The Monaco Grand Prix: glitz, glamour, celebrities, money, and at the heart of it, the one circuit Formula One drivers want to win on more than any other. It is a complete anachronism in the safety-obsessed, homogenised world of modern F1, but Monaco matters more than just about any other race on the calendar.
Last time in Spain, Nico Rosberg proved the critics who said he didn’t have an answer to teammate Lewis Hamilton’s dominating form comprehensively wrong. The German led proceedings for much of the weekend, qualifying on pole and taking a lights-to-flag victory at a canter.
Hamilton, by contrast, found himself stymied behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for much of the race after a slow start. He used a different strategy to get ahead, but even then he couldn’t close the gap to Rosberg.
Of the two Mercedes drivers, Rosberg has more wins Monaco, taking victory in 2013 and ’14, while Hamilton only has the one all the way back in ’08. But would be a brave bet against in-form Hamilton, who set the fastest time in Free Practice on Thursday, 0.74 seconds clear of Rosberg. Clearly, a new three-year contract worth up to $120 million provides some motivation…
But Monaco is very much a different beast and the form book doesn’t necessarily mean anything. The showers that blighted Thursday’s running shouldn’t be a problem for the race, but the attrition rate is often high. That helped Marussia, now Manor, driver Jules Bianchi claim the team’s only F1 points when he finished ninth. 12 months later he has yet to recover from the horrific crash he suffered at the Japanese Grand Prix last October. Though he is on longer in an induced coma, he remains unconscious.
Speaking to French TV station Canal+, Jules’ father Philippe said: “The situation is stagnant. Jules’ neurological progress is not what we would like it to be.”
“We have to think about death because we are in a situation where we know a lot of things can happen. It’s terrible.”
But he added: “While there’s life, there’s hope, even though after a while you are hoping for a miracle.”
Bianchi will be remembered by the Manor in Monaco, team members wearing ‘JB17′ wristbands, remembering Jules’ race number. No doubt the entire paddock will join them.
Looking beyond the Mercedes, Ferrari could steal a win. The Scuderia hasn’t mean quite on equal with the Silver Arrows so far this year, despite taking victory in Malaysia. Slightly surprisingly, Ferrari’s Vettel only has one win at Monaco, but if he has the car under him, he is more than capable of challenging for the win. And don’t count out Kimi Raikkonen, who seems to have refound his form in the red car.
Of the rest, Williams should be in a position to capitalise should the front-runners hit issues; and Toro Rosso’s youngsters Carlos Sainz Jr. and Max Verstappen in particular, both of whom have out-shone the senior Red Bull drivers, are aiming for a third-row starting position.
In other news, the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association is launching a global survey to find out what F1 fans think the sport’s future should look like. You can take the survey here.
The Monaco Grand Prix takes place on Sunday 24 May.
Drivers’ Championship standings after five races
- Lewis Hamilton — Mercedes — 111 points
- Nico Rosberg — Mercedes — 91
- Sebastian Vettel — Ferrari — 80
- Kimi Raikkonen — Ferrari — 52
- Valtteri Bottas — Williams-Mercedes — 42
- Felipe Massa — Williams-Mercedes — 39
- Daniel Ricciardo — Red Bull-Renault — 25
- Romain Grosjean — Lotus-Mercedes — 16
- Felipe Nasr — Sauber-Ferrari — 14
- Carlos Sainz Jr. — Toro Rosso-Renault — 8
- Max Verstappen — Toro Rosso-Renault — 6
- Nico Hulkenberg — Force India-Mercedes — 6
- Sergio Perez — Force India-Mercedes — 5
- Marcus Ericsson — Sauber-Ferrari — 5
- Daniil Kvyat — Red Bull-Renault — 5
- Fernando Alonso — McLaren-Honda — 0
- Jenson Button — McLaren-Honda — 0
- Roberto Merhi — Manor-Ferrari — 0
- Will Stevens — Manor-Ferrari — 0
- Pastor Maldonado — Lotus-Mercedes — 0
Constructors’ Championship standings after five races
- Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team — 202 points
- Scuderia Ferrari — 132
- Williams Martini Racing — 81
- Infiniti Red Bull Racing — 30
- Sauber F1 Team — 19
- Lotus F1 Team — 16
- Scuderia Toro Rosso — 14
- Sahara Force India F1 Team — 11
- McLaren Honda — 0
- Manor Marussia F1 Team — 0
By Only Motors