Ferrari can end a 16-year winless streak at Monte Carlo this weekend in the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 13:00 BST, live on Channel 4 and Sky Sports F1).
Michael Schumacher was the last Ferrari winner on the streets of the principality way back in 2001. Mercedes have taken victory in each of the last four Monaco Grand Prix but there are reasons for optimism for Ferrari ahead of this weekend’s event.
The two teams were again very closely matched for pace at the Spanish Grand Prix two weeks ago, with Lewis Hamilton emerging victorious for Mercedes ahead of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari, which had actually looked the quicker package during the early part of the race. But Mercedes’ longer wheelbase and relative struggles with the ultra-soft tyres so far this season could provide Ferrari with the slight advantage in Monaco.
If it does, then Vettel looks best placed to take advantage. He has comfortably outscored his teammate Kimi Raikkonen – who retired early in Spain following a collision that also brought the race of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to an end – in each of the five races to date and is the only driver to have finished in the top two in all of them.
Vettel won the Monaco Grand Prix for Red Bull in 2011 and has three further podium finishes at the circuit to his name. He has a decent chance of adding a second victory to his resume this weekend.
The retirements of Raikkonen, Verstappen and Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas opened up space for Force India and Renault to secure their best results of the season to date in Spain. Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon followed Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo home to fourth and fifth for Force India, while Nico Hulkenberg secured sixth for Renault.
Perez pulled off a surprise by securing a podium finish at Monaco last year and also drove well to a seventh-place finish in 2015. He has consistently shown good pace at the circuit, qualifying in the top 10 in each of the last four years.
The Mexican driver has now finished in the points in each of his last 15 races, and after two consecutive top-six finishes, he has a solid chance of securing yet another on Sunday. He was the seventh quickest car through the final sector in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, which is generally a solid indicator of performance at Monaco, and if any of the drivers from the top three teams drop out, he will be on hand to take advantage.
Toro Rosso also secured themselves a double points finish in Spain, with Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kyvat finishing seventh and ninth respectively. They were split by Pascal Wehrlein, who drove superbly on a surprise one-stop strategy to secure the Sauber team their first points of the season. Romain Grosjean rounded out the top 10 for Haas.
With Fernando Alonso having a go at the Indy 500, this weekend’s race will see Jenson Button return to the McLaren team on a one-off basis. The experienced British driver has not done any on-track work prior to his return but has spent a lot of time in the team’s simulator and seems confident that he will be ready to perform in Monaco.
Power is not a determining factor on the windy streets of the principality and it has therefore been a circuit at which McLaren have been able to compete on a more even footing since switching to Honda power units in 2015. Indeed, it was at last year’s Monaco Grand Prix that Alonso secured the joint-best result of the partnership to date with a fifth-place finish.
Alonso qualified seventh in Spain last time out, showing that pace improvements are being made despite the under-performing power unit. Button has secured points finishes in each of his last four races in Monaco and despite a little rustiness can be fancied to once again lead his car to a top-10 finish on Sunday.