Monaco is unlike any other circuit on the Formula One calendar, as drivers spend only 43% of the lap on full throttle, the least of any grand prix venue. The emphasis instead lies on mechanical grip on the hosed-down streets. The ability to brake firmly into corners, navigate the 19 turns, and produce sound traction on exit could be the difference between winning and losing. Fernando Alonso thinks it could take a crash, botched pitstop, or unreliability to knock a Red Bull off the top step of the podium, but Monaco may expose Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez‘s vulnerabilities this year. The track allows for little room for error, making it difficult to overtake, and given the importance of grid position, the pole-sitter will start as the favorite.
Although comparisons can no longer be made with the Spanish GP due to the rejigged racing order, the Azerbaijan GP’s sector two times could provide some insight into who might emerge victorious this weekend. The Scuderia had the fastest time in the middle part of the lap – defined by low-speed, second and third-gear corners and staccato bursts of acceleration – with Charles Leclerc setting the benchmark. He could yet secure a slice of home glory, but Ferrari admits that their race pace has been lacking in comparison to Red Bull, who have sacrificed some one-lap performance for better race speed. As such, if Leclerc does not crash on his home track, he may have one, or both, Red Bulls breathing down his neck.
Aston Martin has faced an uphill battle since the start of the season; however, the team could still perform well on Sunday. As per GPS data, the AMR23s’ start with Alonso behind the wheel is their biggest strength. Though they are slower than Red Bull through the middle sector in Baku, they have put their struggles in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia behind them, and the Spaniard’s Friday afternoon timing proved that he is strong initially out of corner five. If the team opts for a more aerodynamically efficient setup than the one that enabled him to be the last of the late brakers in the opening rounds, the low-speed prowess should serve them well in red Light District.
Ferrari‘s rear suspension was delayed last race, but an adjusted floor and diffuser in Miami, coupled with a further tweak to the rear for Monaco, might increase their lap time. Changes aiming to make the chassis slightly more benign and easier to drive should fare well in Monaco, and could perform better if any wet weather arrives. Mercedes‘ traditional format, which its drivers are more familiar with, could help matters. The team had a new schedule for the Azerbaijan GP that punished their customary sluggish start to weekends and left them unable to optimise their car setup in the first practice session. Expect conventional sidepods, a revised floor, and new front suspension to debuting in the W14 in Monaco, which drivers Hamilton and George Russell appear poised to take advantage of despite Toto Wolff‘s warning that those upgrades alone will not make Mercedes title contenders.