Driver confidence a key theme ahead of 2024 Monaco Grand Prix

Ahead of the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix, Formula 1’s marquee event, two themes are emerging. The first is a common thread everytime the grid ventures to Monaco: Saturday is the big day. With overtaking coming at an absolute premium on the Monte Carlo streets, if you want to win the Monaco Grand Prix you better start up front, which means you best bring you A game on Saturday.

The other theme coming from drivers and teams this week?

This is a track where the drivers can make a true difference, meaning driver confidence is critical.

A number of teams, team principals, and drivers have stressed the importance of driver confidence, as the circuit arrives in Monaco.

“Monaco qualifying is everything, driver confidence is everything, track time is everything – so you really can’t be messing around with car setup too much,” said Haas Team Principal Ayao Komatsu in the team’s media preview. “It means the car you roll out with on Friday morning has to be right, then you just have to let the driver get as many laps in as possible; there’s more lap time in them than with tuning bits on the car.

“The challenge is you have to get car set-up right before you run, if you like. If you send the car out and car set-up is not right, you can’t spend 15 minutes in the garage to change the car because that 15 minutes is track time lost,” added Komatsu. “Between runs, you should really be getting the driver to look at the data, see where they need to improve, and then get them out as soon as possible. The engineers’ challenge is more about start set-up having to be in the ballpark, and then once you’re running, just focus on giving drivers confidence.”

Esteban Ocon — who threatened for pole position in Monaco last year and captured a podium finish — echoed that sentiment in Alpine’s media preview.

“Monaco is such a special place on the calendar and is synonymous with Formula 1 and the history of motorsport. As a driver, it is a weekend that you need to be at your very best and stayed focused throughout,” said Ocon. “Monaco is a track where the driver can really make a difference. If you feel comfortable in the car and the car is compliant and turns how you want, you can run close to the barriers and find extra time.”

While Williams has endured a tough start to their season, as the team that finished a stunning seventh in the Constructors’ Championship in 2023 has yet to bring home points this year, that could change if they get things right this weekend, starting with driver confidence.

“After a disappointing weekend in Imola, we are looking forward to racing again in Monaco. It’s a unique track where any small mistake is punished immediately, but when all the pieces come together, a lap around Monaco gives you a very rewarding feeling,” said Sporting Director Sven Smeets in the team’s media preview.

“As it’s so hard to overtake on this track, it is very important to get the best out of the car in Qualifying. Therefore, the focus for the Free Practice sessions will be getting the right balance between Qualifying and race-pace while building driver confidence.”

“Monaco is a big challenge for a driver: it’s a place that not only requires technique and precision – it also demands absolute mental focus for every inch of tarmac. There is not a single place where you can relax or shift your attention to something else – and every mistake is punished: it’s tough, but it’s a fun challenge,” described Sauber driver Valtteri Bottas, who finished on the podium in Monaco in 2019. “Also, while qualifying is crucial in every race, in Monaco it acquires an even more pivotal role: add to this the weather, which can change often and suddenly, and you have so many elements of potential jeopardy in one single race. This is what makes this race what it is, and it’s a challenge I relish.”

Teammate Zhou Guanyu shared that feeling in Sauber’s preview.

“Racing in Monte Carlo is one of the things you dream of when you’re a child aiming for Formula One: it’s one of the most special moments in the season, it’s a race even non-fans would know about, and I am really looking forward to doing it again this weekend,” said Zhou.

“Imola was a tough weekend but one that has at least given us lessons to learn for the future: while Monaco is a completely different track layout, there are still many elements we can implement to improve and boost our competitiveness,” added the Sauber driver. “Here, more than anywhere else, qualifying is a massive part of your end result, so it’ll be important to hit the ground running from the very first session and maximise all we can in practice, so that we can be prepared for Saturday. Even then, this is a track that can throw surprises at every corner: a Safety Car is never too far, so strategy may also provide opportunities. We will need to be prepared for anything that may happen, but I am confident we can play our cards right.”

In Monaco, qualifying is critical. That makes Saturday perhaps the most important day of the week.

How confident each driver is climbing in the car on that day may tell the story of the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix.

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