Hockenheim – Home of the 2012 German Grand Prix

The first Formula One German Grand Prix was held at Hockenheim in 1970, in somewhat controversial circumstances. At the French Grand Prix earlier that season, drivers had decided to boycott the upcoming race at the Nürburgring unless significant changes were made; Hockenheim being the only viable alternative.

Set in the Rhine valley, the 4.574km (2.842 mile) circuit has itself had its safety concerns; in 1968 it claimed the life of Jim Clark during a Formula Two race, and has gone on to claim a further 4 lives during test sessions and competitive meetings alike.

Hockenheim would be the circuit of choice for the German Grand Prix from 1977 to 2006, with the exception of 1985 when the race was held at the reconfigured Nürburgring. From 1995, Germany had hosted two Grands Prix; the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim and either the European Grand Prix or the Luxembourg Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. This would change in 2007 however, when it was announced that the two tracks would alternate hosting the event and only one race per season would be held in Germany.

It later became apparent, that with the financial difficulties of hosting a Grand Prix, it was unlikely the circuit would be able to continue to host the event past 2010. But in October 2009, agreement was reached that the German Grand Prix would remain until 2018, subject to FOA agreeing to cover any losses the event incurs.

Hockenheim2012.svg

The current configuration of the circuit, shown above, was a result of a significant re-design following the incident ridden 2000 race. Having started the race from 18th on the grid, Rubens Barrichello would eventually win in changing weather conditions. With all the overtaking maneuvers taking place in the forest section of the track, none of the spectators would be able to see the action.

Jean Alesi would suffer an accident at the third chicane after colliding with Pedro Diniz in the braking zone. Added to these incidents, a McLaren employee breached the track’s perimeter on the main straight, by way of protestation of his treatment and thus exposed the track’s security vulnerabilities.

All this combined, F1 officials demanded the shortening of the 6.823km (4.240 mile) circuit, threatening to discontinue racing there unless demands were met. Their argument was based on the existing layout being no longer suited to modern Formula One racing, perhaps highlighted by the emergence of tracks such as Sepang, in an era when Ecclestone was displaying a hunger for emerging circuits.

Herman Tilke would take responsibility for the remodeling of the layout. This would not be without controversy however, the old forest section of the track was torn up and replanted with trees, eliminating any return to the old layout for future F1 events or historic car events.

Look out for a preview of the 2012 race appearing on the blog shortly.

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British Grand Prix – Silverstone – Race

As the Formula One circus descended on the Northamptonshire circuit this weekend, fans were greeted with typical British weather. Heavy rain, mud and traffic jams were the order of the day Friday, as the venue struggled to cope with the deluge of rain and heavy traffic coming into the venue.

Friday’s difficulties led Richard Phillips, Managing Director of Silverstone Circuits, to ask up to 20,000 paying fans to stay away from the circuit on Saturday, so that car parks could recover from the heavy rain on Friday, in the hope that conditions would improve for the race on Sunday.

Normally very quick to criticise Silverstone, even Bernie Ecclestone praised the way in which they coped with the difficulties. He said: “The people at Silverstone got over things very well and I’m very happy.”

Saturday’s Qualifying session was eventful to say the very least. Wet conditions still hampered not only the circuit, but the drivers too. The session was red flagged into Q2 with only six minutes remaining. Sadly, Jenson Button had already fallen foul of the weather having only managed to put his McLaren on 18th; disappointing to say the least for his and his team’s home Grand Prix.

When proceedings resumed, almost an hour and a half later, it would be Button’s teammate Hamilton that would suffer. Coming out on full wet tyres, he hadn’t realised the state of the circuit had improved enough to justify Intermediate tyres. Returning to the pits to change, he lost significant time which saw him only able to put the McLaren on the fourth row of the grid in eighth.

Hopes were high for either Button or Hamilton to storm through the field on Sunday and deliver the fans a much desired British winner. Having decided to start on the harder tyre, Hamilton’s strategy looked to be paying off when he went further into his first stint than Alonso, and he briefly took the lead.

His second and third stints however were off the pace, and all Hamilton could manage was a lowly eighth, exactly where he started. Button faired a little better, he had managed to promote the McLaren up to tenth place, following a battle with Bruno Senna and Nico Hulkenberg, the latter seemingly suffering from extreme tyre degradation.

