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Monaco preview - Hamilton out to bury ghosts

25 May 2016

Lewis Hamilton arrived in Monaco this week with plenty to put right. His extraordinary 'defeat' in last year's race is high on the list - as in a win-drought that now stretches to eight races in total, and eight years in the Principality. Add in the dramatic clash with Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg last time out in Spain - which dropped him to third in the championship - and it is clear the Briton is a man on a mission...
A new chapter for Hamilton

It's a long time since victory was so sorely needed. Since bursting onto the Formula One scene in 2007, Hamilton has never gone more than 10 races without a win. His current streak is eight...

Understandably though, the Briton's attention is on more immediate matters - namely making amends for Barcelona, and making inroads into Rosberg's 43-point lead in the standings.

"Barcelona was the worst feeling," Hamilton admits. "But, like I always say, the true test is how you get back up when you've been knocked down.

"It was a tough moment for all of us after the race, but it's now chapter closed and looking ahead to Monaco."

Mercedes determined to fight back

Their rivals might have delighted at how events turned out in Spain – with Hamilton and Rosberg suffering their first combined DNFs for the first time since pairing up at the Silver Arrows - but Mercedes have promised to hit back hard this weekend.

"Clearly, Barcelona was tough to take," team boss Toto Wolff acknowledges. "We came away upset at an opportunity missed - but this is racing. The drivers know how we operate.

"The team is responsible for giving them the best possible cars and they are responsible for getting the best out of them - and for bringing them home. When we let them down, we apologise to them and the same goes the other way. It's a pretty normal culture. We deal with setbacks together and we move on.

"Now, we go to Monaco and a very different challenge. Again, we have seen our competitors make steps forward which have given us an even bigger battle on our hands. Red Bull came out on top in Barcelona after a close fight with Ferrari, so it's clear we are under attack from more than one angle. We cannot afford to drop the ball, so we must remain united, remain strong and hit back hard this weekend."

How will Renault's upgraded engine fare?

It wasn't originally the plan for Renault to introduce their upgraded power unit in Monaco, but such was its promise during testing in Spain that they elected to bring two new units to the Principality – a Tag-Heuer-badged one for Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull, and another for Kevin Magnussen.

At a normal circuit Renault suggest the gains could be as much as half a second - but at Monaco, where driveability rather than outright power is key, hopes are slightly more conservative.

Even so, Red Bull are full of optimism - which is backed up by data from Barcelona. Through the third sector, often seen as a good barometer for form at Monaco, Red Bull were the second fastest team, only fractionally slower than Mercedes. Add in an engine boost, and could an upset be on the cards?

WATCH: Monaco circuit guide

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Verstappen couldn't do it again... could he?

If winning on your first race for Red Bull, at the age of 18, wasn't crazy enough, what are the odds of making it two from two? It might seem unlikely, particularly as Ricciardo has been handed the upgraded power unit, but crazier things have come to pass in Monaco…

"I always enjoy racing street circuits like Monaco because you are really pushing the limit," is Verstappen's take. "It gives you a great feeling that you are on top of your car and getting the most out of it.

"My first win in Spain felt amazing, I still can't believe it! It was a great weekend, a great result and we'll see what happens in Monaco. The target first of all is just to stay out of the walls, and if you stay out of the walls we can be close to or hopefully on the podium."

Ultrasofts to make their first Grand Prix appearance

The unknown element heading into the weekend is exactly how the new purple-marked ultrasoft tyre will perform at Monaco, around a circuit that demands the highest possible levels of downforce, but produces very low wear and degradation.

Teams haven't been conservative. Red Bull and Mercedes for example have picked 10 sets of the ultrasoft for both their drivers, while Ferrari have gone for nine.

"Monte Carlo will mark the first race for our new ultrasoft tyre, which offers the maximum performance and technology that we can put into a compound," outlines Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery. "However, the large numbers of this compound nominated by the teams for the Monaco GP shows that it is a serious race tyre rather than just a 'qualifying special'. With the unique conditions of Monaco, and its own specific timetable, the teams will be looking to get a thorough read on the characteristics of the new ultrasoft during free practice. Only then will we have an accurate idea of race strategy, although with the difficulty of overtaking, drivers will be looking to minimise their pit stops."

Look to the skies

And just to add extra spice to the weekend, current forecasts suggest some form of rain will be almost inevitable on Sunday. Heavy downpours are expected, meaning drivers may be forced to master one of the most punishing circuits on the calendar in some of the most demanding conditions. Who rises to the occasion remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: rain in Monaco is a recipe for sure-fire drama.

Drivers won't have much chance to prepare either: conditions for the rest of the weekend are expected to be pleasant, with blue skies and temperatures ranging from 21 to 25 degrees Celsius.

The race itself starts at 1400 hours local time (1200 GMT), and runs over 78 laps or 260.520 kms (161.887 miles).