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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).

For today’s race, the first 3 rows on the starting grid are as follows: Hometown hero Charles Leclerc starts from pole, with Max Verstappen alongside him. Row 2 sees Valtteri Bottas & Carlos Sainz Jnr, while Row 3 has Lando Norris & Pierre Gasly in 5th and 6th.

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:

Leclerc vs Verstappen

Ahead of the weekend, this was something we weren’t expecting. But after Leclerc’s late shunt in Q3, he turned provisional pole from his first run, into definitive pole, following the resulting Red Flag.

There were initial concerns of gearbox damage from the impact, which tore off the impact side wheels. However, Leclerc was lucky to get away from the shunt at Turn 16, without any damage to the gearbox. Given the narrowness of the circuit, overtaking is difficult. The key battle between both drivers will occur at Turn 1 – Whoever takes the lead at Turn 1 will likely win the race today.

Can Hamilton fight his way up?

Ahead of the weekend, the expectation was for the Monaco GP to be a 2 horse race between Verstappen and Hamilton. However, that has not been the case. Hamilton had a disappointing qualifying session, and is set to start from 7th on the grid.

Given the narrowness of the circuit, Hamilton will be having a hard time overtaking to make the charge up to the podium. How far Hamilton will be able to carve his way up the field is unknown, but it will be exciting to watch.

Writers’ Note: Unfortunately, we will not be able to see this battle unfold, following the news that Leclerc will be starting from the pitlane. not be starting the race.

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.

Both teams did not enjoy the best of qualifying sessions. Red Bull had Verstappen in P2, and Perez in P9, while Mercedes had Hamilton in P7 and Bottas in P3. Progress in the race will be vital for Hamilton and Perez to ensure their teams walk away with the maximum number of points possible….

Ferrari vs McLaren

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.

For today’s race, both Ferrari start ahead of McLarens. Leclerc scored a shock pole, while Sainz took P3. With Leclerc failing to start the race, Sainz effectively starts from 2nd, though he has not been promoted to 2nd on the grid. While things went generally well Saturday for Ferrari, things were less rosy at McLaren. While Lando Norris qualified 5th, Daniel Ricciardo failed to reach Q3, qualifying in 12th.

On a track like Monaco, track position is vital. Starting from 12th puts Ricciardo at a disadvantage, and at risk of failing to score points. Potentially costing McLaren a chance of a double-points finish to extend its lead over Ferrari..

Norris, Gasly, Vettel, Perez & Hamilton

The early end to Q3 caused by Leclerc has created an interesting grid order in the top 10. Instead of the typical lockouts by Red Bull and Mercedes for the first 2 rows of the grid, both teams see their cars split. With Verstappen and Bottas starting at the front, while Hamilton and Perez are starting mid-pack.

Both Perez and Hamilton will be seeking to climb the order on the narrow streets of Monaco today. However, doing so will be a challenge for both drivers. Starting ahead of Hamilton are Gasly and Norris, while behind Hamilton sits Vettel and Perez. Expect the 5 drivers to be involved in a race-long battle for track position in today’s race.

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