2019 Monaco Grand Prix – Preview

Another race, another dominant performance from Mercedes, and a fifth-straight one-two finish with Lewis Hamilton finishing ahead of Valtteri Bottas after beating him off the line from second on the grid, while Ferrari continue to underperform in contrast to expectations prior to the season, and would need a massive change in fortune to get on terms with Mercedes when Round Six of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship gets underway from the iconic streets of Monaco.

However, before I move into more of the preview, I would like to pay tribute to former three-time world champion Niki Lauda, who has sadly passed away at the age of 70. Lauda was quite simply a Formula One legend, winning the world championship with Ferrari in 1975 and 1977, and one with McLaren in 1984, claiming 25 wins, 54 podiums, 24 pole positions, and 24 fastest laps across a 177 (171 starts) race career.

However, Lauda was also amazing in his entrepreneurial pursuits in the aviation industry in particular, but came back to work in Formula One later in his life, being employed as a consultant for Ferrari in the 1990s, and was the team principal of Jaguar from 2001 to 2002, but most successfully as non-executive chairman of Mercedes since September 2012, and played a huge role in the signing of Lewis Hamilton, and as they say in the classics, the rest is history! It was a life well lived, a winner, a fighter, a legend! The great Niki Lauda! Rest In Peace!

Looking ahead to the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix, Hamilton (112 points) leads the championship by seven points over his teammate Bottas (105 points) after his third race victory of the season, and the 76th win of his career. Hamilton will be looking to win the Monaco Grand Prix for the third time in tribute to the man who helped get him to Mercedes, while Bottas will be looking to bounce back after finishing second in Spain, and continue his sublime qualifying form, having taken pole position in each of the last three races.

Max Verstappen (66 points) is a distant third in the world championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda, 46 points behind the five-time world champion Hamilton, while Ferrari continue to struggle in contrast to their expectations with Sebastian Vettel (64 points) and Charles Leclerc (57 points) 48 and 55 points behind Hamilton respectively after the opening five races, and face an uphill battle to get somewhat back into contention for race wins, and the championship against the might of Mercedes.

However, the top five currently in the standings have finished inside the top five in each of the opening five races of 2019, and have pulled away from the rest of the grid, with Pierre Gasly (21 points), the teammate of Verstappen, now 36 points behind Leclerc in sixth in the world championship after a disappointing start to his time at Red Bull Racing-Honda.

Behind the top six in the championship, Kevin Magnussen (14 points) is seventh for  Haas-Ferrari, ahead of Sergio Pérez (13 points) for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes, while Kimi Räikkönen (13 points), and Lando Norris (12 points) complete the Top 10 in the standings for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, and McLaren-Renault respectively.

However, beyond the Top 10 in the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, we find last year’s Monaco Grand Prix winner in Daniel Ricciardo (six points) in 12th position in the standings for his new team Renault after just one points-scoring finish, which was back in the third race of the season in China, the 1000th race in Formula One history, wearing the Jack Brabham tribute helmet, but have largely struggled for speed, and have struggled to be regularly inside the Top 10.

So, how do I think Ricciardo is going to go in Monaco?

I think it is going to be tough for Ricciardo to win for a second-straight year on the streets of the principality, but I think he will be in the thick of things for a high points-scoring finish!

Looking at the Constructors Championship, Mercedes (217 points) lead by 96 points over Ferrari (121 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (87 points) in a comfortable third. Then in the battle of the rest, McLaren-Renault (22 points) is fourth ahead of Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (17 points), Haas-Ferrari (15 points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (13 points), Renault (12 points), and Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (six points), with Williams-Mercedes (zero points) sadly at the back of the field, and looking unlikely to score points anytime soon!

So, who is going to win the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix?

I feel like Mercedes have the strongest car to tackle the slow and tight corners around the streets of Monaco, ahead of Red Bull Racing-Honda, while the understeer balance in the Ferrari will hurt them this weekend, and certain teams, in particular Renault, will move up closer to the three front-running teams.

