Formula One is back in Monte Carlo this weekend, meaning the team’s and drivers are to tackle one of the season’s toughest races; 78 laps around the Mediterannean principality lie between the eventual winner and chequered flag on Sunday afternoon.
Monaco first hosted a Grand Prix in 1929, well before the advent of the modern racing category we have come to know as F1. Graham Hill was ‘Mr Monaco’ during the 1960’s as he racked up five victories between the tight and twisting barriers, before the late great Ayrton Senna took his sixth and final Monaco win in 1993 to take himself to the top of the list of Monaco winners. Of the current grid, most of the top drivers have won here at least once; Jenson Button (2009), Kimi Raikkonen (2005) and Sebastian Vettel (2011). Only Fernando Alonso has won twice (2006 and 2007) for Renault and McLaren respectively.
Add to that list Lewis Hamilton (2008) and Nico Rosberg (2013) and you can see why normally it would be anybody’s bet as to who takes the laurels home this weekend; but you can probably place your bets on it being somebody wearing a three-pointed star on their overalls given the current level of dominance asserted by Hamilton, Rosberg and the Mercedes team.
Vettel Rates His Chances
Reigning World Champion Vettel has taken his fair share of stick in the press this season as he struggles to get to grips with his new RB10 and ‘rookie’ team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, but the German believes Monaco is his chance to assert driving skill over car performance and beat Mercedes for the first time in 2014.
“I think yes [we can beat them]. It is difficult to predict but maybe in Monaco you need less power. You still need power, but maybe a little bit less than in other places.” said the German.
Red Bull have pointed to the power deficit between the dominant Mercedes engine and their own slightly weaker Renault unit as the cause of the gap between the two teams, and by general consensus the Adrian Newey-designed RB10 is one of the best designs in the field. It’s enough to run 3rd and 4th certainly, but Red Bull want to be 1st and 2nd. The fight between Vettel and Ricciardo could be on of the tastiest prospects this weekend.
McLaren and Ferrari In The Doldrums
Ferrari are currently enduring their longest winless spell since 1990-1994, when the team went three full seasons without reaching the top step of the podium. With Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen on board, you can’t point the finger at the drivers. Raikkonen in particular has found the F14T and the new turbo’s difficult to adapt to, but the Finn remains confident the tide will soon turn.
“After the last race, we stayed on in Barcelona for the test, which was reasonably positive: we had problems at the start, but by the end, I can say I was pleased with the work we managed to get through.” said Raikkonen.
“The F14 T is improving and I am sure that, step by step, the results will come, but we must push harder to get them.”
Alonso will need to deliver the kind of performance that took him from last on the grid in 2010 to 6th or saw him battle Vettel and Button for victory in 2011 in an inferior car to restore any measure of pride to Maranello, but the trials and tribulations of F1’s most historic name are doing nothing to quench rumours the Spaniard is being targeted by other teams for 2015 and beyond after four – potentially five – fruitless seasons at Ferrari.
McLaren are tempering their own expectations ahead of Monaco, with Eric Boullier concluding the circuit ‘may not be so bad’ for the troublesome MP4/29 and it’s suffering drivers Button and Kevin Magnussen. Just like Ferrari, McLaren are experiencing their longest spell without winning champagne since the gap between the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix and Spa the following season. It’s 542 days since Button won the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix and it seems ever longer for Ron Dennis and his squad.
Pirelli are mirroring their 2013 tyre choice for Monaco, bringing soft and super soft compounds to the event. Weather forecasts put temperatures between 14’c and 22’c across the weekend, with rain forecast for Thursday practice with Saturday and Sunday being clearer and sunny.