The race was not without incident, as on lap 11, Pastor Maldonado was again making a name for himself by colliding with Sergio Perez. Maldonado insisted the crash was accidental. “It was unlucky this time because I lost the car on the entry to the corner, right on the apex with the front and then the rear,” he said. “I did the braking on DRS, and actually even braked before my normal braking place.”

Perez was vociferous in his statement regarding the incident; “he is a very dangerous driver and he can hurt someone”. Despite this, the Stewards who included former World Champion and Silverstone winner Nigel Mansell, only delivered a reprimand and a €10,000 fine.

Lap 39 saw Kamui Kobayashi get it all wrong as he came into the pits. Completely misjudging his entry speed, he collided with two of his Pit Crew, knocking them both to the ground. Thankfully, it was later reported that the injuries suffered by the pair were minor. Kobayashi later admitted he was at fault and apologised to the team, citing that he had no practice running in the dry and was unsure how much he could push.

The battle for the lead was where all eyes were in the closing stages of the race however; Alonso and Webber battling it out in what seemed to be their own private race. Alonso’s demise would begin on lap 38, having pitted earlier than expected for his final stop.

By this time, Webber’s pace was significantly better than Alonso’s and with only six laps remaining, his lead to the Australian only 0.5 seconds. With just three laps remaining, Alonso was obviously suffering with tyre degradation. Webber had a look into turn two, but thought better of it, deciding to sit in the Ferrari’s slipstream and await a better opportunity.

This would come, perhaps quicker than both expected, as Webber bravely decided that he would make his move around the outside at Brooklands. As he approached the Chequered Flag, Webber had managed to develop a two and a half second lead over the Spaniard, only demonstrating the level of degradation he was suffering.

With the next round heading to Hockenheim in two weeks, expectations remain high for the McLaren pair, Hamilton and Button. Their poor performances at the weekend will surely spur them, and their team on to deliver an acceptable level of performance.

Hamilton said: “We will keep our heads down, stay focused and hopefully at some stage we will get a car to challenge at the front.” Button added: “You can see where our weaknesses are. I just don’t think we are very quick at the moment. I don’t think we did anything wrong with strategy, we just were not quick enough today. We need to find some pace. It is not just the Red Bulls and Ferraris who are quicker than us, a lot of cars are. We have a lot to work on.”

Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh confirmed there were concerns with the cars performance, but admitted that he was “not seriously worried”. He added: “We have a reasonable upgrade package for Germany and we’d like that to be as successful as we can and make sure we can make it for Germany.”

With Hamilton and Button both seeing themselves slip in the standings following promising starts, there will certainly need to be a lot of hard work, and late nights, at the McLaren Technology Centre in the build-up to the German Grand Prix.

Silverstone – Home of the British Grand Prix

Straddling the Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire borders, a few miles from Brackley and Towcester, the Silverstone circuit is synonymous with British Motorsport.

Long being associated as the ‘home of the British Grand Prix’, the circuit first hosted the event in 1948 and has been held there each year consecutively since 1987.

The infrastructure we see today, lies on the original site of RAF Silverstone, which was opened in 1943. The Airfield’s three original runways in the classic World War II triangle format, still lie within the outline of the current track.

Originally used to launch Wellington bombers during the war effort, the circuit first had its exposure to Motorsport in 1947 when an impromptu race was organised that September. Living in the nearby village of Silverstone, Maurice Geoghegan was aware that the airfield was out of use at the time, and suggested to a group of friends they held a race over a two mile circuit.

Geoghegan himself ran over a stray sheep that had wandered on to the airfield during the race, his car being written off in the process; sadly the sheep didn’t fair much better and was killed. In the aftermath, the informal event was affectionately known as the Mutton Grand Prix.

In the following year, the RAC (Royal Automobile Club, Great Britain) took a lease on the airfield where they would layout a more formal racing circuit. The first two races they held there were on a rudimentary circuit, made up of two of the runways and tight hairpin bends, the layout of which was set out by hay bales.

1949 saw a switch to the perimeter track for the International Trophy meeting, the same arrangement would be used for the 1950 and 1951 Grands Prix. In 1952 however, there was a significant change to the original layout with the start line being moved between Woodcote and Copse corners; this would remain largely intact for the following 35 years.

The track would undergo a major redesign in between the 1990 and 1991 races in a bid to transform it from ultra high speed to a more technical, and hopefully safer one. The new layout appeared to be a hit. It’s first outing in 1991 would see one of the most memorable races at the circuit for several years, with the added bonus of Brit Nigel Mansell winning the race.

