The Circuit de Monaco has undergone various changes throughout its long existence. Some of them have been minor tweaks, others have been a little more significant. It is, though, in essence roughly the same track as it was 94 years ago, operating on the same footprint of land.
In recent years there have been claims that Formula One has quite literally outgrown the Monaco Grand Prix. The new regulation cars are enormous, far wider and longer than even 15 years ago, making overtaking on the track even harder.
F1 is committed to the current regulations so smaller cars over the next 10 years or so are highly unlikely. If the sport wants racing in the principality to improve, the layout of the track in Monaco has to change.
This is no small task. The streets are already narrow and heavily built on and around. There are various tunnels, elevation changes, flyovers and new developments that make any significant changes expensive and difficult – all for a race that happens once every 12 months.
It would, though, be wrong not to consider some alterations if Monaco is to remain relevant to Formula One, and for it to be more than an annual billion-pound procession. We have tried to keep our proposal not too outlandish or fanciful, though some are more realistic and achievable than others.
There is likely very little that can be changed in the first sector due to the topography of the land around that area and a lack of alternative roads with sufficient width on which to route the track. The length of the pit “straight” is a limiting factor, rather than the angle of turn one.
It would perhaps be feasible to turn left at Massenet and head uphill up the Avenue Princesse Alice around the other side of the Hotel de Paris. Drivers would then turn left then right onto the Avenue de la Costa before turning right down the Avenue de la Madone and then picking up the track with a tighter left-hander before Mirebeau and the Station Hairpin. See diagram below for this.
In doing so you would lose the famous Casino Square and the notorious bump into Mirabeau and not really gain anything other than length on the circuit. Certainly there are no clear overtaking points in what would be a twisty and undulating addition.
The first option for realistic change, then, comes at Portier, the tight-right hander which leads you into the tunnel. The current road layout gives an easy option to change it from a simple right-hander into an extended loop.
It would require some changes to the road furniture to make it much tighter (and more useful) than just using the current road layout, but that probably would not be necessary as the speeds at that point would be too slow to create an overtaking spot.
This change would ideally come as a group of potential tweaks to the second sector as on its own it would make minimal difference. Were Portier reprofiled into that loop (in red, see graphic below) it would mean speeds into – and more importantly out of – the tunnel would be increased.
The Nouvelle Chicane was installed in 1986 (replacing the old Chicane du Port) and has been reprofiled a few times. It is currently a rather clumsy couple of corners where an attempted overtake is more likely to result in a crash than a clean pass. Why not remove it altogether then? Or turn it into a minor flick.
To aid overtaking at this point a second DRS zone would probably need to be added, starting from the tunnel exit. The length of this flat-out section by this point (around 1km) might be enough to generate a slipstream-aided overtake but a little DRS might help.
A further help would be to make the braking zone of the next corner at Tabac heavier. By virtue of lengthening the run to it and removing the chicane, this would be achieved. This would be a good start and could work by itself, but might not automatically create a great overtaking place. Realistically, Tabac would need to be entirely reprofiled to make a profound difference.
In recent years there has been land reclaimed from the Mediterranean, which has resulted in a large complex of buildings outside Portier. This might be the best option for a redevelopment of Tabac. On the inside of the corner is the harbour, but anything more than a minor change would be financially costly and simply may not be possible.
The most drastic possible alteration that would have a positive effect on the chances of overtaking comes back at Portier and it would change the footprint of the circuit drastically.
Instead of a minor loop (in red) as proposed above, there is the option (in blue) to turn left, head down a half-kilometre straight up, and then down, the Avenue Princesse Grace,.
The first of these straights could be turned into a DRS zone and then leading into a hairpin – created artificially for the race only perhaps – giving drivers a genuine chance at an overtake. The main issue with this proposal is the width of the streets.
To get two side-by-side straights with a barrier in the middle and either side, the greenery and furniture in the middle would have to be significantly narrowed or more likely removed altogether. Pavements would have to be removed or altered too.
The current width from the far edge of the carriageway to the other is around 16 metres. To compare to another street circuit, the parallel straights in Baku (turns 6 to 7 and 19 to 20) has a carriageway 23 metres wide in total, which shows the difficulty in making the one in Monaco suitable for any kind of racing, let alone to aid overtaking.
Nothing is impossible, but this change would require the most amount of upheaval and may simply be too difficult and costly an option for one weekend a year. And that is the crux at the heart of making any significant changes to the layout in Monaco.
The lack of overtaking there is not exactly a new development – were an easy solution possible, it would have been found by now. Alterations should certainly not be ruled out if the Monaco Grand Prix and the Automobile Club de Monaco wants to stay relevant for future decades, rather than resting on the laurels of the previous 94 years.