There’s been plenty of discussion on social media following last Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix as to whether the most famous race on the calendar needs a shake up in terms of its track design, to make for more exciting racing. However, if you were watching from the Toro Rosso garage, those 78 laps were some of the most nail-biting and thrilling of the year.
The STR13 was immediately on the pace in Thursday practice, with both drivers in the top ten or just on the cusp of the points positions in most sessions. For both drivers, this was their first time round the tricky streets of the Principality in a Formula 1 car, but they clearly understood that keeping out of trouble and maintaining maximum concentration is the key to success here.
Keeping that concentration isn’t always easy, as the Monaco weekend can seem very long, with the extra “day off” on Friday, which is no day off at all these days. As early as Monday, Brendon was on track, doing some filming for Red Bull’s “Servus TV” channel, alongside his former WEC team-mate Mark Webber. As for Pierre, he swapped his regular race suit for football kit, to take part in Tuesday’s traditional charity football match, hosted by Prince Albert of Monaco. The Prince was also a guest on our famous floating Energy Station, attended by our drivers and the Red Bull Racing pairing of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. It’s fair to say that racing drivers are not usually found on lists of the world’s best dressed men, with the possible exception of Lewis Hamilton, so it’s always one of the more light-hearted moments of the Monaco weekend when the F1 stars are suited and booted for Friday’s Amber Lounge Fashion Show, another of the many charity initiatives organised over race week.
Come Saturday and the race suits return for the highlight of this Grand Prix, when, with the softest tyres and the lowest fuel loads, the F1 cars face one of the true challenges of the year – Monaco qualifying. We talk about this being the slowest race of the year, but watching the cars through the Swimming Pool section, or coming out of the tunnel is the perfect example of bravery and commitment. Monaco is notorious for its traffic, and after showing strong pace throughout all three practice sessions, Brendon was an unfortunate victim of the congestion around the tight streets. Despite the car having pace to easily progress to Q2, he was eliminated after not setting a clean lap in the early stages of qualifying. On the other hand, Pierre kept it all together to go all the way to tenth place on the grid.
On a track where overtaking is extremely difficult, could the Frenchman move up the order on Sunday? Yes! Like the other nine drivers at the front of the grid, Pierre had to start with the used Hypersoft tyres. Showing great maturity, he made them last an incredible 37 laps – more than any other driver – and that was the basis for his success as it gained him track position as others stopped before him. Then, in the closing stages, he was equally impressive in the way he fended off a hard charging Nico Hulkenberg to hang on to that oh so valuable seventh place. Starting from 15th after Romain Grosjean served his grid penalty, Brendon made a great start off the line and held his position into the chaotic Turn 1.
Some contact with a Sauber on the first lap damaged his front wing which caused a loss of front downforce, leading to higher tyre degradation. The Kiwi battled through and began chasing down Carlos Sainz for the final points-paying position, until Charles Leclerc suffered a brake failure and ran into the back of Brendon’s car, forcing him to retire from his home Grand Prix in Monaco. Despite Brendon’s unfortunate end to the race, Pierre’s fantastic drive to seventh position moved us ahead of Haas in the Constructors’ Championship to 7th.