Monaco couldn’t come at a better time for Ferrari, Mercedes, Aston Martin and others hoping to slow down the Red Bull Express in 2023. One of the slowest, if not the slowest, circuit on the calendar (where average speeds are usually in the mid-90mph -area) Monaco does not have the long high-speed sections where Red Bull can exploit its sheer speed and power advantage. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso has long circled this circuit as his team’s best chance to win in 2023, and he’s probably not the only driver who thinks their chances are pretty good going into the weekend.
“We seem to have a car that is maybe not the fastest on the straights,” Alonso told formula1.com. “We have to improve it, but we are very good in the corners. I would say the lowest speeds in the championship – let’s say Monaco, Budapest, Singapore [are our best chances]. I think these types of circuits are our main hope at the moment.”
But winning in Monaco is unlikely to be the only topic on the Spaniard’s mind with the announcement that Aston Martin has signed up to receive engines from Honda starting with the new engine specifications in 2026. Alonso, who is believed to be under contract expiring in 2024, has previously mentioned that he was already considering driving beyond 2024 with the team, but that was before Honda was announced as the team’s engine supplier. The two parties had a notoriously poor relationship during his tenure at McLaren from 2015-17, even referring to the powerplant as a “GP2 engine” ahead of a race at Honda’s home track of Suzuka, and the Japanese manufacturer was assumed not to want to. to work with him again.
Those thoughts have apparently changed.
“The selection of drivers is up to the team to decide,” Koji Watanabe, president of Honda Racing Corporation, told formula1.com. “So, if the team decides that we will have Alonso as a driver again, we will have no objection whatsoever to him driving.”
Aston Martin said it has not discussed the driver line-up with Honda or Alonso specifically, but hopes the Spaniard can be retained.
“Obviously Fernando does a great job in the team and I’m delighted to have him as part of our team as he makes a huge contribution both on and off the track,” said Martin Whitmarsh, CEO of Aston Martin Performance Technologies . . “… I’m sure everyone here is referring to some comments made in the heat of battle once that were quite memorable to some, but I think he understands and respects what Honda is doing.”
And what Honda has done since the split with Alonso and McLaren has gone on to propel Red Bull to both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles in 2021 followed by helping Red Bull Powertrains claim the titles again in 2022.
The other story that has tongues wagging in the paddock ahead of the weekend is that of Carlos Sainz Jr.’ availability due to a suspected injury at a charity football match on Tuesday. Sainz has denied there are any concerns he won’t be on the start line on Sunday, taking to Instagram to post a photo of him kicking a ball and stating he will be “absolutely ready to race this weekend in Monaco.”
And there were also garage whispers surrounding Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes and Ferrari as it had circulated that the seven-time world champion, who is out of contract at Mercedes at the end of the season, was considering a move to Ferrari. Hamilton was quick to throw water on everything early on Thursday, as formula1.com reported the Briton as saying his new contract with Mercedes is almost done.
“I think naturally when you’re in contract negotiations there’s always going to be speculation,” Hamilton said. “Unless you hear it from me, it is what it is.”
Controversy ended then? Pay attention.
How to watch the 2023 Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco
- Date: May 28
- Placement: The 2,073-mile (3,337 km), 19-turn Circuit de Monaco
- Time: 8 a.m. ET
- TV: ABC, ESPN+, ESPN deports
- Current: fuboTV (try free)
What to expect
Considered one of the “Triple Crown” races of the motorsport world, along with the Indianapolis 500 (run on the same day) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, what Monaco lacks in sheer speed it more than makes up for in excitement in very tight, technical corners and a unique section along the water where the drivers enter a tunnel and are in relative darkness before emerging at the harbor in bright sunlight, a transition that causes the drivers to adjust their vision and navigate the chicane at the start of the harbor stretch.
But the tight, twisty sections and narrow streets of Monte Carlo and La Condamine can also make it a fairly easy race because of how difficult it is for the cars to get close to each other and make a pass along such narrow roads.
So strategy more than sheer speed will be the key factor in Monaco, with pit stops planned entirely around giving the driver the best track position possible when he returns to racing. Sergio Perez made two stops last year en route to victory in a race that was delayed by rain and shortened from the usual 78 laps to 64.
But a one-stopper is the usual strategy in Monaco, with drivers pitting at some point before a lap in the mid-30s, depending on whether they start on the softest compound available or the medium. Should they start at the hardest, that window can be extended to the mid-50s.