On his victory lap, Mansell stopped to pick up a stranded Ayrton Senna, who’s McLaren had run out of fuel on the final lap, and give him a lift back to the pits on the side-pod of his car.

Further modifications to the circuit were required, as with most circuits, following the tragic deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola in 1994, in order to reduce speed and increase driver safety.

Silverstone’s importance in the Formula One World Championship is without doubt, in most peoples eyes. However, it certainly has not been a smooth ride for the circuit over the last decade or so.

Sir Jackie Stewart, President of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) and owners of the circuit since 1971, announced in September 2004 that the British Grand Prix would not be included in the provisional 2005 race calendar, and if it were, the likelihood was that it would not be held at Silverstone.

This would be the beginning of a very public battle between the BRDC and Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One rights holder.

In a turnaround however, it was announced on 9th December that agreement had been reached that the circuit would host one of the flagship races on the calendar until 2009, after which the race would switch to Donnington.

Ecclestone categorically stated that he would only negotiate the future of F1 at Silverstone post-2009, if the BRDC gave up its role as promoter of the event; stating that he wanted “to deal with the promoter rather than the BRDC. It is too difficult with the BRDC because you get no guarantees with them. We’ve said that unless they can get the circuit to the level expected from so-called third-world countries we are not prepared to do a deal. A new pit and paddock complex is the minimum redevelopment required”.

Following this, one can understand the indignity of fans and enthusiasts alike. When you consider that eight of the twelve competing teams are based here in the UK (the majority of which are in close proximity to the circuit itself); notwithstanding the 40,000 odd additional jobs the sport brings to Britain, along with an influx of around £50 million to the economy on Grand Prix weekend alone.

His (Ecclestone’s) actions were described as dictatorial, inflexible and sometimes arrogant. Damon Hill later likened the relationship between Ecclestone and the BRDC as that of Aladdin’s Cave: “The genie says give me the lamp and Aladdin says get me out of the cave and I’ll give you the lamp. You’re in this constant cycle whereby in order to get our plans implemented we need to have a Grand Prix contract, and in order to get the Grand Prix contract we have to have our planning.”

Redevelopment of the circuit was approved and on 1st August 2007 it was announced that new grandstands, pit facilities and a development centre would be built. This, however would be the start of yet another bout between the BRDC and the Formula One ‘supremo’.

On 4th July 2008 it was announced that Donnington would host the British Grand Prix from 2010. The Leicestershire venue was struggling at this time to secure the required funding, and there began a see-saw of decisions in favour of the Leicestershire and Northamptonshire circuits being the ‘venue of choice’ for the British Grand Prix going forward.

Max Mosley, then FIA President, announced during an interview with the BBC that it was “highly likely” that the British Grand Prix would return to Silverstone in 2010, this was confirmed by a BBC News report in October 2009 that Donnington had failed to secure the required £135 million required to stage a Grand Prix and that Donington’s bid ‘looks over’.

To add to the controversy surrounding the two circuits’ battle to secure a long-term contract to host the British Grand Prix, the BBC went on to report that Ecclestone had offered the race to Silverstone, but that the terms of the offer were purportedly the same as those Silverstone had originally rejected.

Ecclestone’s previous ‘Donnington or nothing’ stance was influenced, not only by the British Government’s unwillingness to intervene, or the Leicestershire venue’s inability to raise the required funding, but was actually attributed to a restructuring of the BRDC, allowing an easier way of negotiating with them over future commercial rights.

Once again, it seems the ‘supremo’ got his way, however unorthodox his actions appeared. It is worth remembering though, that the infrastructure of Silverstone has been significantly improved; that can only be a good thing for the ‘home of Formula One’, the Sport and more importantly the fans. Even if Donnington appeared to be the victim of the whole debacle.

It remains to be seen what will happen when Silverstone’s current agreement expires in 2026, or indeed in the meantime for that matter; but one thing is for certain: the venue will continue to have an influence on the Formula One World Championship for the foreseeable future, at least.

Bernie in Bribery Scandal

Bernie Ecclestone faces a potential bribery and corruption probe by German prosecutors following the conviction and incarceration of Gerhard Gribkowski.