So with that, I am tipping Lewis Hamilton will win the Monaco Grand Prix for the third time, with Valtteri Bottas coming home in second, while Max Verstappen will grab his first Monaco podium in Formula One ahead of the amazing Daniel Ricciardo in a brilliant fourth!

2018 Monaco Grand Prix – Preview

After a dominant performance from Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, where Hamilton claimed his 64th career victory, his 41st victory from pole position, which surpassed Michael Schumacher’s record for most wins from pole position in Formula One, and his 30th consecutive points finish, becoming the first driver to finish 30-straight races inside the points positions in Formula One, we head to a place where Mercedes and Hamilton had difficulty last year, Monaco!

Hamilton (95 points) leads the world championship by 17 points over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (78 points) heading to the streets of the principality, where Vettel and Ferrari were so strong last year! However, Ferrari struggled for speed in Spain, with Vettel finishing in fourth, 27.584 seconds behind Hamilton.

Third in the championship is Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (58 points), 37 points behind Hamilton after helping Mercedes to a one-two finish at the Spanish Grand Prix, but was 20.593 seconds behind his teammate.

Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen (48 points) is fourth in the world championship, 47 points behind Hamilton despite his retirement from the Spanish Grand Prix due to a turbo failure, but has had strong, but ultimately unlucky season so far, but will be looking to turn this around in Monaco, where he started from pole position last year, ending his pole position drought which extended all the way back to the 2008 French Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo (47 points) is just a single point behind Räikkönen in fifth in the championship for Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer after a underwhelming drive in Spain, finishing fifth and last on the lead lap, 50.058 seconds behind the race winner Hamilton, but will be looking to be much stronger in Monaco, where he has finished on the podium in three of the last four years!

His teammate Max Verstappen (33 points) had a much better performance in Spain to rise up to sixth in the championship, claiming his first podium of the year after having a clean race, but was 26.873 seconds behind Hamilton, but like Ricciardo, should be more competitive in Monaco.

Just a point behind Verstappen is Fernando Alonso (32 points) for McLaren-Renault after a fifth-straight points finish to begin the season, finishing eighth at his home race in Spain, but a lap down as they attempt to find more pace to close in on their front-running rivals.

Nico Hülkenberg (22 points) is eighth in the championship for Renault, despite two retirements in a row, ahead of Kevin Magnussen (19 points) for Haas-Ferrari, and Hülkenberg’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. (19 points), who completes the top 10 in the championship.

Looking at the standings in the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (153 points) lead by 27 points over Ferrari (126 points) with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (80 points) in a comfortable third in the championship. Behind them, there is a tight battle for fourth between Renault (41 points) and McLaren-Renault (40 points), with just a single point separating the two teams, with Haas-Ferrari (19 points), Force India-Mercedes (18 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (13 points), Sauber-Ferrari (11 points), and Williams-Mercedes (four points) completing the standings.

So, who will win in Monaco?

I think it is going to be a six-way fight between Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Räikkönen, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. While I think this year’s Mercedes is not the diva of last year, you sense that Red Bull have the strongest car for the streets of the principality, but the question is can they qualify at the front of the grid on a track where it is so hard to pass? Then you turn to Ferrari, who seem strong, but perhaps not as strong as last year, so it makes it so hard to pick a winner!

I think Ricciardo can win the Monaco Grand Prix for the first time, but it will be close if he does it!

 

 

2017 Monaco Grand Prix – Preview

The sixth round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend on the famous streets of Monaco, with the championship battle between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, and their respective teams, Ferrari and Mercedes, evenly poised.

After the first quarter of the season, Vettel (104 points) leads the Drivers’ World Championship by six points over Hamilton (98 points), while Mercedes (161 points) leads the Constructors’ World Championship by eight points over Ferrari (153 points).

