the same as last year. “100 kilograms is too much for the Monte Carlo Grand Prix anyway, so I think they can push it to the maximum.”

But a lack of speed doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of excitement, as the action-packed Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most anticipated races in the championship.

“The drivers love Monaco because it’s so narrow, so surprising, and so difficult to overtake,” says Tornatore, who points out that many of the racers, including current leaders Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, live in the Principality and know the circuit well.

“I think we’ll have a big fight between Mercedes engines, and Mercedes, McLaren and Force India cars,” the ACM deputy commissioner general reveals. “But let’s wait for the Spanish Grand Prix, as there will be some evolution on the Lotus and Renault engines,” he adds, “so perhaps we’ll have some surprises.”

In other changes, the Formula One family greeted two new drivers to its roster this year: Daniel Ricciardo from Australia in an Infiniti Red Bull, and Kevin Magnussen from Denmark for McLaren, both of whom have shown promising results.

The 24-year-old Aussie initially finished second at the Melbourne Grand Prix but was controversially disqualified because of the fuel efficiency rules. Magnussen took second after coming in at third place. The Australian Grand Prix has been the 21-year-old Dane’s only podium thus far, but Tornatore has high expectations for him. “Magnussen won the Formula Renault 3.5 series, so we’ve seen that he was a very good fighter and a very good driver. He also has a Mercedes engine, so I imagine he’ll be in the three first rows on the grid this year.”

While drivers and diehard fans may miss the engine roars of years past, there is no doubt the prospect of a quieter Monaco Grand Prix will be welcomed by others. As to whether that will happen, we’ll have to wait and see.

Also published in The Riviera Times, May 2014 edition

Photo by Michael Alesi