The jewel in the crown of the F1 season awaits the paddock as Monte Carlo plays host to the iconic Grand Prix de Monaco this weekend.
The Grand Prix de Monaco is perhaps the best known race on the F1 calendar. Having hosted its first race in 1950, the track is steeped in history involving tragedy, classic overtaking moves, and conspiracy theories.
Set amongst the glitz and glamour of Monte Carlo, this is a grand prix that each driver wants to win and every spectator wants to visit.
“There’s a lot of history. It’s very special to race in Monaco. It’s a very cool place,” said Haas’ Esteban Gutierrez.
Daniel Ricciardo added, “Monaco is great fun, I have always wanted to do the Energy Station on a Saturday night. It’s an awesome venue right on the water, it’s open air with the pool and they’ve got very good cocktails so that’s where I would go if I could.”
“One day I will go back to Monaco as a spectator for a race weekend and do all the things I can’t do now.”
Meantime, the drivers will need to focus on the challenge in front of them.
The Circuit de Monaco is set over 3.3 kilometres and is regarded as the most difficult track to navigate over the Formula 1 season. The street circuit leaves no room for error with the narrow track prematurely ending many races over the decades.
“In Monaco, you can’t make any mistakes or you’re straight into the wall,” noted Romain Grosjean.
“It’s very tight there, and it goes very fast between the walls. It’s a great challenge.”
And as the drivers make their way through each lap they have to contend with the tight, tricky corners synonymous of the Circuit de Monaco.
After the pit straight the cars face Turn 1 – Sainte Devote – a 90 degree right-hand corner and the scene of many collisions, particularly on the opening lap.
Further through the lap, they have a challenging series of corners starting with the right-hand Mirabeau, the classic left Grand Hotel Hairpin turn, and right-turn Portier leading to Formula 1’s only tunnel.
The cars then reach the yacht-lined portion of the track with the chicane and pool sections.
All throughout, both drivers and cars are pushed to the limit as they hit the torque along the straights before confronting super tight corners.
“It’s almost impossible to pass in Monaco,” said Grosjean.
“Qualifying is the key. You really want to be on the front row. Once the race starts, you want a good start and try to hang in there.”
“Something really needs to happen for you to be able to come back if you’re racing at the back.”
Rosberg v Hamilton: Back to the future
In amazing circumstances, with a clash of tyres and a mess of carbon fibre, the Mercedes drivers of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in Spain brought to the surface tension that has been threatening to bubble over all season.
Both drivers were understandably frustrated after the race and some of their responses to post-race interview questions pointed to the simmering tension.
In fact, their current issues could well be traced back to qualifying in 2014 at Monaco.
With Rosberg having already set the fastest lap in Q3, both drivers were sent back for one last hot-lap attempt. But Rosberg over-braked himself going into Sainte Devote causing a yellow-flag and it meant that Hamilton, who was behind Rosberg, had to slow down and it eliminated any hope of him challenging for pole.
Hamilton speculated that Rosberg had intentionally caused the yellow-flag. Rosberg claimed it was a simple driver error.
Regardless, both drivers return to the scene of the crime in Monaco this weekend with Hamilton still needing a strong result to re-launch his championship prospects.
Will Mercedes give the drivers the freedom to race and overtake after the events in Spain?
Will Hamilton be even more aggressive as he looks to get crucial points?
The scene is certainly set for an exciting race in Monaco.
It will start at 14:00 local time and will run over 78 laps.