Monaco Grand Prix – weekend preview

After a brief two-week break, Formula One returns this weekend as it descends on the narrow streets of Monaco! 

Written by Aiden Hover, Edited by Sam Stewart

The historic 3.337-kilometer street circuit will play host to 78 intense laps of racing this Sunday as the track makes a return following a one-year hiatus. With racing legends, such as Nelson Piquet, describing the circuit as like ‘riding a bicycle around your living room’ it is very clear that this tight twisty track is certain to test the drivers to their limits. It is here where they shall prove why they are the greatest drivers in the world as they are forced to be razor-sharp with each sweep of the wheel – rewarding the utmost display in bravery and skill. 

The true pinnacle comes on the Saturday with qualifying often proving more entertaining than the often overtake-lacking race. The 2019 pole time, set by Sir Lewis Hamilton, of 1:10.166, will prove a true test to beat, but all 20 drivers are sure to risk it all to come out on top.

The Circuit de Monte-Carlo, having hosted a race every year since its return in 1955 (bar last year, but we all know why…) is of course shrouded in an immense wall of history. All the way back in 1955, Alberto Ascari famously crashed his car from the lead into the trackside harbour as he flew out the tunnel section! On a more successful note, Graham Hill would make history at the track, winning the Monaco Grand Prix winning a whopping five times. This in itself is an incredible feat – matched only by Michael Schumacher, but it pales to Ayrton Senna’s record of six wins at the track – earning him the nickname, ‘Mr. Monaco.’ In 1988, however, Senna would crash out from an incredible lead proving that even seemingly superhumans can fall mercy to the harsh Monaco walls. Monaco is always certain to cause chaos, such as in 1996 when Olivier Panis claimed victory from 14th on the grid out of a measly three race finishers following a tumultuous race of attrition. With the addition of rain, the chaos of Monaco is cranked up to an eleven. In 2008, Lewis Hamilton would take his first victory at the track following a wet race that saw him clatter the barrier and limp into the pits with a puncture that looked set to put him out of the race. A wet race in 2016 also saw controversy as Daniel Ricciardo missed out on his debut victory at the street track following a botched pitstop in which his team had no tyres waiting for him. 

As previously mentioned, qualifying can often be the most interesting aspect of the Monaco weekend, with the pole-sitter often winning the race. This has caused quite the controversy in the past, however. In 2006, Michael Schumacher ensured that his rivals did not have the opportunity to top his time by parking it at Rascasse in order to bring out the yellow flags and force his opponents to slow down. This act caused widespread disagreement and conversation about the morals of Formula One, with the FIA eventually conceding that Michael likely ‘crashed’ on purpose and so was stripped of his pole position. In 2014, however, history would repeat itself with Nico Rosberg locking up and parking his car in the run-off at Mirabeau in order to prevent title rival and teammate Lewis Hamilton from taking pole position. Nico would be allowed to keep his pole position and would go on to win the race.

What can we look forward to this year? Two weeks on from a surprisingly tense Spanish Grand Prix, which saw a strategic master class from Mercedes to see Hamilton come out on top once again over Max Verstappen, we can be sure to expect more of the same from the two at the front as their battle only further intensifies. Valtteri Bottas will be looking to be more involved, as is becoming a trend this year, especially after being told to move out of Hamilton’s way last time out. Sergio Perez also will be hoping for a good result as he becomes ever more desperate to prove his worth at RedBull.

Charles Leclerc, who drove an astonishing race in Spain to take fourth, will be looking to make hay at his home track as he has often blundered here in the past. His teammate, Carlos Sainz, is also expected to perform well as the Ferrari keeps on improving. The McLaren boys will be expected to be close as ever to the top two but will be looking to not get jumped by their Italian counterparts as they did last time out.

Alpine’s Fernando Alonso will be expecting to put his vast depth of knowledge and experience to the test as he hopes to improve on his dismal display in Spain, whilst Esteban Ocon will be hoping for more of the same as he once again scored a handful of points last time out. AlphaTauri is expected to be on the cusp of points as they so often are this year with Pierre Gasly aiming to jump some of the faster cars ahead. Yuki Tsunoda has struggled recently and will be expected to turn things around by his Red Bull bosses.

Further down the grid is the struggling Aston Martin team. With both drivers out of the points in Spain, it can only be uphill in Monaco. Alfa Romeo will yet again be expected to fight for the closing stages of the points as they narrowly missed out in Spain – although matters were made worse following a bodged pitstop for Antonio Giovinazzi that almost saw a punctured tyre be fitted to the 99 car. 

As is becoming all too frequent, the back of the grid is looking to be made up of the two Williams cars and the two Haas cars. George Russell will be looking to once again outshine his car in qualifying to make it to Q2 whilst Nicholas Latifi will be hoping to avoid the back row. The American outfit of Haas will likely see this race as a test of survival as they surely will not have the pace to keep up with those ahead – although, you should always expect the unexpected at Monaco as simply finishing the race could come with a fruitful helping of points or even, in Olivier Panis’ case, an unlikely win.

Be sure not to miss any of the action, kicking off this Thursday with free practice before qualifying on Saturday. Lights out on Sunday is at 14:00 UTC, be sure to be there.

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