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Formula 1

The weird Monaco banner drama with a 'pretty catastrophic' impact

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

McLaren has criticised the bizarre issue of advertising banners at the Monaco Grand Prix being pulled onto the track and causing a “quite catastrophic” performance loss when getting caught in Formula 1 cars.

Lando Norris was at risk of elimination in Q1 in Monaco after being forced to abandon a late lap because some signage had been pulled off the barrier exiting the Swimming Pool section, and got stuck in his car when Norris ran over it.

McLaren reckons that cost downforce equivalent to three seconds of lap time – but fortunately Norris pitting as quickly as he did, and the team being able to extract the “metres” of signage from under his car, meant he was able to rejoin and secure his passage to Q2 on the same slightly used set of softs.

Norris indicated the drivers had already raised it as an issue after Friday practice as those sessions had already featured signage being torn off the walls.

“That shouldn’t happen in Formula 1,” said Norris. “It could have cost me my whole weekend.

“It’s a bit silly, in my opinion. We said it yesterday, we said it was going to happen again. And they said they were going to fix it but obviously it wasn't.

“They need to come up with a better solution than just stickers because of course we’re touching the wall, but it’s not acceptable that it can ruin your whole weekend for some stickers.”

It is unclear why this has happened so prominently this year as The Race understands there has not been a change in the type of trackside advertising material year on year.

The FIA was aware of it in qualifying as teams and drivers were reporting debris on the track. Max Verstappen even said he was surprised the session was not red-flagged, although this was likely due to the fact it was either being moved off-line by cars passing by or in extreme cases being trapped in the cars themselves.

Polesitter Charles Leclerc had a similar incident to Norris in Q1.

“I took that sponsor sticker on the lap,” he said, “That was pretty important at that time, it slowed us down quite a bit.

“Then we pitted, we took off the sponsor banner from the front wing, we went again. So that was already quite tricky, because in qualifying in Monaco you just want to be out and just do normal laps, so I was just praying for no yellow flags or red flags after that. Luckily for me, it was OK.”

There was action taken between the sessions, with the worst of the damaged signage removed between Q1 and Q2, and then again before Q3, to avoid anything partially detached being pulled completely off.

But McLaren team principal Andrea Stella was clearly annoyed, like Norris, that the issue had not been resolved quicker given it had been evident “right from free practice one”.

“It’s not suddenly in qualifying that we have the banners coming off,” said Stella.

“It’s been there every single session, and we need to fix it. Because I think today it affected Lando in a pretty catastrophic way from a performance point of view. I understand potentially Leclerc as well, and some other drivers.”

“So, what is exactly going to determine the race result tomorrow? The luck as to whether you take the banners or not? Or do we want this to come as an outcome of the quality of the drivers, the car and the teams?

“Something needs to be done.”

The Race understands that this has already been discussed between the FIA, F1 and Sport Signage, F1’s branding and advertising partner.

None of the damaged banners will be replaced for Sunday, and the decision has already been taken to completely remove branding in some small areas for tomorrow.

The situation will then be monitored through Sunday’s three support series races. Depending on whether fresh problems arise across the F3, F2 and Porsche Supercup races, one option is that all such branding in trouble spots, such as exiting the Swimming Pool section, will be removed ahead of the grand prix.

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