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GP Week : Issue 154
Formula One heads to Monaco on the back of the most exciting and unpredictable start to a championship that I can remember. Five rounds, and five different winners from five different teams. The cars are so well matched on pace, and the tyres so critical its been described by some as a lottery, who would bet against a sixth driver and sixth team doing the business on Sunday? Of course, Monaco being Monaco, qualifying is absolutely critical. Even with tyre degradation liable to spice things up a bit this year, overtaking through these dangerously narrow streets is difficult. But I don’t think we’ll see another situation like in 1992, when Nigel Mansell’s Williams desperately tried to find a way past Ayrton Senna’s McLaren and failed (failed to ever win in Monaco, in fact). How great it was to see Pastor Maldonado win for Willys in Spain, the team having gone 130 races without a victory. He has a good chance of repeating this performance on the streets of the Principality, having often dominated in the lower formulae. His odds for a win have dropped from 300/1, as was the case before Spain, to 16/1. I heard one F1 insider was so convinced Kimi Raikkonen was going to win in Spain he put £8000 on it and lost everything. If he’d put that on Maldonado he’s be £4 million richer, and he’d never have to take another photograph again! Pastor was en route to a strong points position in Monaco last year, a car that was a howling mutt compared to this year’s Mike Coughlan creation, his first for Williams. For the last few years, all anyone could say about Coughlan was that he was a cheating bastard that cost McLaren $100 million, was the scourge of Maranello, and whose wife had an account at Pronto Print. Now, perhaps Spygate will be forgotten in favour of ‘The Man Who Saved Williams’. How ironic it would be if Sam Michael, who was Coughlan’s predecessor at Williams and now sporting director at McLaren, were responsible for the call which resulted in Lewis Hamilton stopping out on track with too little fuel on board and penalized to the back of the grid. One can argue whether Hamilton’s penalty was too severe. Maybe starting tenth would have been more just. But either way, it was quite right that Hamilton should lose pole, and quite just that, as the fastest man out there on a correct fuel load, Maldonado should inherit that pole. So all that talk of “the tyre lottery” helping Maldonado to the win is utter bollocks. He and the team earned that win, fair and square. But there is no doubt that Lewis has been this year’s qualifying king. How frustrating it must be that he has yet to convert this into a win. I think we could certainly see Lewis win on Sunday. I also think a Lotus win is overdue – the team is disappointed with second and third places because they know they have a car capable of winning. It’s been the only car to have consistently fast pace at ever round. As Kimi confided in Barcelona, “we could probably have won every race this year” had they not made any on-track mistakes or tactical errors. Third in the Constructors’ chase, just 25 points behind leaders Red Bull, Lotus are absolutely challenging for this championship. I’ll be heading down to Monaco this week for the legendary parties but, for the first time in about a decade, I shan’t be staying for the race. For reasons best known to the world’s motorsport calendar makers, Monaco is on the same date as that other race that claims to be the greatest of them all: The Indianapolis 500. I have never been before, and always said if the opportunity came up I would go. So, having lapped up a bit of grand prix fever on the Riviera I shall jet off across the Atlantic ahead of F1 qualifying and see what the 500 is all about. I would imagine I’ll be the only person doing both events – through I reckon Mario Andretti might have tried it back in the day. The two greatest spectacles in racing, 4,500 miles apart, on the same weekend. Now THAT is commitment! MONACO COULD BE THE MOST MAGICAL YET OPINION ADAM HAY-NICHOLS F1 Editor OPINION 19 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: