Our resident petrol head previews the 2017 Monaco race weekend which gets underway with the first practice sessions on Friday the 26th of May.
The F1 field heads to one of its most treasured playgrounds this week for what could be a season-defining race weekend. While there will be plenty of glitz and glamour floating around the French principality, the main focus will be on Sunday’s race across the streets of Monte Carlo.
To say this season has been interesting is probably the largest understatement to have been uttered as we got to witness yet another action-packed race at a track that has been dominated by Mercedes for nearly half a decade. And while Silver Arrows main man, Lewis Hamilton managed to claim race honours, it was far from the procession that F1 fans have associated with the Circuit de Catalunya with the Brit and arch rival Sebastian Vettel duking it out in a mesmerising duel that saw the duo go wheel-to-wheel for large segments of the race.
While Hamilton and Vettel claimed the two loftier perches on the podium, Daniel Ricciardo also managed to join in on the champagne shower with the Aussie claiming his fist podium finish of the year. While Ricciardo will be ‘Pretty bloody stoked with the third place, mate!’, he did have an extremely easy time claiming it with both Max Verstappen (crash), Valterri Bottas (Engine Failure) and Kimi Raikkonen (Crash) all retiring.
The aforementioned retirements opened the door for some of the stragglers to claim points finishes with Romain Grosjean (10th), Danil Kyvat (9th) and Pascal Wehrlein (8th) all finishing a lot higher than they would have expected to. The men who benefited the most, however, were Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, who claimed fourth and fifth respectively. Sandwiched between these two groups were the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg (6th) and the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz (7th).
I always get a shiver down my spine when I see the field line up on the Monaco start line. I’m not sure if it’s due to watching a horrific Youtube compilation of crashes at the venue or if it’s just the prestige that goes along with what has been described as the ‘Jewel in F1’s Crown’? Regardless of whichever factor it is, I’m likely to suffer the same chills when the drivers line up for their 2017 assault on the 78 lap circuit.
We all know how tight this track is. And while for some petrol heads that’s a bit of a turnoff, I’m the complete opposite. Yes, we won’t see as many overtakes as we would in Italy or in Canada, but the overtakes we will see will be full of unadulterated daring and guile.
So which of the 19 turns will provide drivers with an opportunity to get a jump on the man in front of them? Well, they could try the Fairmont Hotel hairpin, which is the tightest hairpin turn on the Formula 1 calendar, but that would more than likely end in retirement for them and their victim. The easier options would be Saint Devote (the first turn on the track) or just after the tunnel into Nouvelle – it’s a tricky move to pull off and requires you to outbreak your opponent in the Nouvelle corner.
Moving on from where and where not to overtake and on to the variables for this week, and what better place to start than with the weather, which looks superb. Friday sees clear skies and temperatures ranging from the high-teens to early-twenties. The rest of the weekend sees similar forecasts, although, there will be some cloud cover for both the qualifying sessions and the main race.
Last year’s edition was won by Lewis Hamilton with Daniel Ricciardo (second) and Sergio Perez (third) rounding out the podium.
Monaco Grand Prix | Sunday 28 May | Circuit de Monaco | 13:30
To Win Outright
Lewis Hamilton 12/10 | Sebastian Vettel 27/20 | Valterri Bottas 8/1 | Kimi Raikkonen 14/1 | Daniel Ricciardo 14/1 | Max Verstappen 14/1 | Sergio Perez 150/1 | Nico Hulkenberg 200/1
Podium Finish: Daniel Ricciardo Yes 7/4
The grinning Aussie has a healthy record at Monaco claiming podium finishes in both 2014 and 2016. He also claimed the fastest lap accolade in 2015, so this is certainly a circuit he favours. The Red Bull man also comes into this one off the back of a third place finish in Spain, which would have been a massive shot in the arm for him. Back the Perth native to end the race in the top 3 at a solid 7/4!
First Driver to Retire: Max Verstappen 16/1
Regardless if he delivers this week, Max will certainly provide an entertaining drive on the streets of Monte Carlo. The young gun has zero fear flowing through that 1.8-metre frame of his, which is a rather dangerous attitude to have at Monaco. He crashed at the track in 2015 and 2016 and I really wouldn’t be surprised if he makes it a hat-trick of retirements this weekend. There’s no denying this is on the speculative side of things but at 16/1, I will certainly be wagering 10 bucks on him being the first to retire.
Fastest Qualifier and Race Winner: Lewis Hamilton 27/20 & 12/10
I know this is bordering on the mundane but I can’t see anyone challenging Hamilton this weekend. The Brit won last year’s race and claimed the fastest qualifier accolade to boot. I can see him repeating the trick this weekend at a circuit that is nine times out of ten won by the man who claims pole.