Two weeks after Fernando Alonso’s home victory in Spain the Formula One circus moves on to the twisty streets of the principality of Monaco for the eponymous Grand Prix (Sunday, 13:00 BST, live on Sky Sports F1).
Alonso’s victory saw him move up to third in the Drivers’ Championship standings, 17 points shy of leader and reigning three-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who could only manage fourth after being overtaken by Alonso’s Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa in the closing laps.
The pair are split at the top of the standings by the Lotus of Kimi Raikonnen. The Finn is just four points behind Vettel, favourite in the Drivers Championship betting, having now finished on the podium in four of the five races this season, and in second in each of the last three Grand Prix.
But while the current standings in the Drivers’ Championship bode well for a competitive season, it is the high degradation of the Pirelli tyres that has dominated paddock talk in the build up to Monaco. Alonso required four pit stops to win in Barcelona and even then his final set of tyres looked heavily worn as he took the chequered flag.
There have also been a few dangerous incidents caused by tyre delamination in recent Grand Prix, which, following fierce criticism, has resulted in Pirelli announcing that changes will be made for the Canadian Grand Prix in the second week of June.
This announcement has raised the ire of teams such as Ferrari and Lotus, who prioritised tyre management when designing their cars and feel the FIA and Pirelli are pandering to teams such as Mercedes and Red Bull who have struggled to manage their tyres so far this season.
It is a discussion that looks set to run and run, but for Monaco, a circuit which is traditionally quite kind on tyres, there will be no changes.
Mercedes have dominated recent qualifying sessions, securing pole position in each of the last three Grand Prix, and locking out the front row in Spain two weeks ago. They have gone backwards in the race on each occasion, but it is clear that they currently enjoy an advantage over their rivals in qualifying.
Both Mercedes drivers were particularly quick in the tricky final sector in Barcelona, which is traditionally seen as a good marker for likely pace at Monaco, itself a very tight, twisty circuit where good downforce is key.
Nico Rosberg has beaten Lewis to pole in each of the last two races and also has a superior qualifying record at Monaco (average position of 5.85 in comparison to Hamilton’s 6.5), despite often finding himself in inferior equipment to his former karting teammate. He has the necessary skills to secure his third consecutive pole position on Saturday.
McLaren’s Sergio Perez was another driver who performed well in the final sector during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, posting the fourth best time of anyone as part of the lap that secured him ninth on the grid – his best performance since joining from Sauber in the off-season.
Perez crashed out of qualifying for last year’s Monaco Grand Prix, but managed 10th in his debut season of 2011, and is certainly capable of again securing himself a place in the top 10 shootout.
Current weather forecasts suggest that a clear, sunny Grand Prix awaits on Sunday and with that being the case we are likely to see a one or two stop race. The long, slow pit lane reduces the teams’ willingness to experiment with different strategies.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber has endured quite a poor season to date, having secured just one podium finish so far, but has always been a bit of a Monaco specialist and will see this weekend’s race as an opportunity to get his season back on track.
Webber is a two-time Monaco Grand Prix winner and even managed to drag the 2006 Williams – by no means a quick car – into contention for victory at the principality. It is always difficult to predict the winner at Monaco, but Webber looks an excellent bet for a place on the podium.
Mercedes have failed to match their strong qualifying performances in race trim so far this season, a pattern than reached its nadir in Spain when the two fastest qualifiers ended up finishing the race in 6th and 12th. But at a circuit that places less emphasis on tyre management they can expect a solid showing this weekend.
Hamilton and Rosberg are unlikely to be among the genuine contenders for victory, but are certainly both capable of bringing home their respective cars in the points. Hamilton has an average finishing position of 5.17 with no retirements in six races at Monaco; Rosberg 7.60 from five finished races, with two retirements to his name.
F1 Monaco Grand Prix Betting Tips Verdict
- Back Nico Rosberg to qualify on pole position @ 7/2 with BetFred or Ladbrokes.
- Bet on Sergio Perez to reach qualifying session three @ 5/6 with Ladbrokes.
- Back Mark Webber to finish on the podium @ 5/2 with Paddy Power and Stan James.
- Bet on Mercedes to secure a double points finish @ best odds of Evens at Paddy Power.
- UPDATE: All FOUR of these tips WON!