Formula One is glamorous. The drivers are paid superstar money, celebrities appear on the grid and it’s a worldwide tour of wealth and the peak of engineering. Even by the sport’s own lofty standards, the Monaco Grand Prix is something else.
It is one of the highlights of any sports fan’s calendar. The Masters, Wimbledon, Champions League Final day and the Grand National sit alongside the Monaco Grand Prix as the highs of the year, where the reach of sport spreads beyond its usual followers.
Monte Carlo will be basked in glorious sunshine this weekend. Great for the spectators and the panning television cameras, but not so fantastic for those hoping for carnage on race day.
The narrow, winding circuit provides 19 turns per lap for the drivers to negotiate. This is the most skill-demanding race on the calendar, where engine supremacy is as much as nullified.
So much depends on qualifying. Saturday performance is always significant in Formula One, but with overtaking as challenging as it is at Monaco, it’s importance is elevated further.
Lewis Hamilton comes into this race flying high. The Brit has a 17-point Championship lead and converted his 74th pole to win in Spain last time out.
His fortunes at Monaco in 2017, however, suggest this could be a real challenge for the Mercedes man, thoughts which have been echoed by team boss, Toto Wolff. The sheer power Hamilton has is less relevant here. There’s no value backing the Brit for race victory or a pole spot.
This is where the other top guys come into it. Firstly, Red Bull’s flying times in practise are no mistake. They had good pace in the first sector in Spain, and that’s not so different to Monaco.
Daniel Ricciardo to win the race at 2/1 is an absolute steal given what we’ve seen from the Red Bulls lately, and they could even shock a few in qualifying. The other obvious contenders, the Ferraris, are well priced. Sebastian Vettel is out at 4/6 to make the podium.
Ferrari have the best all-round car of the field right now, which will give Vettel the edge over the Mercedes, and maybe over Red Bull too.
We are getting a rare sighting of the hypersoft tyres for this weekend. Pirelli named the supers, ultras and hypers as the tyre options
The majority of teams have taken 10 or 11 sets of the hypersofts, with the hope that they can last long enough for one, or maybe two, stop strategies. The hypers will be quick. Expect to see lap records tumble.
Mercedes are the exception, however, having only opted for nine hypers. The reigning champions have a couple of sets of supersofts, as they look to make up for the inevitable timing gap between themselves and their primary competitors.
As always with this Grand Prix, there’s a risk that literally nothing exciting happens. The fear is the broadcasters are forced to spend more time looking at yachts than Formula One cars.