Slow Monaco Track Of­fers Chance to Chal­lenge Merc

The Economic Times - - Sports - Ab­hishek Takle

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

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