Slow Monaco Track Offers Chance to Challenge Merc
If there is any excitement left to be had this season, it will have to be about the two Mercedes drivers—such has been their dominance. Nico Rosberg will be determined to deny Lewis Hamilton a fifth straight win and regain the initiative in the championship fight as Formula One heads to Monaco. Between them, the two drivers have won every race this season. The Briton leads Rosberg by just three points, but the momentum is very much in Hamilton’s favour, with the 2008 champion claiming his fourth consecutive win at the Spanish Grand Prix. In comparison, a win in the season’s first race—the Australian Grand Prix, from which Hamilton pulled out—is the only time Rosberg has gotten the better of Hamilton. Rosberg, the son of 1982 world champion Keke, who grew up in Monaco and, like Hamilton, continues to live there, will be looking to shift the balance at, what is effectively, his home race. “The championship battle is very close and to regain the advantage at my home race would be fantastic,” said Rosberg. He won here last year. “It's where I grew up and where I now live as an adult. But in sporting terms too, I have had some great moments (at Monaco) —in particular last year when I won (here) for the first time in my Formula One career.” Meanwhile, Mercedes’ rivals will also push to end their dominant run and the unique layout of the Monaco circuit may give them their best chance of the year of breaking the German marque’s stranglehold. The 3.3 kilometre-long track is the slowest on the calendar and features a tight, twisting layout that rewards cars with good grip and downforce. With no notable straights, the circuit should negate Mercedes’ horsepower advantage, raising the prospect of a much closer fight than we’ve seen so far with Red Bull once again tipped as favourites to challenge Mercedes. “I think Monte Carlo will be one of the few opportunities to challenge Mercedes, especially for Red Bull,” said Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, the only one of the current crop to have won at Monaco twice. “On the corners, they are very fast and on the straights, they seem to lose a lot of lap time. In Monte Carlo there are no straights so maybe Red Bull could challenge Mercedes there,” he added.
Crucial to any team’s victory hopes will be a strong performance in qualifying. The road track is extremely narrow and overtaking is notoriously difficult. Over the last ten years, only once has the race been won by a driver starting lower than the front row of the grid, with Hamilton winning the race from third in 2008.
In fact, 1996 was the last time a driver won the race having qualified lower than third on the grid, when Frenchman Olivier Panis won in a race of attrition that saw just three cars finish the grand prix.
The circuit, a narrow ribbon of roads hemmed in by Armco barriers, demands absolute precision from drivers as they blast past boutiques and casinos and is one of the sternest tests of ability on the circuit.
“Monaco is just incredible to drive and any driver will tell you that's the race they want to win,” Hamilton said.
“So many great names become legends around this circuit. It’s an honour to fight for your place amongst them and a real test of your skills behind the wheel,” he added.
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Driver