By Craig Scarborough, England
Autosport-Atlas Technical Writer
Monaco may be a unique track on the Formula One calendar, but the solutions that the engineers and designers bring to the principality will serve their teams on various other circuits in the remaining races of the year. Some teams brought radical or surprising solutions to Monaco, others simply adjusted the set-up for the street course. Craig Scarborough reviews the engineering work and the cars that ran at last weekend's Grand Prix
Every cliche about Monaco is as relevant as ever. The track is unlike any other on the Formula One calendar, and the demands the circuit places on the cars are like no other. With no testing before the race weekend, it is primarily past experience that teams can draw on to establish the design and set-up for the cars at the track.
Monaco is typically the first track where teams bring their high downforce sets-up - these will be re-used at Hungary, and elements will be used at the increasing number of tracks with high downforce requirements. This year, with the newly regulated downforce reductions, there was an expectation for some dramatic solutions to regain downforce. These did not appear- aside from the Toyota's choices. But there were plenty of development of conventional solutions seen on most cars on the grid.
Monaco's unique layout demands supple ride, lots of downforce and drivability. These and other requirements are needed at other tracks as well, so Monaco is not completely isolated. To get the car to grip at low speed, a lot of downforce is needed. The low speeds mean drag is not such an issue; this makes Monaco similar to Hungaroring.
The bumps and gradient changes also require higher ground clearance, and although completely unlike Monaco, Spa also requires such a set-up.
With the lap full of stop/starts and no long straight to cool the brakes, the teams need big brake ducts; these are also used at fast tracks like Canada.
At the lower speeds, engine cooling is restricted by the smaller flow of air through the sidepods; larger cooling outlets like those already seen at Bahrain were run on the street circuit.
With the barriers and kerbs at Monaco, mechanical compliance and strength to ride the kerbs with out-breakages is akin to Imola. Also, the pit strategy hinders multiple stops - a single stop is nearer the optimum, and this makes it similar to the super fast Monza track.
Team by Team
Ferrari are still working hard to recover from the F2005's early release. For Monaco, the team had several new developments, most notable of which was a new device around the front wheels (marked in yellow in the illustration). Supposedly, it acts as a brake duct, but based on the part's shape and two minimal inlet holes, it seems the part is purely for aero gain.
As its wing shaped in cross section, the device would add some downforce directly to the wheels, which in theory is illegal but the bodywork rules around the brake ducts are vague and only the limit is the width and height they can extend from within the wheel. Should the device actually be a real attempt at cooling, the hollow section leads into the space where the wishbone meets the upright, but there are no known sensors or braking devices in this area.
Elsewhere around the car, the "chin" winglet under the front wing lost its upper slat (marked in yellow), which wore a bigger front wing section - probably the slat interrupted the flow to the larger front wing rather than improved the flow to it.
Ferrari still struggle to get the Bridgestone tyres to work over a single lap. The Bridgestones like to run with increased heat built up into them, and this needs running time on track. This could be partially attributed to a lack of downforce, but it would seem that once the tyres are warmed up, the car works as well as any other. However, this problem affects Ferrari in qualifying, which in turn means that the cars end up down the grid. Ferrari have chosen to start the race with heavy fuel load in order to make up time in the middle stint, when the tyres are up to speed and the other teams are pitting, leaving the track clear for fast lapping.
In Monaco, the cars had the pace on Thursday but Michael Schumacher suffered a vibration that could not be located and Rubens Barrichello was unhappy with his set-up. Saturday saw these issues resolved, but once again the cars lacked pace over a single lap, and technical director Ross Brawn revealed that the cars even seemed to have lost grip since Thursday despite the track being more rubberred in.
Watching Schumacher's qualifying lap, it was clear that he was suffering from understeer in every sector of the track, with teammate Barrichello having no better experience and beating Schumacher's eleventh place by just one spot. In their heavier race trim, the cars posted much more competitive laps on Sunday's qualifying, with Schumacher moving up to eighth and Barrichello remaining tenth.
In the race itself, the usual pattern of slow opening laps leading up to most other teams' first stops was emerging. But Schumacher got caught up in Christijan Albers' incident, losing his nose cone while driving into David Coulthard's Red Bull car and needing a pitstop. But Schumacher still needed to pit again for fuel later in the race.
