So, who has got sore knees this week?
Lewis Hamilton definitely has. Fernando Alonso, too. And so have quite a few people who only pay attention for a handful of races during the season.
“It’s just crazy that this is the nicest event, it’s like the most spectacular event of the whole year, and practice and all that is great fun, but the race may be the most boring,” Hamilton said on Sunday night. “I don’t know how we make it more fun.”
You win the Monaco Grand Prix. That’s how you make it more fun.
I’m not saying Sunday’s race was a classic by any means. In hindsight, it was pretty dull. But the race doesn’t take place in hindsight, and therefore doesn’t need criticizing when you’ve not stood on the top step.
The sight of a Formula 1 car dancing between the barriers at over 125mph on a circuit that leaves so little margin for error really is breathtaking. The sight of some of the yachts, cars and their respective owners is also breathtaking, although not always for the same reason.
There is plenty of glitz and glamour in Monte Carlo. Sponsors and VIPs show up to be seen at such a prestigious event, and the parties go on long into the early hours of the morning.
Some of those parties even take place on the track itself, with the final sector — from the Swimming Pool to Rascasse — becoming a dance floor every night. It might look fun, but the F1 team members trying to work in the pit lane offices are rarely amused by the thudding bass that shakes their garage buildings.
For the drivers during the race, or those working in such an environment all weekend long, it’s far from perfect. But it adds up to something special and unique. It’s like the huge amounts of practice and qualifying at Indianapolis ahead of the 500. It might be a drain, but it builds and builds so that victory is so sweet after a monumental effort. You could see it in Will Power’s face on Sunday.
You could see it in Daniel Ricciardo’s too.
There’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t culture in F1. I’ve argued the point before that in order to appreciate the good sporting events, you need ones that aren’t at the same level. It’s the unpredictability of sport that makes people tune in.
After the race, it was easy to criticize a lack of action, but during it, there was tension. Ricciardo’s MGU-K issue left him unable to put serious distance between himself and Sebastian Vettel. Would the car last? If it did, would Ricciardo’s concentration hold up while managing the problem? For 50 laps he may have been driving slowly, but one lapse and Vettel could be through, or the Red Bull could be in the wall.
That the top five didn’t end up nose-to-tail as has previously happened in Monaco can be attributed to concerns over the Pirelli tire life, but that, too, added intrigue. If the drop-off was big enough for one driver over the other, then they would be vulnerable.
It was highlighted by Max Verstappen passing Carlos Sainz after a good scrap, with the Renault struggling massively with its tires. Even if overtaking wasn’t going to be possible, then worn tires made the likelihood of a mistake much greater on a circuit where you can’t afford one.
While the race was unfolding, these were all unknowns. Granted, the drivers might not have been enjoying it inside the cockpit — and in an ideal world everyone would be having a thrilling time — but that was because they were all afraid of the risk of failure. In Monaco, you pay a high price. Just ask Max Verstappen.