The return of F1’s most iconic race, and a major Williams milestone – 5 fascinating Monaco GP storylines
After four races at circuits that were used in 2020, this weekend we’ve got our first visit to a venue that has been missing from the calendar since 2019 due to the pandemic. Here’s a few things we’re looking forward to ahead of our return to Monaco…
1. It’s Monaco!
What more needs to be said?! Monaco is one of the most iconic racing venues in the world, and its absence was keenly felt last year as the race had to be cancelled. So the drivers are all desperate to get back out on track and experience the thrill of navigating a Formula 1 car around the streets of Monte Carlo once again.
The track always provides a real test, placing a huge emphasis on qualifying due to the difficulty of overtaking, and drivers love being able to make a real difference themselves at a venue where the limitations of a car can be compensated slightly more by the driver.
But it's also an event the brings with it the glitz and glamour associated with F1, and this year will have some more of that too.
A limited number of fans are being allowed to attend, but it will still be one of the bigger crowds we’ve been able to welcome to a race for some time, with 7,500 spectators per day being admitted, as grandstands will operate at roughly 40% capacity.
2. A different take on Hamilton v Verstappen
It has been a running theme so far this season, with all four of the races up to now seeing at least one moment when the two title protagonists have gone wheel-to-wheel.
Hamilton has come out on top on three occasions to Verstappen’s one when we talk about the race victories, but each has won when the other has started on pole position, and Hamilton had to overtake Verstappen for the win in both Portugal and Spain.
But Monaco will give us a different dynamic, where it will all come down to qualifying and the first corner. It is very difficult to overtake around the tight streets, so whoever pulls it together best on Saturday will have done a lot of the work.
Red Bull have appeared a little more competitive compared to Mercedes in qualifying, with the pole position margin for Hamilton in Spain just 0.036s, and Verstappen seeing a time that would have been good enough for pole deleted in Portugal. With such closely-matched machinery over one flying lap, the qualifying battle between these two is likely to be absolutely spectacular.
3. Perez coming under pressure
In some ways, Monaco couldn’t come at a worse time for Sergio Perez. The Mexican has shown real glimpses of his abilities in his short time at Red Bull so far, but he has also struggled to turn that into the required results.
In both Portugal and Spain he wasn’t in the fight at the front alongside Verstappen, Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas because he got stuck behind slower cars in the first part of the race, and it proved particularly costly in Barcelona. That definitely can’t happen in Monaco, where track position is even more important.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said after Spain that they “desperately need” Perez to be in the fight to help with their strategic options at the very least, so he will want to respond at the first possible opportunity.
To his credit, Perez is happy to add to the pressure, saying he has a car capable of challenging for the win in Monaco, so he’s aiming high.
4. Ferrari and Alpine with high hopes
It’s not just Perez who is looking at Monaco as a big opportunity, as both Ferrari and Alpine are targeting big results in the Principality.
A lot of that comes down to their qualifying pace, with Ferrari regularly locking out the first position behind Mercedes and Red Bull. Charles Leclerc qualified and finished fourth in Barcelona, but they also had the encouraging sign of a strong car in the final sector.
While Turn 10’s changes mean it’s not quite the same barometer it used to be, Barcelona’s sector three does feature a greater number of medium- and low-speed corners that are seen as indicators of Monaco form, and Ferrari were particularly competitive there.
Alpine, by contrast, have now had back-to-back races where they look really quick over one lap but struggle to maintain that form across a race distance. That’s not so much of a problem in Monaco, where getting a good grid position is key and even poor race pace shouldn’t hurt the final result as quicker cars behind will find it so hard to pass.
5. McLaren’s new livery and 750 up for Williams
An iconic race is always a good time to celebrate something special, and that’s exactly what’s happening with two iconic teams down at McLaren and Williams.
As announced on Sunday, McLaren are going to be running a classic livery that hasn’t been seen in F1 but has been used in their sportscar history, taking on the distinctive Gulf colours for the Monaco weekend. The whole car has been changed with an awesome looking design, but there will also be fresh overalls, special driver helmets and bespoke team kit.
While McLaren are recognising a partnership, Williams are celebrating a milestone in their history as they enter their 750th Grand Prix. As part of that, the team are inviting fans to find out their race number – how many races they have been a Williams supporter – by using a special calculator on the team’s website, and will then carry the names of 100 lucky winners on the halo of the FW43B this weekend.
There is also limited edition merchandise going on sale and a unique logo being run on the car to mark the occasion, as Williams become only the third team – after Ferrari and McLaren – to reach the milestone.
After such a competitive run for the team in Spain, it would be a pretty good time to finally pick up their first points since 2019, wouldn’t it?