In the middle stint, the World Champion unlapped himself and brought the car back into contention for points. Barrichello, on the other hand, stalled his car at his second pitstop, which dropped him back down the order towards his teammate.
Having failed to keep up with McLaren in Spain, the team rolled out new parts for Monaco, many of which may remain on the car for other following races. At the front is a new front wing with deeply stepped endplates. These endplates still wear the extra "wings", but the upper half of the endplate is separated from the lower half, keeping the upper portion more in line with the onset airflow, creating less drag.
In the middle are new flip-ups, borrowed from a Williams design, but they now use two pairs of flip ups, with a new lower pair and the upper pair now wearing small winglets at their ends. These more complex devices create downforce, and as they do so in the shadow of the rear wheel, they can do this with little drag.
Finally, the rear crash structure wore a small low and simple winglet. The diffuser was also new, with the split between outer channels now seeing the outer most channel smaller, with a sloped sidewall, leaving the inner channel much larger. At the same time, the central tunnel appears to have an extra horizontal element - similar to Ferrari's - half way up the tunnel.
The team appear to be struggling with tyre degradation compared to McLaren. The need to run so many devices simply for extra downforce suggest their problem is created in the corners when the car isn't stuck hard enough to the ground.
Another factor here is the lateral traction control which stops the car sliding when the power is applied in corners; with the car running less rear weight bias, the tyres are more prone to lateral scrub. Renault will need to seek a new balance of tyre hardness, weight distribution and aerodynamics to improve their pace with McLaren.
Thursday was a problem-free day, with just Giancarlo Fisichella seeking some stability under braking. Saturday's practice sessions reinforced the team's pace, with both drivers at the top of the time sheets.
First qualifying saw Giancarlo Fisichella suffer in the final turn with understeer hindering his speed on the straight, while Fernando Alonso's lap was completed with little regard for the oil and debris following Ralf Schumacher's crash. His lap was still some half a second slower than Kimi Raikkonen's, but his fastest lap in the second qualifying session closed the gap to just under one tenth.
Both cars made excellent starts in the race but were unable to make up places in the short run to St Devote. In the safety car period following the Albers' crash, both cars pitted, with Fisichella queuing behind Alonso. The team was able to fuel the car for the rest of the race, which left the two drivers to run over 50 laps on the fuel load - nearly two thirds of the race. Estimates on the R25 fuel capacity suggest up to 150 litres, but the Renault engine's impressive fuel efficiency also aids the tanks range.
However, both drivers were suffering rear tyre wear at this stage and the heavy fuel load and traffic exacerbated the teams' problem with the tyres running under temperature and degrading even more. By mid way through the race, Alonso's rear tyres were showing very little in the way of grooves. Moving into the closing laps, both drivers were clearly struggling with grip, especially under braking. Eventually both drivers lost positions to fairly wild overtaking maneuvers but were able to finish the race, albeit with Fisichella out of the points.
As Williams work through an intensive program to get the FW27 up to speed, the car is now becoming strewn with extra aerodynamic paraphernalia. The new flip ups seen in Spain are now bolstered with a flap between the sidepods and the winglets (see yellow marking in the illustration), with the winglet, flap and flip ups all supported on a strut leading to the floor.
Williams also had a new diffuser at Monaco; the central tunnel's exit is now almost cross-shaped, with stepped centre section. The outer tunnels borrow from Red Bull, with small, detached winglets mounted at the height of the old diffuser. The tunnels themselves meet the 2005 lower height and the outer most section - usually a flat part of the floor on other cars - forms a third outer tunnel. All these solutions are adding to rear downforce efficiently with little added drag. Furthermore, the front wing sported a deeper profile in the centre section to balance the newly added rear downforce.
Thursday saw the teams completing their set-up checks, and Mark Webber proved the faster Williams driver, with teammate Nick Heidfeld complaining of traffic. Saturday's free practice sessions went on the in the same vein. For qualifying, however, Heidfeld's mid session lap was good enough for sixth, while Webber really attacked his lap for a rewarding third.
In the second qualifying session, on Sunday morning, both drivers put in laps sufficient to retain their provisional grid positions for the start.
