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Formula 1 Monaco GP

The winners and strugglers in Monaco trackside viewing

With qualifying for the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix completed, ALEX KALINAUCKAS looks at who is thriving and who is struggling around the streets of the principality

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24

The Aston Martin drivers are not having a good time. It’s FP1 for Formula 1’s 2024 Monaco Grand Prix, at the Loews hairpin.

Every time Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll squirt down the hill towards Autosport’s vantage point it happens. From our perspective on the outside of the corner, the green cars are having to traverse F1’s slowest corner as if it’s a 50p piece – hands jerking at the wheel, Stroll really wrestling his AMR24.

Unlike the Ferrari drivers – although mainly Charles Leclerc, bar his first time through here bringing him shockingly close to the barrier with a clumsy exit – the Astons are not super smooth. The problem is understeer – masses of it.

They’re not alone in struggling with this issue on the hard tyres early in the session – where later investigation will also reveal Alonso at this stage didn’t have his desired level of power steering support and Stroll lacked tyre temperature.

The Red Bull and McLaren cars aren’t much better through here. These machines are more stiffly sprung than most and so rattle over the bump approaching the hairpin’s apex, while the Mercedes duo are also having to provoke the rotation with sharper steering inputs to combat the understeer.

Alonso just hustles his car every time – and the problem is noticeably better after a lengthy spell in the pits for adjustments and reappears on the softs. Before he makes a similar move, Stroll attempts a line adjustment. He gets wider and wider until at one stage he brushes the barrier with his right-side wheels. But things do improve because of his bigger, sweeping entry.

The unique nature of the Monaco trackside experience means this is also the perfect place to watch an F1 drivers’ hands as they do what they do best. Turning the car’s fifth wheel is their craft and they all do it differently.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR24

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR24

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Here we can see, resplendent in Ayrton Senna yellow, Oscar Piastri’s silky smooth steering inputs. From outside, it’s nonchalant. Kevin Magnussen, meanwhile, is proving his reputation for having an uber-aggressive driving style – the first steering stab is devastatingly brutal.

For the second half of the one-hour session, we move around the hairpin to watch the cars plunge down towards the corner beneath Mirabeau and the run to Portier and the tunnel.

Here, Leclerc’s rotation smoothness really stands out. Not even Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari can match his team-mate in keeping the momentum up all around the hairpin. The Red Bull and McLaren drivers just have to wait longer to get on the gas again.

What stands out most here is how the session’s quickest drivers – Leclerc and Verstappen – don’t look fast

Fast-forward to FP3, we’re down at the Swimming Pool – specifically the outside of the first part for the final practice session’s commencement.

From this spot, the sci-fi feel of the titanium-skid block sparks feels different to viewing them on TV. There’s a heat, a snap, as they fizz into and out of life in a nanosecond. On every push lap, the W15s of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton are simply slamming into the bump running off the kerb to our left.

Lando Norris’s McLaren is also sparking brightly. But what stands out most here is how the session’s quickest drivers – Leclerc and Verstappen – don’t look fast. It’s all relative given the closeness of the barriers, but it’s their calmness that’s important. There’s just no point risking it all right now.

Providing a contrast is Alpine’s Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman cuts the kerb at the second apex of the Swimming Pool’s first part more aggressively than any other driver.

Gasly was notably more aggressive than the rest through the Swimming Pool's second apex

Gasly was notably more aggressive than the rest through the Swimming Pool's second apex

Photo by: Erik Junius

He’s just putting his right-front further across the kerb and his A524 is shifting wildly as a result. It’s great viewing and he’s 11th on the timesheets come the session’s end, a preview to scoring Alpine’s first Q3 result (10th) in qualifying later on Saturday afternoon.

Moving to the outside of the Swimming Pool’s second part for FP3’s second half shows a similar thing.

Gasly is just taking far less margin with the barrier on the inside of the first apex. Even on his cooldown laps, he’s is right up against the advert-wrapped barrier.

Again, Leclerc and Verstappen are calmer – although the latter has the rear of his RB20 swinging between the apexes as he pushes on ageing softs run at the session’s end. He’ll abandon that lap seconds after passing underneath us as Verstappen encounters a traffic pack including his team-mate, Sergio Perez, touring towards Rascasse that had cluttered our vision moments earlier.

But Piastri leaves the biggest impression with perhaps the most important lesson. The McLaren driver thwacks the barrier at the first apex on his penultimate flier – tearing even more of the white adhesive banner that will become such a concern in qualifying. Piastri’s car shimmies on without real damage, but he goes slower than his previous personal best.

On his final flying effort, Piastri seems to hold back – sacrificing a mite of speed for greater momentum. This calms things between the apexes and the result is an overall improvement and fourth the standings.

Everything is excessive in Monaco, but even more isn’t necessarily always best. Indeed, later in qualifying, Piastri’s smoother run from a faster turn-in speed through here compared to Leclerc’s kerb-clattering line will bring the Australian very close to pole before he loses critical momentum and time in the final corners.

Leclerc took pole position for his home race with the help of a kerb-clattering line.

Leclerc took pole position for his home race with the help of a kerb-clattering line.

Photo by: Erik Junius

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