Monaco is the jewel in Formula 1's crown and has been ever present on the calendar since 1955, making up the roster on all but three years.
They say that a win here is worth more than one anywhere else and that's in part because of the difficulty in completing a lap here. Track extending and, for the most part, corner cutting isn't an option here, as unforgiving barriers line the outside of this street circuit from start to finish.
The perfect lap of this place exists, but achieving it an arduous task. Overtaking is almost impossible, with even the best opportunities often limited to speculative dives up the inside which usually end up in a collision.
Sainte Devote & Beau Rivage
The first corner of Monaco comes after the only DRS "straight" on the circuit and even that bends to the right. This is an overtaking spot but because of the last corner and the fact that using the inside line through Turn 1 costs you on the run up through Beau Rivage it's often a very difficult one to pull off. Position the car as far to the left as you can, but beware the barriers on the outside of entry, as it jabs out towards the racing line.
Brake at the 50m board down to fourth gear and throw the right lock on the steering. It's important to cut the inside kerbs, as the straightest line possible will help immensely on the run up to the Casino, but don't place a wheel over the inside of the kerb, that will invalidate your lap.
Get straight back on the power and navigate the uphill slalom of Beau Rivage. Don't underestimate how narrow it is here, either, you can easily clip off a part of your front wing.
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Massenet & Casino
Be as far to the right as possible for Massenet and brake when you see the pedestrian road crossing or the road signs on the right down to fifth gear. It's a tricky braking zone here, as going too late and running wide will cost you a heap of time and some of your front wing. You have to half-throttle it through Turn 3 to ensure you get the right entry for Casino. You need to brake down to third gear for Turn 4 and don't aim for the inside kerbing, that will lose you time on the run through the corner. The line here is difficult, as it's extremely easy to run wide (like I did in the above GIF) but as long as your steering is on a constant lock angle, you shouldn't lose much time.
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Fade to the right to avoid the bump in the road before swinging back to the left for the best line through this right-hander. Mirabeau is basically a standard 90-degree corner that you'd expect on a street circuit but its cambered surface makes it tricky. Brake at the point where the yellow fences on the left begin, or at the point where you're revving out in fifth gear, down into second gear and lump all the right lock on that you can manage. You can hug the inside kerbing here but one touch of the barrier and you'll be spun around before you can say Monte Carlo. This is also an overtaking spot for the very brave, but don't try it unless you're alongside, as the next corner is very tight...
Mirabeau Bas & Portier
As soon as you've rounded the hairpin, squirt the throttle towards the second "Mirabeau" corner. In the race, I prefer to lift into this one as it saves your brakes and some fuel, but in qualifying or time trial, it's best to brake a little. This is a second gear corner and you should slow to around 50mph (80 kph) to take it. Use the red and white striped kerbing on the inside but don't run over the bricks as this will unsettle the car. The margin for error here is tiny, but get as close to the outside barriers as you can for the Portier.
A good run through the Portier is key, as it sets you up for the tunnel, at the end of which is the best overtaking opportunity on track. You definitely need to use the brakes for this one and slow to second gear starting where the orange section of the barriers on the left is. Avoid the inside kerb, that's there for show and also avoid the kerbing on the outside of the exit, as this will inhibit your traction.
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Tunnel & Nouvelle Chicane
Tunnel (Turn 9) is an easy flat but like the rest of the track, it's narrow and you can't let up your concentration for it. In the wet, or on wet tyres at least, it's not flat and can really ruin your day because of the different grip levels in the tunnel.
You'll approach the Nouvelle Chicane at around 180 mph (290 kph) which is the fastest speed on the circuit. Brake at around 75m down into second gear and be sure to be as close to the outside entry kerbing as possible. All what's required is a flick to the left and then the right to get through this one but it's like threading through the eye of a needle.
Take some kerb on the second part of the chicane, but don't use the yellow kerb, as this will unsettle the car. Accelerate hard through Turn 11 and avoid the barriers, it's very easy to run into them here when you're focussing on Tabac ahead of you. This is probably the best overtaking opportunity on track, but be warned, only one car can fit through the chicane, so you need to be on the inside line to pull a move off.
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Brake at the 50m board down into fifth gear for this high-speed left-hander and throw the car towards the apex. Ideally, you should use some inside kerb, but it's not a problem if you don't, just make sure you don't run wide into the barriers on exit. This is not an overtaking point unless the car ahead has made a big mistake, it's just too narrow at the apex.
After Tabac, the corners come thick and fast, with the swimming pool complex comprising four corners that you complete in less than five seconds. When you get to this part of the track, you act on the instinct that you've built up in the practice you've completed, there's no substitute for it. You're flat through the first chicane (Turns 13 and 14) but it's by no means easy. It's very easy to run wide through the second part of the chicane and if you do so, your lap will be invalidated. Be sure to use kerbs for both parts of these corners, though, as it's important to have the straightest line possible to be quick.
As soon as you've straightened the car up, brake down into fourth gear for the second swimming pool chicane. The issue here isn't speed, it's tightness, as the exit of Turn 16 is where you'll struggle to keep your front wing on. You turn in blind into 15, as doing so later will require you to use the run-off on the inside. Said run-off is tempting to use, but don't, you'll end up with a penalty for doing so. Like the Nouvelle Chicane, use plenty of kerbs and even some yellow kerbing on the inside of Turn 16 to get through this one.
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Rascasse & Anthony Noghes
As soon as you've rounded Turn 16, the first part of Rascasse is upon you. I tend to brake at the point where the TV screen on the right disappears from view in T-Cam or when you've got up to 130 mph (210 kph). Braking here is tricky, as you have to do it while turning, so don't slam the anchors on with full force, or else you'll head into the barriers. Brake down into second gear (40 mph / 64 kph) and take a wide line in qualifying/time trial. In the race, this is an unlikely overtaking opportunity, but one you have to have faith in the driver ahead to pull off. Be careful of turning in too early for the second part of Rascasse, as it's very easy to clip your right rear on exit.
Anthony Noghes is the last corner on the circuit and the one which sets you up for the start/ finish straight. Be as far to the left as possible on entry and after a short acceleration zone, slow down to second gear. You can use some exit kerb, but I tend to leave some space on the left, as the car always has a kick of oversteer once you get on the throttle once more. The DRS zone begins as soon as this corner ends, so you need to be straightened up and on the power as soon as you can.
And now you can breathe, you've just completed a lap of the hardest track on the game, well done!
Downforce is king in Monaco, as the straights aren't long enough to lose time on, even with high wing angles. The setup is largely the antithesis to Italy's, beginning with 10/11 wings. Fror the diff, on throttle transmission needs to be unlocked at around 65% to make your traction zones smoother, while the off-throttle has to be locked at close to 100%. Tyre wear isn't an issue here, this is an easy 1 stop whether you start on the softs or the mediums, so camber can go almost fully to the right with the toe near the left edge.
You need soft suspension here, as you will be using the kerbs and they are pretty steep in places, so set this to around 3 for front and rear. There aren't too many long corners here, but you can't afford to be unstable because of the lack of run-off, so stiff anti-roll bars are a must, use 11/7 front/rear. The ride height needs to be low because of the need for a low centre of gravity around these corners and to aid you on the straights, I went with 3/4. High brake pressure is a must, I went with close to 90%, as the stops into the first corner and the Nouvelle Chicane are hefty ones. Bias needs to be towards the rear as well, as some of the braking zones are downhill. You need to preserve the rear tyres, so a low pressure is key, I set it as 20.3 psi, with the front higher at 23.4 psi.