Monaco, Monaco, Monaco. Love it or hate it, the race weekend on the streets of Monte Carlo definitely serves up something different – and occasionally gives us something special.
From a Red Bull anniversary to a new home hero, to the prospect of a very exciting Saturday, here are your reasons to watch all of the action this weekend!
Not as predictable as you might think…
Monaco gets a hard time from many who call it boring and a procession. While that may have been true in the past, recent form suggests a different story. Between 2009 and 2014, every Monaco Grand Prix was won from pole. Since then, however, the polesitter has failed to win the race and each Grand Prix has provided at least one big talking point.
In 2015, Lewis Hamilton lost the race in the closing stages due to a pit-stop timing error. Hamilton got lucky the following year at Daniel Ricciardo’s expense. Ricciardo had led the first thirty laps but then a disastrous pit-stop at Red Bull saw him drop behind the British driver and he was never quite able to re-take the lead.
Last year, Kimi Raikkonen started on pole but wasn’t able to convert it to a win as his teammate Sebastian Vettel was, somewhat controversially, on a better strategy.
— Craig Norman (@CraigNormanF1) May 30, 2017
2018 could give us another slightly unexpected result on Sunday. Any one of the top six drivers could easily walk away as the winner on Sunday. Ferrari dominated last year, Mercedes head to Monaco having just had back-to-back victories and Red Bull are always a wildcard here. Add some rain to the mix and the weekend could be a classic. Will we get another Monaco surprise this season?
Red Bull reaches 250
Red Bull will celebrate their 250th F1 appearance in Monaco – an event at which they’re usually strong. The team have had at least one driver on the podium in seven of the last eight races in Monaco and, fresh from their 150th podium finish last time out in Spain, the Bulls could be charging this weekend.
Mercedes’ Team Principal Toto Wolff has been quoted this week as saying he’s ‘bloody worried’ about how quick Red Bull will be in Monaco. The slow and technical final sector of the Catalunya track suited Red Bull well, which indicates that they will be strong this weekend.
Of the Red Bull pairing, it is usually Daniel Ricciardo who excels here. He’s taken three podium finishes in Monaco in the past four seasons and took his only pole so far in his career here in 2016. Max Verstappen, meanwhile, doesn’t have the best record here. He crashed out in both 2015 and 2016 and finished fifth in 2017. Will either Ricciardo or Verstappen give Red Bull reason to have major celebrations at their 250th Grand Prix?
Olivier Beretta was the last driver from Monaco to compete in his home Grand Prix. Twenty four years later, Monaco has a new star: Charles Leclerc. Leclerc has found his feet in Formula One now and is regularly out-qualifying and out-racing his Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson. With two points-scoring finishes in a row, Leclerc will be hoping for a hat trick around the streets he grew up on.
The best result for a Monegasque driver in the Grand Prix is third, which Louis Chiron achieved in 1950. The podium may be a little out of reach for the Sauber driver this weekend, but equalling Beretta’s eighth place finish from the 1994 season could certainly be a target. Can Leclerc perform well at home?
— Fantasy GP (was Badger GP) (@Fantasy_GP) May 22, 2018
The new pink-walled Hypersoft Pirelli tyre will make its debut this weekend. Between them, the teams have chosen 210 sets of Pirelli’s newest offering between them, with Red Bull, Williams and Renault choosing the maximum allocation of eleven sets each.
Let’s not get too HYPE-d though. Yes, the Hypersoft will make qualifying times faster due to the higher levels of grip and we could see the lap record tumble throughout Saturday, but Pirelli say the tyre – which is the softest available from all of the compounds – will comfortably do a race distance around Monaco, so the Grand Prix itself will still be a one-stop event. Still, pink is pretty, right?
Thankfully, the performance of the Hypersoft will likely be of more interest at the next round of the championship, in Canada.
An exciting Saturday
While the race hasn’t been won from pole for the past three years, the importance of qualifying at Monaco can’t be understated. 54 of the 64 races at Monaco which have been held as a round of the Formula One championship have been won from the top three on the grid. The last time the race wasn’t won from inside the top three was when Olivier Panis won for Ligier back at the chaotic 1996 Monaco Grand Prix.
The race to get into those top three grid slots is always tight. Pole has been decided by less than a tenth of a second on seventeen occasions during Monaco’s tenure on the F1 calendar.
Engine performance isn’t so important at Monaco, so there’s always a much more level playing field, with more emphasis placed on driver skill – meaning it’s not impossible that we’ll get a surprise polesitter. Neither Ricciardo nor Raikkonen have taken a pole position since their last pace-setting Saturdays in the principality.
Okay, okay, so the racing isn’t always great, it’s usually a procession and the winner is decided by who qualifies in the top three on Saturday. But still, Monaco offers something unique.
Whether you’re watching for the beautiful scenery, or to see the drivers get perilously close to the barriers, or maybe just to question how on earth the Health and Safety department hasn’t had the race cancelled yet, Monaco undoubtedly offers something different.
It’s still the most glamorous event on the calendar, the blue ribbon event, the Jewel in the Crown… and even if it is a flat Sunday afternoon, the always action-packed Indy 500 begins just an hour or so after the chequered flag falls in Monte Carlo – it’s a win-win situation.
The Monaco Grand Prix begins at 3:10pm (UK Time) on Sunday. In the UK, coverage is live on both Channel 4 and Sky Sports F1.