Welcome to F1’s crown jewel. Nothing exudes glamour like the Monaco Grand Prix. On Sunday, twenty cars will contest 78 laps round the narrow streets of the rich principality, on a circuit which is as unforgiving as it is beautiful. Monaco takes no prisoners.
To successfully traverse Monaco you will want good grip, high downforce and keen senses. Run wide at most other venues and you’ll either meet a run-off area or a gravel trap. Make a mistake here and you’ll meet a solid barrier that will end your race. Another problem is with overtaking – Monaco can be notoriously processional, with pit strategy key. It’s likely we’ll get a one-stop race, as teams won’t want to risk relying on their drivers having to pass on track. We can expect qualifying to be tense – grid position here is more vital than anywhere else.
Last year saw Lewis Hamilton pick up his second win here, at a race that he desperately wants to do well at, in order to emulate his boyhood hero Ayrton Senna. Daniel Ricciardo might have won, if not for a calamitous mistake from his pit crew, who cost him several precious seconds by failing to be ready for him. This time, it seems unlikely Red Bull will be in a position to seriously challenge Mercedes or Ferrari, though Monaco is a track that places huge importance on aerodynamics, more so than any other race, so it might be that Ricciardo and Verstappen are closer here. They certainly need to be, given that Ricciardo was 75 seconds behind Vettel’s Ferrari in Spain.
The most likely scenario will once again involve a tussle between Ferrari and Mercedes. Monaco will expose whichever team has the slightly weaker overall design, but it will also come down to a test of mettle between Hamilton and Vettel. Who will be prepared to brake just that fraction earlier, hit the power quicker, get just that tiny bit closer to the barrier? That is what will determine qualifying, and with it, the race.