The 'dull F1 vs exciting FE' Monaco debate isn't that simple - The Race
Formula 1, Formula E

The ‘dull F1 vs exciting FE’ Monaco debate isn’t that simple

May 25 2021
By Alice Powell

I don’t ever get my hopes up ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix and think ‘we’re going to be in for an absolutely thrilling race’. At best it’s ‘maybe we’ll get lucky and have a bit of rain’.

And no, the 2021 edition wasn’t the most exciting race but it’s Monaco – do people really expect an exciting, action-packed afternoon of overtaking?

I certainly don’t. Having raced on the streets of Monaco myself back in 2012, I know how hard it is to overtake.

May 23 : Monaco Grand Prix review

It’s an incredible circuit from the cockpit, amazing for the drivers to drive around and a great event to go to if anyone ever has the chance, but it’s hard to overtake. And with the sort of cars we have now, it’s not like the Senna/Prost days where they’re having to fight the wheel all the way around the lap and there was more potential for mistakes, and that makes it even harder to have overtaking.

What made it a little different this year was the Formula E and Formula 1 comparison – the two series racing on (almost) exactly the same circuit just a couple of weeks apart. How differently the two races turned out has prompted a huge amount of comment from fans.

Mitch Evans Jaguar Monaco Formula E 2021

Formula E in Monaco was a fantastic race. But they’ve got the varying levels of energy saving through the field, the cars are smaller, the treaded tyres are very different and much lower grip, the downforce doesn’t have as great an effect and of course there’s Fanboost and attack mode – which were factors in many of those incredible overtaking moves we saw in the FE race.

Attack mode in particular throws in so much strategy in Formula E and everything changes depending on who’s around you and where you are on the track. Those elements make the races exciting.

F1 is going to have its own format trial with sprint qualifying races at Silverstone and maybe if it works that can be an option for the future, even though I know it’s not the most popular idea with many people – and I doubt it would make a difference in Monaco as cars qualifying in unusual positions didn’t result in any overtaking last weekend.

I’m always open to trying new ideas, though. But you don’t want to really force the issue by going to something like a fully reversed grid in Monaco, it would just cause chaos and be a nightmare.

Nick Cassidy Envision Virgin Monaco Formula E 2021

It’s so difficult to compare F1 and FE because they’re two such different types of motorsport. I know you get fans of F1 who say you can’t call FE proper motorsport. Well, you can and it is.

But it’s also not as easy as saying ‘Formula E had an amazing race around Monaco so why can’t Formula 1?’. Every single thing about the two championships is too different.

In a way, fans in both camps have something to celebrate. Formula E fans can point to their race being so much more exciting, Formula 1 fans can point to their cars being so much faster!

May 13 : Mega Monaco EPrix review with Jerome D'Ambrosio

The qualifying aspect of F1 in Monaco will always be exciting. And there were some cool little battles down the field on race day – and maybe we’d have had one for first place if Valtteri Bottas if he hadn’t had his issue (on a weekend when he had the legs on Lewis Hamilton, you have to feel sorry for him) or if Charles Leclerc had been able to start.

I wouldn’t say it was gifted to Max Verstappen as he still had to drive his socks off and he was pushed at times, but it would have been really nice to see Leclerc starting in front and I’m sure then you would have had a scrap for the win.

We could have been saying very different things about the quality of the race if there had been a Ferrari starting on pole and trying to hold Verstappen off.

In the past we have seen overtaking in Monaco, into the first corner for example. But this time nothing seemed to be happening even when drivers like Hamilton were out of position behind slower cars.

I don’t know whether that was down to the level of grip in the track or whether drivers out-psyched themselves into thinking it wasn’t even worth trying a pass. Apart from the Sebastian Vettel-Pierre Gasly move that we eventually saw (I don’t have a clue what was going on with the TV direction!) and Mick Schumacher on Nikita Mazepin on the first lap, I don’t think I saw any overtaking moves at all.

Mick Schumacher Haas Monaco Grand Prix 2021

I don’t know what went on with Hamilton in Monaco, because Bottas was still able to get something out of the Mercedes. Hamilton was actually a lot calmer in his interviews than I thought he was going to be. Sometimes on his bad weekends we’ve seen him just not wanting to talk at all, and I thought he was going to be like that. But he spoke to the cameras and the media and yes, he showed his frustration, but more calmly than he could’ve done.

I expect him to come back strongly in Baku. Though he’s lost the championship lead he’ll be very aware that there’s still such a long way to go and that overall Mercedes is still the car to beat most of the time.

He often does get seriously frustrated on the radio, even though he’s been around the sport a long time. It can be difficult for a driver to understand what’s going on with a strategy during a race, and you could say some of Hamilton’s comments on the radio threw the team under the bus a bit. I definitely wouldn’t like the job of being an F1 strategist! I’d rather be a driver…

But to come back to people complaining about the race being boring, OK Hamilton didn’t lose those places on Sunday by being overtaken on track, but the way his weekend played out showed the sort of surprises and upsets that Monaco creates. Strategies that would work on a normal track, like the undercut, didn’t work in Monaco.

The track really shook up the form book. No one expected Mercedes to have such a shocking weekend. And Ferrari was on pole and the podium. Lando Norris got another great podium for McLaren, Sergio Perez came through from ninth on the grid and put him under pressure. Vettel looked competitive for the first time with Aston Martin and it was great to see him doing so well and showing that he’s still up for a fight.

Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Monaco Grand Prix 2021

It would be nice to see Ferrari up there and scrapping everywhere. But Monaco’s a total one-off and so different to the majority of other circuits. As much as I hate to say it, I can’t imagine we’re going to be seeing Ferrari qualifying on pole in the rest of the season.

The fact it could do so out of the blue this weekend – even if it didn’t get to actually start there – shows the very different sort of entertainment F1 in Monaco can create.

Alice Powell is competing in the second season of W Series in 2021. The all-female championship is now part of the F1 support bill and begins its eight-race campaign this year alongside the Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring on June 26.

Alice Powell

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