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Why the Monaco F1 race isn’t boring

We all know Monaco is tight, narrow and slow which means minimal overtaking and to some, that means boring.

I can see their point. If all you want is wheel-to-wheel gladiatorial action then Monaco will always disappoint. But to me and many others, the race was exciting anyway. How so?

Strategy and tension is the answer. A motor race is in theory about going flat-out from start to finish with no strategy at all other than “drive as fast as you can”. But Formula 1 is a different kind of motor race, one which demands strategies far more complex and therefore interesting than simply pure speed. Consider the 2024 race:

All the teams knew overtaking on track would be near impossible, so track position became everything. With the first-lap crash they had the option to run a zero-stop strategy instead of the usual one-stop. But a zero-stop would mean driving very slowly to make the tyres last…but would that make anyone vulnerable to a one-stop strategy? That’s just one part of the tension, that’s the strategy. And you could see it play out as Leclerc kept Russell within distance of a pit stop window to prevent the McLarens trying that one-stop strategy. Would McLaren pit anyway? When other cars pitted, what was their performance? So many questions, and every lap the strategic situation changes; one lap less to chase down the leaders after a pit stop, the first signs of graining.

Behind the leaders Mercedes had their own race to run against Verstappen, also weighing up whether to stop or not but they opened up enough of a gap to pit Hamilton; watching that unfold was interesting, and how Mercedes failed to execute their stop properly, letting Verstappen stay ahead. Similar strategies were playing out throughout the field, each strategy dependent on what was happening on track and what the teams thought the other teams were doing. How could that be anything other than interesting?

There was also the tension of something to break up the procession – a crash, a driving mistake opening up an overtake, something on track, who knows. Even without that drama I like marvelling at the driver’s skills at any track, but Monaco in particular.

I could even enjoy watching an F1 race just by looking at the laptime data in real time, but I do understand the attraction of watching fights for position. I’m just saying there’s more to F1 than the exciting immediacy of one car battling another into a corner.

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