Monaco has long been one of the most challenging circuits on the F1 calendar due to its tight streets and lack of overtaking opportunities. However, the current crop of oversized F1 cars has exacerbated the situation, posing a greater risk to drivers attempting overtaking moves.
In the past 20 years, F1 cars have grown significantly in size, with every car now two metres wide and most exceeding 5.5 metres in length. This significant growth is primarily attributed to changes in aerodynamics and packaging. Longer floors offer more downforce, leading to longer wheelbases and more radical “Coke-bottle” sections at the rear of the car.
Despite the implementation of changes in 2022 designed to undo limitations imposed by the 2017 regulations, wide-track cars continue to be used, with developments in 2023 failing to substantially improve racing conditions. Monaco, already renowned as a difficult track to overtake, no longer seems to fit the current generation of cars.
Overtakes serve as a metric for assessing the cars’ ability to negotiate a circuit, and there has been a clear decline in overtaking opportunities since the 2017 regulations came into effect. Formula E cars, which have a width of just 1700mm, have managed to record over 100 overtakes per race at Monaco in a 45-minute race.
The science suggests that smaller, lighter cars can better handle the Monaco circuit, owing to their reduced inertia and improved steering responsiveness. It is hoped that a move to smaller cars would significantly enhance racing at Monaco.
Although Monaco remains a challenging circuit, a return to smaller cars could see it once again host exciting and competitive races, with overtakes and defensive manoeuvres no longer limited by the size and weight of the cars themselves.