It is always a happy time when F1 makes its way to the beautiful coast of Monte Carlo. As the teams emerge fresh from mid-season testing in Barcelona everybody is ready to see a good race. While Monaco is not a track that has been known for having super-exciting action, the rich history has always brought a special feeling to the races held in the principality.
Going into the race weekend, this will be the 63rd running of the Monaco Grand Prix, and the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel are the favorites for the win. Last year Vettel was able to nab Ferrari’s first win in Monaco since 2001 with Raikkonen in second. Kimi was also able to secure pole position for that race, something he hadn’t done in 9 years.
Red Bull, however, are looking forward to a rewarding race. Daniel Ricciardo was able to land a podium position in 2017, and he would have won the race the year before had his pit stop not been fumbled horribly by his mechanics. Their car had shown signs of improvement in low speed corners during last weekend in Spain, consistent with what is necessary for a street circuit like Monaco.
Unfortunately, the team over at Mercedes are not so confident. Team principal Toto Wolff explained their disappointment with their performance in Monaco last year. “We are bloody worried,” said Wolff when asked about how he believed the Silver Arrows were going to do. “Surface and conditions played in our favor in Spain, but we are staying cautious with our predictions in Monaco.” After four straight wins from 2013 to 2016 Mercedes have struggled in Monaco ever since.
All eyes will be on rookie Charles Leclerc as his performance at Sauber, or rather out-performance, has been nothing short of incredible. Securing points for the usual back markers in 3 out of the 5 races thus far, many suspect that Leclerc will make a move to one of the dominating teams by the 2019 season. Furthermore, this is Leclerc’s home grand prix, being the only Monegasque driver to have been on the grid since Olivier Beretta in 1994. Perhaps a familiar setting will improve his performance.
Fernando Alonso at McLaren has also expressed his excitement to return to Monaco for the first time in two years, as he took an absence in 2017 to participate in the Indianapolis 500. Alonso has won Monaco twice in 2006 and 2007 and is no stranger to the track. The partnership between McLaren and Renault has disproved all of the doubts that people held before the season started. Alonso has managed to score points in every race while his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne was able to do the same in three of the races, putting McLaren in 5th place, only one point behind the Renault team in the constructors’ standings.
As Hamilton sits only 17 points above Vettel in the drivers’ standings, perhaps this is exactly what the Italian outfit need to clinch that lead. Of course anything could happen in Formula 1, especially at the Monaco Grand Prix. Strap in for a good race weekend.
by Surya Gopalan