The Monaco Performance Curve

Although Kimi Raikkonen failed to win the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix he did secure pole position with a time of 1 minute 12.178 seconds. This equated to an average speed of 104.4 mph. This is the fastest ever recorded pole setting lap of Monaco, a full 2mph ahead of Daniel Riccardo’s average of 102.4 mph in 2016.

Monaco is one of the few tracks that has changed little since the inception of the F1 Drivers’ Championship in 1950. This has enabled us to track the relative performance of Formula 1 from 1950, as shown in the chart below.

Monaco Performance Curve

Figure 1 Pole Position Lap Times, Monaco 1950-2017

This figure illustrates the constant improvement in performance that F1 teams have to achieve, it also underlines how they respond to regulation changes. We see the effect of these changes when the curve dips and the cars are slowed down, but usually within a couple of years the cars will be going just as fast as they were before. This is exactly the phenomena we can see from 2013 to 2016, the change in power unit regulations in 2014 causes a dip in performance (and an impressive drop in fuel consumption by 35%) and yet by 2016 the cars are going just as fast as they were in 2013. In F1, regulation doesn’t stifle innovation it stimulates it. The interesting point here is that in 2017 the regulations actually made the cars faster, rather than slower round the Monaco circuit. Of course the big question is did the change in regulations improve the customer experience for the fans, and I guess that the answer is a resounding no! I’m sure this is at the top of Ross Brawn’s to do list, but it’s not an easy or quick problem to solve.

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