Monaco GP Stats Show Pole Matters in the Modern Era, While Young Guns Excel

The pressure is on Lewis Hamilton to make a stand at the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix if he’s to have a chance at leaping above standings leader Sebastian Vettel in Monte Carlo on May 28.

The Mercedes marvel holds bragging rights over his German foe heading to the principality, however, having won the Monaco GP on two occasions to his rival’s one (2011).

Both drivers will need their wits about them across race weekend, too, as the figures show a pole position in Monaco gravely boosts one’s odds of winning, while it’s the younger stars who have excelled in the modern era.

Pole Power

However, while clinching pole position may not have mattered much up to 2003—where only seven of the previous 19 winners finished qualifying in first—the modern era has shown a preference toward those starting at the top of the grid.

Jarno Trulli started the trend in 2004, when he broke a five-year drought by backing up his pole placement with victory on the Sunday, and on only four occasions since then has a driver outside of pole taken the Monaco crown.

That equates to more than two thirds of all wins in the past 13 races—or 69 per cent—meaning that whomever performs best on the Saturday is far more likely to taste victory in the race itself.

However, Hamilton has shown he doesn’t need to do well in qualifying in order to succeed at Monte Carlo, having started third on the grid in each of his two Monaco GP wins to date (2008 and 2016).

Taking into account all 32 races since 1985, the figures are split down the middle, but these figures point toward the reliance on technology Formula 1 has developed, with surprises and order-changing perhaps no longer as common.

Young Guns Blazing On the French Riviera

The old adage tells us to respect our elders, and yet the growing trend of under-30s trumping the veterans in Monaco suggests Formula 1’s stars are doing the exact opposite of late.

From 1985 up to 1993, seven of the nine Monaco GP winners were 30 or over, and Brazilian legend Ayrton Senna was the youngest to triumph in that time frame when he collected the first of his record six Monte Carlo wins in 1987.

Since then, though, the youngsters have displayed a growing proficiency for the event and have even dominated the first-place prizes in the last 24 editions of the race, grasping 17 of those victories.

Lewis Hamilton also stretched the youngest-winner record to just 23 when he blazed to glory in 2008, while Mark Webber scored one for the oldies with his 2012 victory—his second Monaco win in three season—then at the ripe age of 35.

Form Matters

One may be tempted to believe it’s a case of “the more the merrier” when it comes to podium places boosting their chances of success leading up to any race, but such isn’t necessarily the case in Monaco.

Bearing in mind the Formula 1 calendar has grown to include more races in the last two decades or so, we traced records since 1995 and discovered two podium finishes prior to the Monaco GP was actually the most common precursor to success, accounting for six of the past 22 finishes.

Granted, having five top-three placements before what’s now the sixth race of the season is impressive, and on five occasions—or 23 per cent of those past 22 races—has the winning driver done so.

But history dictates two podium finishes prior to the Monaco GP is in fact optimal as six Monaco GP winners since 1995—27 per cent—have racked up that amount of podium finishes in the lead-up to this event.

There’s hope for the underdog, too, as in that time, three Monaco GP victors have held no podium finishes before the race and stormed to top spot all the same.

That gives hope to just about everyone in the 2017 field, although the two-podium rule need not apply in 2017, considering no driver in the current crop has amassed that number this term.

First the Best, Fourth the Worst

Unsurprisingly, it’s drivers who enter the Monaco GP positioned atop the drivers’ standings who tend to fare better in the race, with 11 of the previous 32 victors—roughly a third—having been first coming into the race.

That’s a little less than twice as successful as any other position in the Monaco GP, although drivers positioned fifth in the standings have bucked the trend and indicate a slightly stronger record than those positioned fourth.