Gribkowski, former deputy chief of regional bank Bayern Landesbank (BayernLB), was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison after admitting receiving £28 million in corrupt payments from Ecclestone during the sale of the German Bank’s stake in F1 to CVC in 2005; Ecclestone is alleged to have only handed over ‘around £10 million’.

The Formula One ‘supremo’ said he paid Gribkowski in order to avoid a UK Tax enquiry into the sale of Formula One in 2006; testimony he gave to the Munich court under immunity seven months ago.

Gribkowski was facing up to fifteen years in jail if found guilty of corruption and abuse of trust; his admission is thought to have been part of a deal brokered between the two sides to give the German banker a shorter sentence.

Ecclestone said during his testimony that he was worried Gribkowski would alert the UK Tax Authorities to “things” that may have led to a tax enquiry, had he not paid the German. He feared that proceedings against him may have taken years to complete and cost him billions in the process.

Further speculation surrounds the conviction however; not least that of Ecclestone himself, but the continued participation of Mercedes in the sport. Reports in Germany claim that the supplier of engines to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes could withdraw from the sport if Ecclestone is found guilty of bribery; Daimler, Mercedes’ parent company, have a policy of not dealing with criminals. This could also impact contractual obligations for the Woking based outfit; they have a deal to use the German marque’s engines until 2015.

Since the announcement however, Ecclestone is reportedly backing a Grand Prix in London with £35 million of his own money, something he has long thought to have been passionate about.

The route is thought to include some of the most iconic landmarks in the capital, including Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Nelson’s Column and Piccadilly Circus, reports the Times.

According to the Times, a feasibility study by Global Design Consultancy Popolous has already been completed. John Rhodes, assistant principal said it would take around five days to set up the circuit and three to dismantle.

He went on to say that the capital could follow the example of other street races held at both Singapore and Monaco. “Roads [in Singapore and Monaco] close down for the events and then open again each evening”.

Whilst it sounds amazing and will potentially become as iconic as the race in the Principality of Monaco; one wonders how feasible this idea really is. Infrastructure management, access (or lack of) to a huge area of the capital are but a few questions that will need answers.

Although Ecclestone’s offer might seem generous, he is unlikely to be out of pocket. Current expectations suggest around 120,000 spectators could watch the event from grandstands around the proposed 3.2 mile circuit, reports suggest an influx of up to £100 million from tourism in the capital alone.

“Think what it would do for tourism. It would be fantastic, good for London, good for England; a lot better than the Olympics” he told the Times.

Speculation abounds that Ecclestone, reportedly worth around £2.5 billion, is doing no more than showboating in a bid to ‘bury’ the corruption probe. All will be revealed when further information surrounding proposals are divulged later today (Thursday).

European Grand Prix – Valencia – Race

Where do I start? Historically, race fans are sceptical about the validity of the European Grand Prix; not of it’s entry in the F1 calendar, but of the chosen venue since 2008.

Controversially, Bernie [Ecclestone] was accused of trying to influence elections in the region by withholding the signing of the seven year contract until elections were completed after 27th May 2007. He later clarified his comments saying that he “wouldn’t formalise a contract until after the elections [that year] because I didn’t know who I would be signing the contract with”.

Later, he said that his comments were taken out of context, but he had previously commented that no European country should hold more than one race each year; poignant because, of course, the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona hosts the Spanish Grand Prix each year. Your author cannot help but think he yet again made a ‘Bernieism’ and opened himself up to criticism.

Enough of the politics, more of the racing. Despite expectations from the fans, (who’s opinions really should count in not only this, but all sports) Valencia has historically been a ‘procession’ and a boring race. It clearly wasn’t this year and it was possibly the most exciting race the circuit has produced thus far.

It seems that the trend of the 2012 season; namely a different winner each race, has finally abated with Alonso being not only the second repeat winner of a race this season so far, but only the third Constructor to win more than one race this season.

Initially, Vettel controlled the start of the race by building a comfortable lead over Hamilton in P2; one suspects that Hamilton’s strategy was to look after the tyres and to ‘out-strategise’ the German, as his lead in the first three laps increased to over five seconds.

The eventual race winner, Alonso, was building well from his very poor eleventh place qualifying position meanwhile, by taking seventh place from Force India’s Nico Hulkenburg on Lap 12. Before his pitstop, he managed to promote himself to a ‘de facto’ fourth behind Vettel, Grosjean and Hamilton.

