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The Spanish Grand Prix, held a week ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious once more, extending their leads in the Drivers’ & Constructors’ championship. Max Verstappen finished 2nd, with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas rounding out the podium.

This weekend, Formula One returns to the streets of Monaco again after a 1 year break. Coming into Monaco, the top 3 in the Drivers’ Standings are: Lewis Hamilton (69 Points), Max Verstappen (61 Points) and Valtteri Bottas (47 Points). The top 3 in the Constructors’ are Mercedes (101 Points), Red Bull (83 Points) and McLaren (53 Points).

Ahead of the first on-track action later today, we have compiled a list of things to look out for, as the weekend unfolds.

The Circuit – Circuit de Monaco

Track Map based off the excellent work of Will Pittenger on Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

The Circuit de Monaco, simply referred to as Monte Carlo, serves as the venue for this weekend’s race. The shortest track on the calendar, it is laid out across the streets of Monte Carlo, and is used twice a year. By the annual Formula One Grand Prix, and the Monaco ePrix (odd years)/Historic Monaco Grand Prix (even years).

With its narrow width, lack of straights and many tight turns, Monaco presents a unique challenge to both Teams and Drivers. For the teams, the challenge lies in extracting maximum downforce and handling from the car. For this reason, teams have run various unorthodox devices across the years in the search for more downforce. Most devices, such as nose wings and X-wings are now banned. Today, teams typically run deeper wings, and higher wing angles, along with special steering racks with extra lock.

These characteristics also place demands on the drivers. Driver concentration and skill is crucial, with little room for error. Drivers must drive their cars on the knife’s edge. At most tracks, a slight mistake typically results in a trip through the gravel or asphalt run-off. At Monaco, a slight mistake typically means an impact with the armco barrier – resulting in large amounts of damage, and retirement from the session.

Few overtaking points mean track position is vital at the circuit. As such, expect to see drivers push the limit in Qualifying on Saturday…

Things to Watch:

Qualifying

With the narrowness of the circuit, there are few overtaking points on the track. Placing an importance on track position. With the low-tolerence for mistakes, drivers drive on the knife’s edge. And there’s nothing better than seeing drivers go all-out in search of the fastest laptime with huge risks. As such, Monaco often sees some of the most exciting qualifying sessions.

For 2021, the constructors and drivers’ championship battles only makes this better.

Mercedes v Red Bull

As mentioned earlier, 2021 sees a battle for the Drivers’ Championship & Constructors’ Championship. In the Drivers’ Championship it is a battle between Lewis Hamilton & Max Verstappen, while the Constructors’ is between Mercedes & Red Bull. In the Drivers’, Hamilton leads from Verstappen with a gap of 14 points, while in the Constructors’, Mercedes leads from Red Bull with a gap of 29 points.

As mentioned previously, a front-row lockout is vital for both teams, to allow for drivers to cover off overtakes by drivers from rival teams. Portugal was a good example, where Mercedes’ front-row lockout allowed Hamilton to cut-off Verstappen in his attempt to take the lead into Turn 1. While Spain was a good example again of the importance of a lockout; Verstappen was able to take the lead at Turn 1 from P2, while Bottas was unable to protect Hamilton from P3.

At Monaco, this is even more so, given the very limited overtaking opportunities. The leader into the first corner is likely to be the winner of the race. For Red Bull, a lockout is absolutely necessary. Both the team and Verstappen have lost ground to Hamilton and Mercedes in both fights. It will be vital for the team to catch up, before the gap turns into a gulf.

McLaren v Ferrari

Behind Mercedes and Red Bull, Ferrari and Red Bull sit in the background, locked in a battle for third. . As of the Spanish Grand Prix, McLaren has 65 points, while Ferrari trails closely with 60 points.

Based on performances shown in testing, and at the rounds so far, both teams look to be definite contenders for the “best of the rest”. Both teams have carved out a significant gap to the rest of the midfield, with Ferrari having a 45 point lead over Alpine.

McLaren’s strong form showed that the car had seemingly lost no pace despite the numerous changes necessitated by switching to Mercedes power. At Ferrari, the engine team appears to have successfully clawed back the power losses that led to the 2020 struggles at power tracks. On the chassis side, the SF21 also appears to be a step forward compared to its predecessor.

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