After their retirements in Spain, and their relative lack of pace and performance compared to their teammates, both Valtteri Bottas (63 points), who retired with engine problems, and Kimi Raikkonen (49 points), who retired with a broken suspension, who are 41 and 55 points behind the championship leader, look set to be cast into supporting roles for their respective teammates Hamilton and Vettel as the championship heads to Monaco for the next installment of the Vettel vs. Hamilton battle.

Heading into Monaco, Vettel is on a run of six consecutive podium finishes in Formula One, including finishing the first five races of the season in the top two positions, including winning the Australian Grand Prix and the Bahrain Grand Prix.

He is also looking to win his second Monaco Grand Prix, and win Ferrari’s first Monaco Grand Prix since 2001, when seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher (then a three-time world champion) won in a Ferrari one-two, with teammate Rubens Barrichello coming home in second place.

Meanwhile, Hamilton, who bounced-back from his fourth place in Russia by claiming victory at the Spanish Grand Prix has finished on the podium in 16 of his last 18 races in Formula One, including winning 10 of those 16 races where he has finished on the podium.

In Monaco, Hamilton is looking to claim his 65th pole position in Formula One, which would move him level with the late-great Ayrton Senna (who secured six victories, and five pole positions in Monaco) in equal-second on the all-time pole position list. Michael Schumacher has the most pole positions in Formula One history with 68.

Hamilton will also aim to achieve his third Monaco Grand Prix victory, and become the ninth driver to win consecutive successes in Monaco.

In addition to this, Hamilton’s team, Mercedes, is looking for their fifth-straight victory on the streets of the principality, after Nico Rosberg’s three victories in 2013, 2014, and 2015, along with Hamilton’s own victory with the team in 2016.

However, there will be plenty of fierce competition from rivals in Monaco, who are looking not to allow Vettel and/or Hamilton run away with this world championship.

Both Bottas, who is looking for his second victory in Formula One, and Raikkonen, who is looking for his second Monaco Grand Prix victory, 12 years after his only success to date on the Monaco Street Circuit in 2005.

Can they challenge their teammates in Monaco?

Or, can Red Bull Racing (72 points), and either of their drivers, Daniel Ricciardo (37 points) or Max Verstappen (35 points), challenge Mercedes and Ferrari for glory on the streets of Monaco?

They head back to Monaco, one year after a bungled pit-stop cost Ricciardo an almost certain victory on the streets of the principality.

So far in 2017, Red Bull have been clearly the third-fastest car, but have been troubled by a series of reliability issues.

Ricciardo with a fuel pressure issue in Australia after starting from the pit-lane after stopping on the lap(s) to the grid with mechanical issues, compounding a horror qualifying session the day before, when Ricciardo crashed his car into the barriers after a spin at Turn 14.

Then in China, Verstappen had a misfiring issue with his engine, and could only qualify 19th (starting 16th), before fighting back to a brilliant third on the Sunday, before reliability issues struck in Bahrain, with Verstappen retiring from the race with a brake failure, with the same braking issues struck in Russia for Ricciardo.

Then in Spain, a first lap collision involving Verstappen, Raikkonen, and Bottas resulted in broken suspensions for both the cars of Verstappen and Raikkonen, forcing both of them to retire from the Spanish Grand Prix.

To add to Red Bull’s misery, Ricciardo finished the Spanish Grand Prix 75.820 seconds behind race winner Hamilton in third spot as the last car on the lead lap. This was the first time this has happened in Formula One since the 2008 British Grand Prix, when only three cars finished on the lead lap.

So can Red Bull make it a three-team, six car fight in Monaco?

My view is that it will be tough, and I expect a battle royale between Vettel and Hamilton for the victory.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on the Thursday (instead of the usual Friday) at 10am and 2pm local time (6pm and 10pm AEST).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 11am and 2pm local time (7pm and 10pm AEST).

The 78 lap race is on Sunday from 2pm local time (10pm AEST).