This weekend sees the one of the world's most famous street races; the Monaco Grand Prix.
Monaco first hosted a Grand Prix in 1929 and has held a race every year since 1955. The weekend in the glamourous principality is a highlight of the Formula One campaign.
It tests drivers in a way that no other track does. The 19-turn circuit gives no margin for error, with one lapse in concentration likely to cost a driver his race. The track is tight, making overtaking a challenge. Last year’s race, which Daniel Ricciardo won despite an MGU-K failure, was called ‘boring’ by Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.
Overtaking is going to be rare even for cars with considerably more pace. Turn one is an obvious option after the DRS zone on the straight. Turn five is an opportunity, and some drivers will give at a go at turn eight, but it won’t be easy. For cars with good straight-line speed, the chicane after the tunnel can work.
All eyes are on Mercedes coming into this weekend, with the Silver Arrows securing one-two finishes in the first five races of the season. Hamilton leads his teammate Valtteri Bottas by seven points in the Drivers’ Championship. Bottas is a massive 39 points ahead of third-placed Max Verstappen.
The rest of the grid will be wondering how they can stop a sixth consecutive one-two for Mercedes. After concerns in preseason testing, the German manufacturers have been miles ahead of the chasing pack. Even at this early stage, the best hope of a competitive season looks to be Bottas challenging Hamilton in the same way Nico Rosberg did a few years ago.
Bottas is priced at +1800 to win the World Championship.
Hamilton went fastest in the first practice session, though, and the speed the Mercedes had in the third sector in Spain is a concern for their rivals. The slow, winding corners at the end of the lap are similar to Monaco, and the Mercedes excelled.
Mercedes have not won the Monaco Grand Prix in the last two seasons, but they won four in a row from 2013 to 2016. Hamilton has won this race twice before. He’s +105 to stand atop the podium this weekend with Sugar House.
Sebastian Vettel, who has only finished on the podium twice this season, also has two previous victories to his name. His win in 2017 was Ferrari’s first since 2001, but the four-time world champion followed that up with a second-place last year.
Despite recent success, it could be a long weekend for the Ferraris. Charles Leclerc will be keen to have a good race at his home Grand Prix, but the Ferrari’s strength is its power, and that will not be of much use around the twists and turns of Monaco.
Max Verstappen put in a brilliant drive last year after starting at the back of the grid. This, like in 2018, could be Red Bull’s best race of the season. Verstappen is good value at +400 to get the fastest lap of the race with Bet Stars.
With track position so crucial, teams will all plan for a one-stop strategy. Pirelli have brought the softest tyre options, having graded the circuit as low as possible for grip, abrasion and stress. Executing pit stops perfectly could be the difference in the race. There’s a possibility of rain for this weekend, which is our best hope of an exciting race.
The midfield has been very competitive so far this season. Very little separates fourth-placed McLaren from ninth-placed Toro Rosso, meaning there’s a big group of drivers who could benefit from a mistake from one of the top six. Rain could make it a bit of a lottery.
Carlos Sainz, who has finished in the points in his first four Monaco Grand Prix, is +120 to finish in the top 10 and +500 to finish in the top six.
By Sam Cox