Ferrari and driver Charles Leclerc may need to qualify on the pole to knock Mercedes out of the top spot on Sunday.
Make no mistake about it: The Mercedes F1 team is on a roll.
Mercedes has collected a string of five 1-2 finishes from drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to open the season, and with the narrow streets of Monaco playing to all its strengths, it is difficult to foresee a different outcome this Sunday at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Predicting race results in 2019 has, to date, been the simplest of tasks but two drivers outside of Mercedes could actually complicate things on the Monte Carlo street: Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, third in the standings ahead of both Ferrari drivers, and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who was the quickest driver on the Azerbaijan streets before his crash in qualifying.
Mercedes has not only won every race, it has a near-perfect record in qualifying with four poles in the first five race weekends. The other went to Leclerc, and this is why his chances may be better than Verstappen of making some noise in Monaco.
A track where passing is nearly impossible if Leclerc can deliver a faultless lap during qualifying and win the pole on Saturday, a win is there for the taking. Verstappen has gained his positions during the races and will doubtless pull off more moves than most on race day, but the risk involved is high and grows exponentially with each move.
Given the lack of pace shown by Williams across the season, there is a real chance that they will fail to qualify within the 107 percent rule. Failing to set a time within this limit on a track such as Monaco can be a real danger in the Grand Prix itself, and where usually teams would be granted entry despite failing to meet this criteria, Monaco is a different story.
With the death of three-time world champion Niki Lauda on Monday, it can be expected that there will be a tribute to the Austrian during the weekend. A driver for McLaren and Ferrari, among other teams long who have long since left the championship, and a non-executive chairman of the Mercedes F1 team, Lauda’s legacy stretches widely throughout the paddock.
Circuit: Circuit de Monaco
Circuit length: 2.07 miles
Race distance: 161.7 miles
Fastest race lap: 1:14.260 (Max Verstappen 2018)
2018 pole time: 1:10.810 (Daniel Ricciardo)
Daniel Ricciardo finally got the victory that should have been his 12 months previous. He took the pole on Saturday and the win on Sunday, but things were not as straightforward as they could have been.
Reporting on lap 28 of the 78-lap race distance that he was losing power, Ricciardo battled with an MGU-K failure, a problem which cost him 25 percent of the horsepower from the power unit, and a gearbox problem, with only six of the eight gears available to him, to come out on top.
Other than Ricciardo’s miracle performance, the race was notable for only one thing – it was a Monaco Grand Prix without a full safety car. Since 2009’s clear race, every season has seen the safety car make at least one appearance but, although there was a virtual safety car, the AMG Mercedes never had to enter the fray.
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