This weekend’s Formula One race needs no introduction. The 65th annual Monaco Grand Prix (9 a.m. ET/ESPN) will take place on Sunday. This is one of the most prestigious races on the F1 calendar. This race garners more attention than realistically any other race on the schedule. With that being said, here are five storylines to watch.
Can Mercedes Contend?
Mercedes drivers have won four of the last five races in Monaco. They’ve also won the last two races on the season heading into this weekend. They’d be odds on favorites right? Well, most say not so fast. Mercedes officials think that the Ferrari and Red Bull camps are the favorites. Lewis Hamilton finished seventh in the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix and has struggled overall this season. Plus, Valtteri Bottas has yet to finish on the podium in five career races there. In fact, he has just one top 10 finish overall in Monaco and that was a fourth place run last season.
Red Bull Looking For Historic Win
Max Verstappen hasn’t had much luck in Monaco. He crashed out in 2015 and 2016, finished fifth last year and has never qualified in the top three or run in a podium position at any time during a Monte Carlo race. Daniel Ricciardo has also never won there. But, this group could be contenders this weekend. Ricciardo, does have four straight top five finishes in Monaco and the team is set to take part in their 250th Grand Prix. They won their 150th (Bahrain 2013) and 100th (Hungary 2010) races, and secured a memorable 150th podium finish in Barcelona last time out. Ricciardo’s only career pole came at Monaco 2016, a race which he looked likely to win before a pit-stop mistake by his team ultimately handed the spoils to Hamilton.
Ferrari Drivers Looking For Return To Glory
2018 started off great for Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel won the first two races and they looked like the constructor to beat. But, bad luck has hindered them the last few races. Can they turn things around in Monaco? Vettel, has two wins (2011 and 2017) and five podium finishes in his career on the Monte Carlo street circuit. All five of those have come in the last eight years. After missing out on triumphs in the last three races, Vettel is still seeking his 50th career win, something only achieved by Prost (51), Hamilton (64) and Michael Schumacher (91).
But, Raikkonen is ready to win too. He gave Ferrari a 1-2 finish last year when he came home runner-up to Vettel. He was also the pole sitter last year in Monaco too. If Raikkonen wins this weekend (he last won at Australia 2013) he will tie Riccardo Patrese’s 99-race win interval between South Africa 1983 and San Marino 1990, as well as setting the Monaco GP record for longest gap between victories (13 years after winning in 2005).
It’s a street course, so qualifying is obviously a key factor here. In the previous 64 F1 races in Monaco, the winner has come from the top three 54 times. The last time a driver won from lower than that – and the only time since 1985 – was Olivier Panis’ win from 14th in 1996. So, Saturday’s qualifying round could set up Sunday’s winner.
Qualifying Could Also Be A Jinx
While starting position clearly matters in Monte Carlo, you may rather start second or third. The last two drivers to take pole position in Monaco have not taken another pole position since then (Ricciardo in 2016, Raikkonen in 2017). So, would you rather start on the pole knowing that trends may not be kind to you, or start second and third and have just as good as odds of winning.