The historic Monaco Grand Prix offers an aesthetic setting unlike any other in sport. The world-famous harbour and picturesque Monegasque streets have delivered countless memories and 2019 will hope to serve up much of the same.
If Mercedes’ dominance is to be questioned this season, the unpredictable street track could throw a spanner in the works for Toto Wolff, at a place where the form-book goes out the window.
Charles Leclerc is looking to become the first Monegasque to secure victory at his home race after becoming the first driver from Monaco to start his home race since Olivier Beretta in 1994 last year.
Ferrari have continued to fall well short of expectations so far this season, but the Monegasque will be hopeful of turning the fortunes for the red cars who have more recently been fighting with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Despite Monaco’s ‘chassis circuit’ being well suited to the Red Bull, they won’t be expecting the dominance that Daniel Ricciardo offered last year.
The death of Austrian Formula One legend, Niki Lauda, has no doubt cast a dampened mood ahead of this weekend and the drivers have since paid tribute to a great whose legacy in the sport will be eternally remembered.
Four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel said: “He’s a hero and an idol for the sport. There are a lot of things we should look up to when we talk about Niki.”
“Obviously he has been a huge legend of the sport,” said Leclerc. “What he achieved after his accident, coming back in that manner and having so much success as he did, he’s an example for a lot of people.”
The Circuit de Monaco was the first ever street track in Formula One and has been hosting races since 1929, adding to its prestigious status as a stand-out race on the motor sporting calendar.
Driver skill is tested to the absolute maximum, as the drivers are trapped between barriers often just inches away from their tyres. Concentration is pivotal to success. From the slowest corner on the Formula One calendar, to the heavy breaking required after lighting turns from dark to light as the drivers exit the historic tunnel in the second sector, car placement and attention to detail is key.
Monaco is a ‘one-of-a-kind’ track, known for closing the gaps between cars and slightly increasing the importance of driver ability on a cramped track, known as technically the toughest circuit out there.
Overtaking is extremely limited, and although turn ten before the Nouvelle Chicane offers an opportunity for clinical, late breaking manoeuvres, most decisive position changes will come through the pit-lane and strategy calls.
The forecast ahead of this weekend in Monaco shows a dry practice one and two on Thursday. Practice three is also expected to be dry on Saturday, however there is an increasing chance of showers for Qualifying later that day. For Sunday’s race, conditions look dry with no rain expected.
What happened last year?
Ricciardo managed to limp home in his Red Bull after complaining of a loss of power, to scrape a deserved victory in last years race. His wounded car had only six of eight gears functioning giving him 25% less horsepower than usual, but remarkably still managed to hold off Vettel.
The Aussie will have reduced expectations heading into the Monaco Grand Prix this season, and will be hopeful of getting his new Renault team back in contention for ‘best of the rest’ after a difficult start to the season for the French outfit.
In reflection, the 2018 Monaco GP weekend looks to have proved a turning point for young Verstappen. After a difficult start to last season he then made a fatal error in practice to leave his Red Bull unable to compete in qualifying, at a circuit where he should have been a hot favourite for pole position. Since then and continuing into this season he has seemingly learnt lessons and evolved into a consistent performer.
Christian Horner’s team will be hesitant in expecting back-to-back Monaco wins, with Mercedes’ unchallenged dominance in recent races and Leclerc desperate to taste champagne at his home race.
When can I watch it?
Free practice 1: 10:00 – 11:30
Free practice 2: 14:00 – 15:30
Free practice 3: 11:00 – 12:00
Qualifying: 14:00 – 15:00
All times UK.