By Tom Dodd
- Street circuit in the principality of Monaco hosting round six of F1 World Championship
- Britain’s Lewis Hamilton looking to make it three race wins on the bounce
- Race renowned for glamour and tradition to backtrack on policy that had run up until the end of last season
MONTE-CARLO, MONACO – Sebastian Vettel will desperately want to repeat last year’s triumph in 2018 to prevent title rival Lewis Hamilton extending his championship lead further.
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Can Ferrari return to the front?
Following wins in Australia and Bahrain and despite missed opportunities in China and Azerbaijan Ferrari looked to have their rivals under control in the opening few hands of the season. However, they were dealt a minor blow in Spain, and were off the pace when it mattered in qualifying before suffering mechanically with Kimi Raikkonen and tactically with Sebastian Vettel on raceday.
The German’s once handy lead over Lewis Hamilton is the drivers’ standings is now a 17-point deficit. Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff has already installed Ferrari as favourites for Sunday, and the Scuderia will want to bounce back in Monaco, hoping or a repeat of last year’s dominant weekend around the streets of the principality.
Romain road: Can Grosjean get back on track in Monaco?
The only driver apart from new boy Sergiy Sirotkin with no points, Romain Grosjean seems a shadow of the racer he has been in the last couple of seasons and currently trails teammate Kevin Magnussen by a sizeable 19 points in a car that can easily run at the front end of the midfield. The strain is starting to show as well, a spin under the safety car in Baku and a first-lap collision in Spain seem to suggest the former Renault man is pushing too hard and trying too hard.
Perhaps a return to his homeland this weekend will help, and two eighth/placed finishes in the last six years may be encouraging for the Haas, who desperately needs to step up his game this weekend.
Will Red Bull finally get both cars competitive?
It has been one or the other, and infamously in Baku, it was neither. Red Bull are yet to hook both their drivers up to the ideal setup so far in 2018, meaning the Milton Keynes have struggled to keep up with Mercedes and Ferrari in the constructors, despite having the speed to match the two front-runners over one lap on the track.
Daniel Ricciardo has been on the podium in the last two visits to Monaco, and felt hard done by having not have won in 2016 after taking pole position, while Max Verstappen finished fifth a year ago. Both are notoriously difficult to overtake, and both know how to put a move on the driver in front. If either can get in the mix there could be fireworks. Just hopefully not with each other this time.
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How will the ‘return’ of Grid Girls go?
After the hugely positive move to scrap the glitz and glamour of the grid on raceday, Monaco GP bosses look set to go against Liberty Media by deploying grid girls for the weekend once again – well, not completely. The Grid Kid scheme, introduced at the start of 2018 as replacement will still be in place come Sunday afternoon, but the event will stand by its lavish traditions by having models on the grid as well.
Those who take to the start/finish straight will be all be employed by the race’s sponsor TAG Heuer, and in an added twist will also include male models as well. Monaco has a proud tradition in F1, though it remains to be seen if they got this attempt to marry past and present spot on.
Can Williams stop their slide?
Gone are the days when Williams could turn up in Monaco and be hopeful of getting in among the leaders. Things have looked bleak for the English team since the start of the season, with the weakest car and driver line-up on the grid at the moment showing no signs of improvement heading to Monaco.
Lance Stroll seems to be somewhat lost without the guidance of an experienced teammate and Sirotkin is yet to prove to anyone that he is anything but a driver with heavy financial backing. The team desperately need a result and more importantly a performance from their two drivers around a treacherous and unforgiving Monaco layout this weekend to give them a boost.
Financial fair play in Formula 1 is a hot topic at the moment, and Williams are very much a team on the receiving end economically right now, meaning things could get a lot worse before they get better for one of the sport’s oldest and successful teams.
The Monaco Grand Prix takes place this weekend with qualifying beginning at 14.00 BST on Saturday 23 May with the race starting at 14.10 BST on Sunday 24 May.
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