The Monaco Grand Prix is always a special occasion, but this year there is even more intrigue heading into the race than usual. Will Mercedes’ longer wheelbase car put them on the back foot to its rival Ferrari? Will Red Bull come to the fore on a track where power is less important? And can a certain returning world champion help McLaren to their first points finish of the season?
Three-time world champion Nelson Piquet described driving at Monaco as akin to “riding a bicycle around your living room”, and on the face of it, dropping the world’s fastest racing machines onto 3.337km of twisty, undulating asphalt is indeed absurd – even more so when you consider the track features both the tightest corner of the season and the sport’s only indoor bend. However, the drivers relish the challenge – and with the walls so close it definitely doesn’t feel like they are racing at the slowest average speed of the year. And speaking of walls, they’ll probably feel even closer this year thanks to the increased width of the 2017 cars…
Another way in which Monaco is unique is in its timetable, with the first two practice sessions traditionally taking place on Thursday instead of Friday.
Could this be the year that Valtteri Bottas sets the record straight? Given that 3 times he has finished in Monaco and 3 times he has failed to make the top ten, with two 12th places and a 14th, his DNF in Spain aside, he is yet to finish outside the top six in 2017, you would have to put money on the Finn coming away with at least a few more points in the bank, even if he doesn’t hit the jackpot as it were.
Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo would almost certainly already be on the Monaco winners’ list. As is stands, he is still waiting to break into a very exclusive club – you may have noticed that every driver above has been a Formula 1 world champion.
At the same time future doesn’t look so bright for the McLaren team after 25-year-old Stoffel Vandoorne collided with the Williams driver in Turn One in Sunday’s GP in Barcelona, with the incident ending up with Vandoorne’s car beached in the gravel. After reviewing the incident, the FIA decided that Vandoorne was at fault and he has been given a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Monaco in addition to two penalty points on his racing licence.
After the highs of Fernando Alonso’s out-of-the-blue top-eight qualifying result, Sunday provided more doom and gloom for McLaren as they are now the only team who have failed to pick up any points in the first five races.
It sounds cliched, but it’s true – in Monaco, qualifying is everything. Overtaking is near impossible around the narrow street circuit, so start off the first couple of rows of the grid and your chances of victory are slim to say the least.
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