The European leg of the Formula 1 season kicks off in Monaco this weekend after the sport opted not to race at Imola on May 21 due to devastating floods in Emilia, Italy.
Monaco offers a unique challenge to the 20 drivers this weekend, as it has been doing since 1955. Its narrow streets make overtaking nearly impossible, and in 2003 there were zero overtakes.
Some may call the glamorous race a procession at times (it’s the slowest and shortest race on the calendar), and that may be true. It’s at the principality’s race that teams place a greater emphasis on qualifying and race strategy to fight for a win and score points.
The 3.3km long track through the streets of Monte Carlo offers 78 laps for a total race distance of a smidge over 260km. It is arguably one of the toughest challenges for drivers and former F1 champion Nelson Piquet once compared driving it to ‘riding a bicycle in your living room’.
The slightest mistake from a driver can find them into the barriers, just ask Mercedes’s third driver Mick Schumacher. And with the cost cap looming large over teams’ finances, no driver would like to cause expensive damage to their cars.
The top speed reached is an almost unbelievable 290km/h and drivers will change gears around 47 times per lap. Look out for the famous swimming pool section and of course, the famous tunnel, where overtaking could happen.
Ferrari And Aston Martin’s Best Chance Against Red Bull
The race on the French Riviera kicks up several interesting battles. Last season Sergio Perez beat two Ferraris and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen to claim victory. It’s no secret that the Mexican’s slight crash in the final qualifying session aided his haul of 25 points, but that’s racing.
That means that Verstappen will be aware more than ever that claiming pole position will give him the best chance of a win. However, it’s not that simple in Monaco where the RB19 isn’t going to be able to show off its high straight line speed.
The tight and twisty layout of the track neutralises Red Bull’s performance and drags Aston Martin and Ferrari into the bout. Hometown hero Charles Leclerc has twice been on the pole in Monaco and failed to produce victories. The Monegasque driver showed his rivals just how rapid he is over one lap in Azerbaijan when he grabbed pole positions for the sprint and Grand Prix.
Another strong contender for the pole position and even the race win is Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard has scored four podium finishes in five races and both he and team principal Mike Krack are confident in the AMR23’s abilities this weekend.
Leclerc and Verstappen are our favourites to grab pole position and nothing separates them in the odds at 2.50, with Perez at 4.40 and Alonso fourth favourite at 8.50.
The same quartet has been installed as the top four favourites for the race win, with Verstappen edging it at 2.60 to Leclerc at 3.50 and Perez at 4.50, and finally Alonso at 7.50.
Look out for Mercedes who will run a significantly upgraded W14 at Monaco this weekend. It’s a brave move by the Brackley-based team as Monaco isn’t traditionally where manufacturers test new upgrades. It could be an indication of how desperate the German giants are to get their season going.
Listen to the Monaco Grand Prix preview podcast below hosted by Sean Parker and guest Phumudzo Tshiovhe:
Winner – Leclerc
Podium Leclerc, Verstappen, Perez
Fastest lap: Verstappen
Pole position: Leclerc
First to retire: Nyck De Vries
Most Team Points: Red Bull
Both Cars Qualify for Q3 Shootout: Mercedes
Practice 1/2/3 Winning Car: Leclerc/ Red Bull
Safety Car: Yes
Top 6: Hulkenberg, Ocon, Russell
Top 10: Tsunoda, Albon, Magnussen