Pit Stop

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 May, 2010, 12:00am

It's May, so Formula One must be heading to Monaco. Believe it or not, the season is already a quarter gone.

Time perhaps to reflect on a whirlwind start to the season that dawned with new rules, new teams and not a little confusion over how it would all pan out. I'm not at all sure that after five races it's all that much clearer. Perhaps it's easier to start at the back of the grid, where it's been much more predictable.

Three new teams, Virgin, Lotus and Hispania were greeted into the paddock with exceedingly low expectations and they haven't disappointed.

Bottom of the points table and firmly at the back of the grid, the teams haven't exactly fired the imagination of the fans. The novelty factor is fast wearing off and the top drivers are losing patience with the dangerous unpredictability the slower cars bring on the track. Lewis Hamilton for one is concerned about the back markers this weekend in Monaco.

Given the tight nature of the street circuit, the first qualifying session could be a complete lottery if you are trying to get a fast lap in and also trying to avoid a car three seconds a lap slower than yours.

Likewise, the race itself could also be thrown wide open. It might be exciting for the spectators, but you have to sympathise with the guys at the front of the grid. They're concerned not just about the speed at which they are catching back markers, but also about passing them safely.

At the sharp end of the grid it's been a weird start to the season, with all the main teams showing glimpses of what they can do, but none showing the consistency to put space between them and the others in the championship. Great for the spectacle of the world championship, but the teams involved will be hugely frustrated.

Take Ferrari, for instance. They have a great driver line-up this season, but you can't do much with a dodgy engine. The team had to go cap in hand to the FIA last week to ask for permission to modify their engine on reliability grounds. On top of that Filipe Massa is struggling to keep on the pace and make the most of his tyres.

Red Bull have taken pole position every time so far this season, but it hasn't always meant a race win.

The RB6 is lightning quick, make no mistake, but it can be a touch brittle. Both Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel have won races now, but they've also had reliability issues.

Bahrain and Australia could also have been added to their tally of wins but for problems with spark plugs and wheels, and Vettel was beset by problems last weekend.

McLaren sit atop the drivers' and the constructors' championship heading into Monaco this weekend, despite not having the fastest car. Yet they too have had their fair share of dramas, such as Lewis Hamilton's late, late tyre blowout in Spain. Perhaps what has made the difference is Jenson Button's instinctive race craft.

One of his two victories came thanks to an inspired tyre gamble, and perhaps he's the driver most comfortable in his own skin (and the cockpit of his car).

And yet, as we await the Monaco Grand Prix, are we any closer to discerning the pattern of this season? Both drivers' and constructors' championships are so close it's hard to discern who might break away. All the front runners have the potential, but all need to cut out the mistakes. Perhaps it's best just to look at the next race.

Red Bull have traditionally been weak at Monaco, their cars not enjoying the slow corners one bit. The team have warned us that it will be different this time around. Certainly they seem to conjure up magical qualifying performances at the moment.

Perhaps if they can boss the pack in Monte Carlo, they can start to find some daylight in the race to the title.

Top drivers are losing patience with the dangerous unpredictability the slower cars bring