Despite the team practicing starts in a test a week before the race, Webber's car struggled to get off the line, with clutch problems. At the safety car period both cars queued to pit and then needed to pit again later in the race.
With both Williams drivers stuck behind the struggling Alonso, Heidfeld was called in to pit earlier than Webber. The German exited the pitlane to an empty track and was therefore able to move ahead of his teammate who stopped later.
The pair then was able to get past Alonso via clean and not so clean moves out of the exit to the tunnel.
With developments introduced around the MP4-20 in Spain, the car appeared with a simple Monaco set-up.
The race weekend started with the three cars completing a lot of laps and suffering no problems. The car's pace was evident, and if there was previously a question mark over the MP4-20's mechanical grip, this can now be forgotten, as McLaren were amongst the top runners.
Qualifying on Saturday saw Juan Pablo Montoya struggle a little yet still he completed a determined-looking lap, good enough for provisional fifth. His time was removed, however, as a penalty for causing the shut during practice between Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard and Jacques Villeneuve.
Kimi Raikkonen's lap came after Ralf Schumacher's qualifying shunt, and after Alonso had proven the track was still quick. As a result, Raikkonen put in three fastest sectors, building a gap of two tenths of a second in sector 1, to nearly half a second across the finish line.
Sunday's qualifying saw Montoya remain in the garage - there was no point to post a time when he would be at the back of the grid anyway. Meanwhile teammate Raikkonen's lap, on what well could have been heavier fuel, was slower than Alonso's but the aggregate time was still good enough for pole.
Raikkonen made a perfect start and lead away on the first lap. When the safety car was called, the team referred to their strategy expert at the factory and elected to stay out - the incident coming too early in the race to stay on a one stop strategy, while other teams went onto a slower two-stop or heavy one-stop strategy.
Staying out proved to be the right choice: Raikkonen only stopped on lap 41 for fuel and never lost the lead.
Montoya's race was more involved, having to fight through the pack. He eventually gained a useful fifth place at the race's end.
After finding a major gain with revised sidepods a few races ago, Sauber have now made another change with the re-adoption of chimneys. While usually these are seen as cooling solutions, the belief is now that the angled chimneys also act as an effective turning vane controlling what flow passed over the winglet and which is routed towards the rear wing. This is backed up by the fact that most teams run the chimneys closed, rather than remove them. That said, Sauber's chimney has the bizarre detail of cooling grills on the inside face, such that the cooling effect is not from the chimney itself but from grills.
Thursday saw Felipe Massa crash at St Devote. The cause was not made clear, but a mechanical failure at the rear of the car was suggested. Things went better on Saturday's qualifying - Jacques Villeneuve's earlier run was clean and fast, putting him in the top ten. Massa continued to struggle, with the car appearing to lack grip, which dropped him to twelfth.
Massa gained another place with a fast lap on Sunday while Villeneuve was on a heavier fuel load and dropped a place. In the race, it was Massa who threaded amongst the queue of cars due to Albers' crash. The Brazilian then pitted as part of a planned two-stop race, while Villeneuve was on a one-stop strategy and stayed out, as it was too early to come in.
Like the Renault drivers, Massa struggled on the heavy fuel, wrecking his tyres in the process. Villeneuve caught up to him and in an attempt to overtake his Brazilian teammate, the pair collided at St Devote. Massa was able to rejoin the race but Villeneuve was stuck in the barrier and lost his front wing, sending him back to the pits for a replacement. The problem cost the drivers points, with Massa finishing in ninth and Jacques eleventh.
No apparent changes were made to the Red Bulls for Monaco aside from extra steep wing angles.
Thursday was full of little incidents. Christian Klien's car had a sensor problem and the traction control did not respond, sending him into the barrier, while David Coulthard went over the chicane at one point. Yet Red Bull were well on the pace - especially Coulthard, who is one of the best drivers around Monaco.
Coulthard was subsequently a victim of Montoya in a three-way incident, the Scot's car hit from behind by Villenueve. The car needed repairs in preparation for qualifying.
Tonio Liuzzi was first to go out on Saturday's qualifying, and despite a lurid oversteer moment through Casino square, his time was still only thirteenth.
Coulthard's lap set fastest times through the first two sectors but he lost out in the third sector, setting provisional eighth place. Coulthard's time held him in good stead for Sunday's session, when a good laptime - and Montoya's lack of running - pushed him up to seventh on the grid.
