Monaco Grand Prix: Things to look out for

Richard Hazeldine Richard Hazeldine

Formula 1 returns home – well, at least to the place where most of the drivers live – to Monaco this week for it’s annual pilgrimage to the iconic street circuit.

The sixth stop on the 2018 calendar sees Lewis Hamilton at the top of standings, with Sebastian Vettel 17 points adrift, although things could change dramatically by the race’s end.

We discuss some of the major talking points ahead of events in Monte Carlo.

Mercedes worried
Make no bones about it, Mercedes are heading into the Monaco Grand Prix with ‘damage limitation’ their number one priority. For some reason, and even Mercedes are not sure why, the W09 just does not like the corners of the famed street circuit. Team Principal Toto Wolff summed up the sentiment in the Silver Arrows camp with two simple words, saying he was “bloody worried.” If Mercedes can do better than last year’s 4th (Bottas) and 7th (Hamilton) and not give up too many points to their main rivals at Ferrari in the process then they will probably consider the weekend a relative success.

Red Bulls to shine?
One thing that most F1 watchers seem to agree on is that Red Bull will be in amongst the podium places this weekend. Daniel Ricciardo showed a glimpse of what to expect on Sunday at Barcelona last time out when he was super quick through the Circuit de Catalunya’s tight, final sector. Red Bull bosses will be hoping that Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will be able to make the most of the advantages the RB14 is expected to have around the twists and turns of the principality and make up some ground in what has been a distinctly average season so far.

Ferrari need a result
After a blistering start to the season that included wins in Australia and Bahrain, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finds himself under pressure heading into race weekend. A 17-point lead has transformed into a 17-point deficit following three races without a podium. Another disappointing weekend and Vettel may struggle to get his bid for a fifth championship back on track. The fact that the Ferrari is expected to be one of the strongest performers around the streets of Monaco could be the saving grace for the German.

Things get real for McLaren
After introducing some drastic upgrades at Barcelona in what the Woking-based team called its ‘real’ 2018 car, the performance was well underwhelming to say the least. Instead of challenging their fellow Renault customers Red Bull, Fernando Alonso was stuck once again battling with the likes of Haas and the Renault works car of Carlos Sainz. McLaren’s package didn’t live up to the hype, and continued to make a mockery of claims that the team’s switch from Honda to Renault this season would lead to a big improvement in competitiveness. McLaren’s goal of podiums and wins still looks a long way off.

Grosjean’s mountain/mole hill
Spare a thought for Romain Grosjean, who is one of just two drivers yet to score a point this season. If you include the back end of last season then the Frenchman has now gone nine races pointless. He is not worried by his points drought though, the 32-year old telling reporters in Monaco not to make ‘a mountain out of a mole…thing.’
Things will not get any easier for Grosjean on Sunday, the Haas driver was slapped with a three-place grid penalty at Barcelona two weeks ago for causing a crash that took out rivals Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly. If he is going to get his first points of 2018 on the board this weekend, then he is going to have do it the hard way.