Who to choose as Formula One heads to Monaco
It’s the glitziest, most glamorous setting not only on the Formula One calendar, but probably in the world too.
The Monte Carlo circuit in Monaco has so many flashpoints to consider as it snakes around the richest casinos, down into the tunnel, around the picturesque harbour before finishing up by the Rascasse.
It is the one that every racer dreams of winning, the one with the most mystique and the one that can put a driver into the history books.
Through the years it has seen many of the greatest Grand Prix and battles.
Race leaders fell by the wayside in the 1982 occasion, with René Arnoux and Alain Prost both crashing out whilst leading, then Riccardo Patrese spun, but managed to keep the engine running, having been overtaken.
Then Didier Pironi and Andrea De Cesaris both ran out of fuel on the final lap whilst Derek Daly’s machine also stopped, leaving Patrese to regain the lead and win.
Ayrton Senna – who would go on to win six Monaco Grand Prix, taking eight pole positions – shot to prominence in the 1984 event, showing his wet-race mastery in a slow Toleman car to finish second, having started 13th.
During one of these wins, Senna displayed one of the greatest demonstrations of defensive driving, keeping a much faster Nigel Mansell at bay in 1992.
Michael Schumacher also won there five times, but a sixth looks beyond him on current form.
So who are the likely contenders for the top spot on the rostrum in Monaco in this most unpredictable Formula One season?
Many will say that McLaren are due the perfect weekend with a mixture of pit crew incompetence and garage inexperience preventing them from establishing dominance thus far.
It is clear to see that – with all going well – they have the best all-round package available.
This is largely proven by the fact that Lewis Hamilton has qualified on the front row of the grid in every qualifying race this season, penalties notwithstanding.
Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button will be looking for a return to form following wavering form in the past few races.
The Englishman won the season opener at Melbourne but has since seen 18th, 14th and 9th in an unusual showing of inconsistency, split by a second place in China.
He’ll want to put those poor performances out of his head and has started well by going quickest in Thursday’s afternoon practice session.
Similarly, Vettel has finished 5th, 6th and 11th on top of a victory and a second place and the double-world champion will be aiming to bounce back at the circuit he calls “special”.
One has to think that Monaco is better suited to Red Bull’s more corner friendly car.
Fernando Alonso has probably been this season’s best pound-for-pound driver, getting the most and then some out of a struggling Ferrari model.
He has been simply flawless this season, because Felipe Massa is showing how that car should really be performing and went fastest in Thursday’s P1 session.
Then there is also the Lotus duo and Pastor Maldonado.
Maldonado recorded his first ever race win on his last outing, meaning his confidence will be sky-high coming into this event, but it is unlikely that he will win on such a tight circuit.
The Lotus boys, however, have a real chance. Kimi Räikkönen has quickly re-adapted to the rigours of Formula One, whilst Grosjean has been mightily impressive so far and was second quickest in both of Thursday’s practice sessions.