Twists and Turns in Monte Carlo

The Formula 1 troupe descends upon the glitz and glamour of the Monaco Grand Prix…

The streets of Monte Carlo (Credit: F1 Official Website)

Formula 1 tends to elicit extreme views. There are those that discard the sport as a waste of time, reasoning that it is simply a bunch of drivers endlessly doing rounds of a circuit. But then there are those that are ardent followers, fascinated by the many variables that can determine the outcome of a race. I feature among the latter. Does the particular racetrack suit cars with better straight-line speed? Or is it better for cars that shine on low-speed corners? How did the driver perform during qualifying? Is the team on a one or a two pit-stop strategy? With cars consistently clocking over 300 km/hr, every race is infused with adrenaline, speed and engineering prowess. All of this and more was on display this past weekend, at the legendary Monaco Grand Prix.

Once every year, the celebrity world descends upon Monte Carlo to partake in the glamour event of the year that is the Monaco Grand Prix, viewing races while sipping champagne on their yachts or from rooftop bars which overlook the street circuit. For the glamour quotient alone, winning a grand prix here would rank high on the wish list of any driver. But the circuit is so much more than just that. For over 1.5 hours and 78 laps, the drivers must navigate narrow streets at high speeds. There is no margin for error. Some corners see cars at over 200 km/hr, running millimeters away from the wall. There was already more than enough to be excited about this race. But when Ferrari’s Charles Lecrerc qualified in first place (or in F1-speak — “pole position”) on the Saturday before the Sunday grand prix, I could barely hold my horse(power)s.

Scuderia Ferrari is the most storied franchise in Formula 1. It has been represented by racing greats like Michael Schumacher, Niki Lauda and Juan Manuel Fangio. The suave yet enigmatic founder of the company Enzo Ferrari is the foremost reason why the Ferrari legend lives on. Asked why Ferrari is the most sought-after sports car brand, rumour has it that Mr. Ferrari answered — “Ask a child to draw a car, and he will paint it red.” Add to this background the fact that Ferrari had their worst Formula 1 season last year since the 1980s, and one can understand the enormity of a Ferrari returning to the front of the grid. Except… the Monte Carlo street circuit wasn’t the only outfit with twists and turns. The narrative of the race itself befell that fate when Lecrerc was unable to start the race due to a drive shaft issue.

Despite this disappointment, the race itself lived up to its billing. Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing won the race comfortably, overtaking Lewis Hamilton in a driver’s championship that is primed to go down to the wire. Lewis Hamilton finished seventh; a result that is unlike what we have come to expect from Mercedes over the years. But Hamilton to his credit displayed the calm temperament that has led him to win seven driver’s titles, resisting the impulse to make up places on a circuit notorious for crashes during overtaking attempts. In the context of the close fight that is shaping up, the seven points he gained could make all the difference. In a summary of the other interesting storylines that are developing this season, Carlos Sainz finished second to confirm the Ferrari resurgence (albeit still with more of an eye on next season); Lando Norris demonstrated that his recent form in the Mclaren was no fluke, finishing third; Sebastian Vettel with a fifth place finish showed glimpses of his past glory days; and young Russian Nikita Mazepin made progress by finishing a race for once.

The famous Eau Rouge corner in the Belgium Grand Prix (Credit: Kymillman.com)

The season is turning out to be a mouthwatering one. Who will be the winner is anyone’s guess. Only five races in, the F1-troupe continues its travels to other beautiful circuits around the world. The Belgian Grand Prix in the green hills of Spa and its dangerous Eau Rouge corner awaits. So too does the Interlagos circuit in Brazil with its serpentine layout, and the high-speed Monza in Italy with its famous tifosi (Italian for fan). We may not quite see a scarlet red Ferrari wave this season, but there is more than enough to keep us buckled down.

‘The Eclectic’ is a blog at the intersection of sport, law and culture.