Formula 1 really isn’t boring in 2016, not even a little bit! Despite just two race winners from the first five weekends, there has been variety and intrigue throughout the field and, whilst Max Verstappen’s debut in the Red Bull made the biggest headlines after Spain, there was plenty to chew on elsewhere.
Whether it be Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s “coming together”, Carlos Sainz Jnr proving there was more than one young talent emerging from Toro Rosso, or Esteban Gutierrez finally coming to the Haas party – albeit not fashionably late enough to gain a point (as yet) – going into Monaco, are you looking to tweak your line-up and do either of the following make the cut or get the chop?
Pressured? – Sebastian Vettel (£18m) – As an 18 year-old makes a massive impression in his old seat, it isn’t difficult to argue that Vettel is starting to show the first signs of real pressure in his prancing horse. The German’s run-ins with Daniil Kyvat, and now the ever-smiling Daniel Ricciardo, have provided TV viewers with great entertainment, but it also appears to be a very different Vettel than the relaxed version trying to spoil the Mercedes party twelve months ago.
Vettel’s form so far this campaign sees him 13 points adrift of his team-mate Raikkonen and, in Fantasy GP terms, he currently looks an expensive option at £18m and a value of only 4.06 points per million spent. If I put this in perspective, only Button and Hulkenberg offer less value so far and, if results don’t pick-up in the next two or three races, I wouldn’t be expected the smile to easily return to Seb’s face!
Toiling? – Sauber (£4m) – Fantasy GP players will remember the Swiss-based team’s impressive start to the 2015 campaign and the electric form of Felipe Nasr to gain the Most Valuable Driver accolade for the same year (at a monstrous 71.7 points per million spent). However, Sauber’s decline as a points scoring threat has been a dramatic one, as their last 24 outings have only produced 17 points, compared to 19 in only the first three races of last term. An apparent bargain at £4m, Sauber may have seemed a safe bet compared to Manor and the newcomers Haas, but this has been anything but the case. Expect the pressure to start to build on the team, both mentally and financially, if they don’t get off the mark soon or if Manor can pip them to their first points of the season.
Other Tips – Nico Rosberg left it left last year to make the most of Lewis Hamilton‘s team error to pip the Brit to glory on French harbour (and to make it three out of three wins in Monaco) with Vettel splitting the two, something that might have actually been helpful last time out. Both Mercedes drivers will be keen to make a far more positive impressive than in Spain.
In the tight street circuit where the importance of pure engine power can be somewhat offset, do expect the Red Bull duo to be competitive again, while even McLaren might fancy their chances of a top ten or better showing in the Principality of Monaco.
Williams will not want a repeat of the 14th and 15th finishes last year, though I’d be pushed to make a case for their £18m cost not to be put to better use elsewhere in your line-up.
Pirelli will grab a bit of the spotlight on the famous streets this weekend as there ultra-soft tyres make their racing debut and form a dominant part of many of the drivers’ selections.
Weather is likely to be warm and dry although (at the unusually early time of writing) there is a slight risk of surprise stormy weathers in qualifying but are we using up too much of our good luck this year if rain does prevail?
A safety car is a near-certainty in Monaco with 13 appearances in the last 6 races alone – including a race-defining one in 2015 – and you have to go back to 2009 to find a race without its intervention, so I’d recommend guessing how many rather than a simple “yes or no?”.
Monaco is a tight circuit that will punish mistakes and the average number of retirements over the last six years is 6.5, and my choice for first retiree will be a driver that appears in line to struggle in qualifying and wishes to make an early and eager impression (and fails). Following Friday’s and Saturday’s practice session will be key for this track as the usual haul of bonus points may be severely restricted.