In the race, Coulthard was once again a victim to someone else's incident. He arrived at Mirabeau as Minardi's Albers spun, the Scot slowing down in time but was hit by Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, who didn't see the incident in time to brake. The crash damaged Coulthard's wings and suspension, forcing his retirement.
Liuzzi was fighting tyre wear, and under pressure from Schumacher made an error and damaged his wheel and suspension.
Perhaps the most publicized development in Monaco was Toyota's "front wing" winglets. These simple two-element wings were added on struts to the front wing in order to create downforce, and were spaced away from the endplate so as not to upset the airflow inside the front wheels.
The devices were efficient, as they sit inside the frontal profile of the front wing, effectively making the front wing up to the maximum three elements at some points across its span. Although ugly, these devices are quite efficient and were considered legal by the FIA scrutineers. Added to the front winglets was a new crash box wing added above the tail lamp.
Thursday saw the drivers in the top ten and the only problems were for Ralf Schumacher, with the Montoya incident and a tyre infringement. Toyota's pace put them inside the top ten and closer to the top of that by the end of the free practice sessions.
Qualifying saw Ralf Schumacher go out first. His lap was fast in the opening sectors, until he brushed a barrier, sending him off into the outside barrier and wrecking the car in a big impact. The car was repaired, or effectively replaced. The FIA's list of new parts included everything from the chassis, suspension, bodywork and engine. The engine replacement compounded the penalty already metered out for the tyre infringement.
Jarno Trulli went out as the first car after Ralf's accident. Being mindful around the remains of the crash debris, he set only the seventh fastest time. His Sunday qualifying time was fifth fastest, and with Montoya withdrawn from the session, this bumped Trulli up to fifth on the grid, while Ralf Schumacher took no part in the second timed session.
With both cars racing on one-stop fuel load and electing not to stop during the safety car period - but stopping around lap 40 - they made great progress, which was only hampered by the traffic. Eventually Jarno Trulli made a desperate move on Fisichella and thought he may have damaged his car as he nearly went off at the chicane. He did finish but without hope for points.
Ralf meanwhile kept his head and ended up sixth - a great result, considering the incidents and penalties he suffered earlier in the weekend.
In a week where the Jordan wind tunnel hit the news because of financial issues between Eddie Jordan and Midland F1, the tunnel's results were being seen on the track. The team had two new aerodynamic developments with a pair of new mid wings (marked in yellow) replacing the single pair previously used, and also a crash box wing (marked in yellow). Cooling was also addressed, with the chimneys receiving the Bahrain cut-outs and the fairing (shaded in the illustration) over the exhaust's enlarged (rather than cut back).
Thursday was strewn with little incidents for the inexperienced drivers, with errors through the chicane and contact with the barrier for Narain Karthikeyan. Saturday lead on in similar fashion, with the Jordan not working at all well on the bumpy circuit. Furthermore, Karthikeyan had an engine changed due to pneumatic problems before qualifying.
In their qualifying runs, the Indian's car looked snappy and hard to handle. Tiago Monteiro's lap was also difficult, and both drivers ended up behind the Minardis in both Qualifying sessions. Karthikeyan also needed a new wheel in Parc Ferme as he had made contact at some stage around his lap.
In the race, Karthikeyan again made contact with the barriers - this time damaging his hydraulic system and forcing his retirement. Monteiro, meanwhile, kept going to post his sixth consecutive finish this year.
An unchanged Minardi was rolled out for Monaco, but for the first time the car was consistently faster than the Jordans. Thursday went well with the expected spins from the new drivers. For this race, Patrick Friesacher was the fastest of the pair and remained so all weekend. He remained ahead of the Jordans throughout the opening four practice sessions, while teammate Albers languished behind them.
Qualifying saw Freisacher's confidence expressed with a good lap, and Albers equally appearing less confident in the car. In Parc Ferme, both cars had new differentials fitted.
Then, in the race, the drivers struggled for grip. Albers spun to a halt before the hairpin and then rejoined, while Freisacher suffered a loss of control out of the tunnel and spun off. Albers, however, recorded the first race finish for the PS05, the Dutch classified in fourteenth position.