Once again, Hamilton had a nightmare in the pits. He had been losing time to Alonso at least half a second a lap to that point and Hamilton’s demise was confirmed when his pit-crew seemed to have multiple issues with the front jack. This sealed the fate of Hamilton and Alonso took the place with much gratitude.

At the restart, Alonso managed to pass Grosjean around the outside of turn one – capitalising on a move he had previously executed to pass [Mark] Webber’s Red Bull earlier in proceedings. He then further capitalised on his good progress by being in the right place when [Sebastien] Vettel’s engine stalled due to, what is expected to be later confirmed as an alternator failure.

It seems that the combination of DRS and the supreme composition(s) of the Pirelli tyres finally made an impact on what has been previously referred to as ‘the most boring race of the year’. Overtaking clearly had finally been added into the vocabulary of the Valencia circuit.

The finalé of the race however, was to be marred by the incident involving Britain’s Lewis Hamilton and Venezuelan Pastor Maldonaldo. The Brit appeared to be under pressure from the Venezuelan in the closing laps; they ran side-by-side for several corners as the laps ticked down. The eventual outcome being Hamilton’s McLaren being pitched into the wall.

Both are being investigated by Race Stewards [at the time of writing] and one can only hope that they [The Stewards] are less complacent than they clearly were in the incident involving Bruno Senna, where a Drive-Through penalty was imposed, incorrectly in your author’s opinion.

Maldonaldo was clearly off the racing line when he turned into and T-boned Hamilton, forcing him into the wall and thus ending his race. Hamilton could have, some say, decided to yield to the Venezuelan’s improving late pace in the race, but he had track position and was on the racing line, giving him the upper hand. One hopes that the Stewards see it in the same light.

Those events set the scene for veterans Schumacher and Webber to be elevated to third and fourth respectively after late tyre stops saw them both sweep past Rosberg, Button, Perez, di Resta and Hulkenberg.

Schumacher would eventually secure the first podium of his comeback in Formula One; only the second time a 43 year-old has done so since the legendary Jack Brabham did so in 1970 at Brands Hatch.

Back to matters in hand though; the Championship continues to be one that does not offer up any clues, as yet, as to who might be crowned Number One. Whilst Alonso, with 111 points so far, has managed to open up a twenty point lead over Webber, with Hamilton only three points behind the Australian; Vettel follows three further points behind, Rosberg is up to fifth with 75 and Raikkonen heads up the top six with 73 points.

In summation, with twelve races remaining on the calendar; and given the unpredictability of the 2012 season thus far, it is still [thankfully] so far unclear as to who will be crowned World Champion. One hopes that the season will continue to deliver the erratic form of results it has so far and that excitement, entertainment and racing [filled with incident, I might add] is the overall winner.

Canadian Grand Prix – Race

The 2012 Canadian Grand Prix was eagerly anticipated. Of the six races so far this season, each has seen a different winner. There have been five different constructors winning races up until Monaco, with only Red Bull scoring more than one win.

Of those six drivers to have each won a race so far, perhaps the surprises have come from Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonaldo in China and Spain respectively; Button, Alonso, Vettel and Webber make up the remainder.

The hype surrounding the build up to the race was that we might see a seventh winner, we were not to be disappointed. What is being referred to as the most unpredictable season in years lined up in Montreal with Vettel on Pole after a 1:13.784 beat Hamilton in to second with a 1:14.087 around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Alonso, Webber and Rosberg made up the rest of the top five, but it was Button that would be the biggest loser on the day. Having started his Q3 session on the Prime (or harder of the two compound tyres available), he opted to sit out the remainder of the session and settle for 10th on the grid.

Hamilton commented, as did Webber, that they had struggled through Qualifying and were surprised to have finished so high up on the grid; Webber citing problems with the car, Hamilton struggling to ‘switch the tyres on’.

As the race got underway, Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso went into a three way battle. Vettel led the way for the first 16 laps until the tyres started to fall off the proverbial cliff and he was forced to pit for a fresh set.

Hamilton was next to blink a lap later with Alonso managing to last one still further. Alonso rejoined in front of Hamilton and Vettel, but the Brit managed a pass which allowed him to create a three second gap before he was forced to stop again on lap 50.

Still struggling with pit stops, Hamilton later attributed the mistakes as his own, exonerating the team of any blame. Whilst not as detrimental as the stops in Bahrain, he rejoined after his second stop in third place.

