Mercedes are firm favourites to continue their winning start to the Formula One season at this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 13:00 BST, live on Sky Sports F1).
Lewis Hamilton scored his fourth consecutive victory in Spain two weeks ago, leading teammate Nico Rosberg to a one-two finish in both qualifying and the race. The result saw him leapfrog the German into first place in the Drivers’ Championship.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo (pictured) came in third, finishing ahead of his four-time world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel for the third race in a row, while Valtteri Bottas secured his fifth consecutive top eight finish for Williams in fifth. Ferrari had hoped to close the gap to Mercedes with their updated package, but instead finished sixth and seventh.
Romain Grosjean secured the first points of the season for the Lotus team in eighth, while Force India took the final two points-paying positions, with Sergio Perez leading home Nico Hulkenberg. McLaren endured another disappointing weekend, with both cars finishing outside of the points.
The teams had an opportunity to trial new parts and setup configurations in the post-race test. Pastor Maldonado topped the timesheets in the increasingly quick and reliable Lotus, while McLaren, Mercedes and Sauber also completed a good amount of running.
The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most iconic events on the Formula One calendar. The circuit snakes through the tight and twisty streets of the principality’s harbour, with even the smallest mistake potentially leading to retirement. The cars have more torque and less grip than last year, which should make for an entertaining weekend.
Pirelli will bring their soft and supersoft tyres to this weekend’s event. With a long and slow pit lane, most drivers are likely to opt for a one-stop strategy. Current weather forecasts predict a warm and sunny weekend, although rain is a possibility on Sunday.
The final sector of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is generally a good gauge of likely performance in Monaco. Last year, eight of the 10 quickest drivers through the final sector in Spain went on to qualify in the top 10 in Monaco.
In qualifying for this year’s Spanish Grand Prix, Ricciardo’s best time through the final sector was just 0.065 seconds slower than that of Hamilton, the second of the two Mercedes drivers. The Australian has already showed himself capable of competing with the pair in changeable conditions, but Saturday could be the first time he does so in the dry.
Monaco is one of the least engine dependant circuits on the calendar, which should largely negate the difference in power between Red Bull’s Renault engine and the Mercedes power unit. Ricciardo is in excellent form and appears high on confidence coming into this weekend’s event. He could spring a surprise by qualifying on the front row on Saturday.
Rosberg was pleased with his performance during the post-race test in Barcelona and is confident of challenging for victory in Monaco, his home as a child and now as an adult.
He won the race last year, finished second in 2012 and scored a strong sixth place finish for Williams in 2009. He was also quickest through the final sector in Spain two weeks ago.
Rosberg has finished ahead of his teammate of the time in each of the last five Monaco Grand Prix. Hamilton will push him hard, but we believe Rosberg has enough of an edge at this particular circuit to secure victory on Sunday.
Bottas has been quietly impressive so far this season, scoring points in each and every race and outperforming his more experienced teammate Felipe Massa. He has shown good speed and maturity in only his second season in Formula One.
This year’s Williams has good traction out of slow speed corners and is likely to be well suited to the Monaco circuit. Bottas posted the fourth quickest time through the final sector in Spain and looks well placed to secure a top six finish on Sunday.
Jenson Button has a solid record in Monaco, having finished ahead of his teammate of the time on five of the eight occasions he has completed the race. He won the event in 2009, has finished on the podium a further two times and achieved a decent sixth place finish last year.
Button was the seventh fastest driver through the final sector in Spanish Grand Prix qualifying and his McLaren should be better suited to the Monaco circuit than it is to some of the more aerodynamically challenging tracks on the calendar. He can be fancied to end the team’s three-race pointless streak with a top 10 finish on Sunday.