Lewis Hamilton has won three of the four races of the 2021 Formula One season to date but he might not have things all his own way at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix (Race: 2pm Sunday; TV: Live on Sky Sports F1).
Hamilton won from pole position in Spain two weeks ago. There was nothing between him and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in qualifying, but on race day Hamilton and Mercedes were the quicker package. Hamilton recovered from Verstappen’s quick start to take victory.
The feeling during pre-season testing was that Red Bull were faster than Mercedes, but that hasn’t been consistently true over the first four races of the season, particularly on race days, where the combination of Hamilton and Mercedes has proved both quick and softer on tyres than Verstappen and his Red Bull. It looks likely to be pretty even title fight.
There was no Monaco Grand Prix last year for the first time since 1954, but the famous race has returned to the calendar for 2021. Hamilton was the winner in the last race in 2019, but it is Verstappen who might be the best bet to top the podium this weekend.
Speed through the final sector at the Spanish Grand Prix is usually taken as a decent guide to likely performance at Monaco. In both qualifying and race trim it was Verstappen’s Red Bull that set the best times there.
Verstappen has never previously quite managed to get things fully hooked up on race day in Monaco. He finished fourth from third on the grid in 2019, ninth from a pit-lane start in 2018 and fifth from fourth on the grid in 2017, in addition to retiring from the race in both of his first two attempts. With a strong car underneath him and a need to reassert himself in the championship battle, he is a solid bet finally to do so on Sunday.
Valtteri Bottas claimed third in the second Mercedes in Spain, with Charles Leclerc taking a strong fourth for Ferrari ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez and the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo.
Leclerc has made a very solid start to the year, finishing in the top six in all four races to date and twice coming home fourth. He might even have a solid chance of going one better and getting up onto the podium at his home race this weekend.
After the two Mercedes and the two Red Bulls, it was Leclerc’s Ferrari who was fastest through the final sector on race day in Spain, while he also had the fourth quickest car through there in qualifying. His teammate Carlos Sainz, who finished seventh on the Sunday, was the fifth quickest in qualifying trim, suggesting Ferrari could be pretty strong in Monaco.
A tactical error from Ferrari led to Leclerc starting way down on the grid in the last Monaco Grand Prix in 2019 and collision damage then forced him to retire early on. This time around, if everything goes well on the Saturday, he will have a decent chance of claiming the team’s first podium of the year come Sunday.
After Sainz’s Ferrari, the McLaren of Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon’s Alpine and the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly filled out the top 10 in Spain.
Gasly could actually be interesting choice to get into the top six in Monaco. He has gone pretty well at the circuit on his two previous visits, claiming a seventh-place finish for Toro Rosso in 2018 and then fifth for Red Bull in 2019. His AlphaTauri was very rapid through the final sector in Spain, sixth quickest on race day.
AlphaTauri have scored points through one or other of their drivers in all four races so far this year, but it still feels as if there could be better results to come from a car that has sporadically looked very quick indeed. If Gasly can get his car hooked up in qualifying and within reach of the top six, a finish there certainly isn’t out of the question. So, coming to our betting tips, these are our recommendations for this F1 Monaco Grand Prix preview:
- Back Max Verstappen to win the race @ best odds of 6/4 with BetVictor.
- Bet on Charles Leclerc to finish in the top three (ie: a podium finish) @ 11/4 with Bet365 or BetVictor.
- Back Pierre Gasly to finish in the top six @ 7/4 with Paddy Power or Betfair.
- Full Monaco GP outright winner betting and pole position odds are here.