Analysis: Monaco is Like Roulette

The Monaco Grand Prix can be like a game of roulette, with few certainties and frequent disappointment

Analysis: Monaco is Like Roulette

Sometimes even the high-rollers find that the numbers are all wrong. Sometimes miracles happen, like Olivier Panis hitting the jackpot for Ligier in 1996.

Briton Nigel Mansell dominated the 1992 Championship with Williams yet never won here. Damon Hill, son of 'Mr Monaco' Graham who won five times in the principality, was twice runner-up.

Last season, Ferrari's World Champion Michael Schumacher arrived in the millionaires' playground with five wins in a row under his belt and the temptation to bet everything on red was overwhelming.

The German was one short of Brazilian Ayrton Senna's record at the most glamorous race in the Championship and was on a roll.

Some were even inclined to take bets on Ferrari pulling off the greatest coup of all and winning every race.

The red did not come up then, Renault seizing a memorable victory with Italian Jarno Trulli while Schumacher trundled out of the tunnel on three wheels after a collision in the darkness behind the safety car.

This year it has not come up at all.

The betting is now on when Ferrari will end their losing streak, now extending to six races and likely to be seven by the end of the weekend, to retake their familiar place in the winners' circle.

Schumacher, the most successful driver in the history of Formula One with 83 wins and seven Championships, has always been at home roaring around the Monaco streets and past the yachts bobbing in the harbour.

Yet while he was won every other race on the calendar at least once in the last three years, last year's addition China and this year's newcomer Turkey excepted, Monaco has escaped him since 2001.

Right Number

Not since Schumacher joined Ferrari in 1996 has the team, constructors' champions for the past five years, gone seven races in a row without success.

"We will be doing our utmost to be in the right shape to play the right number," Ferrari team boss Jean Todt said before Thursday's first practice, alluding himself to the roulette-like nature of the event.

Those two one hour sessions produced little evidence to suggest that a Ferrari victory was imminent and pointed instead to a busy Friday rest day.

"We still have a lot of work to do," said the Frenchman afterwards.

Schumacher was fourth fastest in the morning but 11th in the afternoon after being sidelined by a mystery vibration that got worse as the session wore on.

Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, third last year, spun and sounded unusually pessimistic.

Speaking to Italian reporters, he feared Ferrari could be left behind in both qualifying and the race.

"What are we lacking? Everything. We are not fast or consistent," he said

"I have problems with balance and grip. If Renault and McLaren maintain the rhythm on Sunday that they have shown in practice, we will end up being lapped."

Such an indignity has happened to Barrichello already this season, unthinkable last year when Ferrari ran away with 15 of the 18 races.

Decline and Fall

Yet while it is tempting to write about the decline and fall of Ferrari, the situation still needs to be put into perspective.

Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne, whose team have yet to win a Grand Prix after 56 starts, did that neatly enough.

"They have only not won for the last six races," he cautioned.

"I think there's probably quite a lot of teams would like to have that record."

"Bridgestone, I think, have undoubtedly struggled and we've seen at times Ferrari being very, very quick," he added. "I have no doubt that they will win races and win fairly soon.

"But they are certainly not in the dominant position they have been in previous years and that's good for Formula One."

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Series Formula 1
Author Alan Baldwin
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