Welcome to the crown jewel of F1, the ultimate test of skill and nerve. Welcome to a place where unyielding, unforgiving barriers line your path at every tight, twisting turn. Welcome to 78 laps of torment and tension. Welcome to Monaco.
Coming into this race my record equated to: 11th, 9th, DNF, 7th. I had eight points from my first four races and those also represented all the points Meerkat Racing had earned. Valtteri Bottas led the championship and after three wins in four races he had a 21-point lead over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. So far art had not imitated life at all – in reality Bottas won one race all season, and by this point it was already becoming clear that Max Verstappen and Red Bull were capable of challenging Hamilton and Mercedes. So far Verstappen had been well off the pace, and Monaco, with its high downforce requirements, would surely offer his best chance to recover lost ground.
Monaco had the slowest average speed of an F1 circuit, and the narrow street track has been largely unchanged since Grand Prix racing began here back in the pre-F1 days. There is not a point on the circuit that offers respite from the walls; every corner, every semi-straight section of track holds danger. Whether you’re accelerating hard up Beau Rivage or hurtling though the Tunnel, the slightest twitch, any form of error or mechanical issue, and you’ll slam into the wall. To me, merely finishing the race would qualify as a success.
That’s not to say I am rubbish at Monaco. I won here on F1 2009, but that was a less sophisticated game on a less sophisticated console, and even then my victory was more about the AI repeatedly crashing and losing time than about my raw skill. I myself clunked the barriers a few times, so my win was more about making less mistakes, rather than no mistakes. F1 2021 is a different beast altogether, and I considered a points finish to be only a remote possibility.
How did I do? I didn’t. I ‘jettisoned’ the race. A few laps in practice told me I would struggle and I wasn’t in the mood for a miserable experience. Defeatist? Yes. However I would either be pathetically slow or I would crash. There wasn’t much point wasting time here, and I crashed early on. Maybe on another occasion I’ll have a better Monaco experience, but not this time.