The climb to reach the top of the Rock of Monaco is well worth the effort as you are rewarded with mesmerizing views of the world’s most famous port. Swarms of tourists jostle for position along the balcony, trying to get the perfect Instagram photo of Monte Carlo with his back to the beautifully sculpted palace where HSH Prince Albert II resides.
But it’s not like that all year round. This time of year, specifically the last weekend in May, is different. Those who live here tend to leave town and thousands of visitors descend, while thousands more hop on the train, boat, scooter or helicopter every day to see a Formula 1 car fly through these streets.
Monaco is coming to life, having been largely inactive and unassuming the rest of the year. It’s the Formula 1 factor. After looking a bit empty last year, the harbor is back to full capacity, with yacht owners or charterers paying the hefty fees to get one of the popular berths that are located a few meters from the track.
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Hotels jostle, empty apartments wake up, restaurants and bars come alive. And it’s only Thursday. The place will only get carried away as the weekend goes on. And what a sight awaits us.
Mercedes’ revival at Barcelona has caused a stir – the Silver Arrows appear to have overcome their porpoising issues. Monaco’s tight, twisty layout will be the W13’s next test – and it hasn’t always been a happy hunting ground for the reigning eight-timer. world champions.
But as Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said ahead of the weekend, while slow-speed cornering hasn’t been their strength this season – as demonstrated at Barcelona – “we’ve seen so far ‘Now this year anything can happen and we will be looking to maximize every opportunity’. If they deliver, we have the prospect of a juicy three-team fight with Red Bull and Ferrari for the honours.
Red Bull arrives with momentum, having scored their second double of the season at Barcelona. Last year’s Monaco winner Max Verstappen took three rebound wins, four from five races, and now leads the championship for the first time this season. But they have the challenge of balancing his performance with the growing pace of team-mate Sergio Perez, who this year has delivered the ruthless consistency for which Red Bull recruited him.
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Two-time race winner Perez picked up his third podium in six races (three second-place finishes) in Spain. After the race, he said he planned to speak to the team because at the time he felt that he had a chance of winning. When we discussed the Red Bull Floating Motorhome in Monaco on Thursday, he was very relaxed about things. He said the talks went well – and he has greater clarity. It’s clear he intends to win this weekend’s race – he’s not interested. finishing second – but he also understands teamwork.
For the second race in a row, Ferrari has all eyes on them. After Carlos Sainz had the weight of a nation on his shoulders in his last outing in Spain, it is his team-mate Charles Leclerc who is in the spotlight this week, with the Monte-Carlo circuit barely Le Monégasque was relaxed as he has been all season when we chatted briefly this morning, with the Netflix team following his every step.
We did a more in-depth interview in Spain, which was published ahead of this weekend, about Monaco He admitted there was pressure to compete at home, but that expectation – and his record of not to have ever scored in his home race in F1 – don’t mind. He has worked hard on the mental side of competition in F1, which makes it a central part of his preparation. And while there were small mistakes, he consistently proved to Ferrari that he wasn’t letting those mistakes send him into a downward spiral.
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He was extremely fast around Monaco last year – and without that crash in qualifying, which ultimately prevented him from starting from pole, he would have been hard to beat. With that in mind – and knowing that this year’s Ferrari is powerful and responsive to set-up changes as expected, he’s a favorite Sainz shouldn’t be overlooked either, the Spaniard finished second here last year – and he will be keen to bounce back after a difficult weekend in Barcelona.
However, Leclerc also pointed out that there is so much uncertainty at Monaco when it comes to predicting a pecking order like last year. Ferrari were not quick at the start of the year, but they were when they arrived in the Principality. The same was true for McLaren, who expected a tough weekend in Monte Carlo last year but qualified fifth and finished third with Lando Norris.
Add to that wider cars with more downforce and a forecast that suggests rain is a strong possibility on Sunday – and there’s plenty to look forward to.
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