Red Bull and Ferrari gambled on one stop strategies for the race, their pace was good, but with 20 laps still remaining in the race, the gamble appeared not to have paid off and their pace quickly diminished. Hamilton seized the opportunity of closing in on Vettel for second, whilst the German was also closing in on Alonso, who was also struggling with tyre degradation.

After passing Vettel with relative ease on lap 62, Alonso would give Hamilton more of a fight however, managing to hold him off until the inevitable happened on lap 65 allowing the Brit to push on in the final laps to secure his first victory of the season. He later said that this was “a phenomenal sensation to come back to Canada and put on a performance like we did today. This win feels as good as my first Formula One victory back in 2007. In fact I’d say it was one of the best races I have had for a very long time.”

Whilst Hamilton was pushing for the finish line however, Alonso and Vettel were falling further off the pace. Behind them, also one-stopping was Grosjean in the Lotus. Perez was also pushing hard, both he and Grosjean had managed their tyres well and were closing on the flailing Ferrari and Red Bull respectively.

Hamilton’s victory hands him back the lead in the Championship by a mere two points from Alonso. Hamilton was later quoted as saying “Every win is different. Every victory is new, special and fresh. And to see the team all wearing their Vodafone ‘rocket red’ victory T-shirts, knowing the guys back at the factory are doing the same, makes everything feel even more special. Finally, the support from the fans has been amazing – this victory is dedicated to them. I’m so grateful to be here today.”

Teammate Button however had a miserable day on the circuit. Being one of the first to stop on the harder compound tyres, he ended up being lapped and left totally mystified as to the poor performance of his own McLaren; surely questions will be being asked at the McLaren Technology Centre as to why there should be such a gulf of difference between the two cars.

Title sponsors Mobil 1, Mercedes Benz and Enkei celebrated their 300th Grand Prix with the marque from Woking, which also saw Hamilton near equal his hero Ayrton Senna’s number of drives in Formula One for the team and further solidifies his standing as a key player in the team going forward.

It remains to be seen what will happen in the remaining outings this season. Whilst it is refreshing to see Hamilton returning to winning ways, your author is keen to see the revival of not just one, but both of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes drivers and I hope they can both be competitive in the remaining races.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if we will see yet another driver atop the podium throughout the rest of the season, but one thing is certain; 2012 so far appears to be one of the most entertaining and unpredictable seasons for many a year. Long may it continue!

Build up to Monaco 2012

Not only is the Monaco Grand Prix considered one of the most glamorous and prestigious of them all, it is also one of the most demanding tracks on the calendar, providing drivers with tight corners, elevation changes and the vision-imparing tunnel exit.

Given the fact that competitors must, at least reduce to the lowest speeds on the calendar, it is the only Grand Prix that falls below the FIA’s mandated 305 kilometre minimum race distance.

Since it’s inception in 1929, two drivers have met their fate in the harbour of Port Hercules, had it not been an existing fixture on the calendar, it surely would not be there today, due to the FIA’s strict regulations on Driver safety.

All of this however adds to its draw as one of the most prestigious events of the season. The uniqueness and excitement of the weekend, as it pushes the competitors to their absolute limit, in probably the most picturesque location the calendar has to offer.

Despite its notoriety, there have been some alterations over the years, but this year’s organisers, the Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM) announced they have made several changes in an effort to improve safety around the streets of the Principality.

The most notable change is to the chicane after the tunnel exit. The surface there has undergone a laser study, which revealed a discrepancy of at least 20cm in the height of the track within the braking area. This is where Sergio Perez crashed last year suffering a concussion during qualifying. The wall in which he hit has also been pushed back 14.6 metres.

Meanwhile, some trees have been removed from the area surrounding the Pit Exit, allowing it to be widened and straightened; this should allow drivers to be able to rejoin the track at a higher speed than possible before.

Other changes include the tyre barriers at Sainte Devote and the Swimming Pool Complex (La Piscine) sections being replaced with TecPro Barriers and the addition of high-grip surfaces in the sections previously mentioned.

A contact at the ACM said that “The various measures demonstrate a continued will to mordernise the Circuit”.

So, who will come out on top of the pack in Qualifying; who will dominate the race? There are many questions that need to be answered in the coming days, but all will be revealed come the afternoon of the 27th May. Like you all, I am relishing the prospect, especially as I will be watching it first-hand!

With thanks to my contacts at the Automobile Club de Monaco for their input.