Formula One: Talking points ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton

The Formula One circus this week heads to the south of France for the blue-riband Monaco Grand Prix. We look at the key taking points ahead of the race.

Mercedes fear rivals will be streets ahead

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes returned to their dominant best at the last round in Barcelona, but the world champions fear this week's grand prix in Monaco could be a case of damage limitation. The slow-speed nature of the Monte Carlo street track is one, alongside the Hungaroring and Singapore's Marina Bay circuit, which does not suit their car, and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff reckons his team will be playing catch-up to both Ferrari and Red Bull. Wolff's gloomy prediction, which he revealed in Mercedes' pre-race press release, is deliberate in the sense that it lowers expectations and makes any result higher than fifth appear a reasonable weekend. But after two wins on the bounce, both Hamilton and Mercedes will not want to give up the momentum which could prove pivotal in this year's championship race.

Could Red Bull be the dark horse?

Sebastian Vettel has been installed as favourite to end his three-race winning drought (the German has not featured on the podium since he won in Bahrain at the start of April), but the smart money could be on Red Bull. Both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo (4/1 to win) are certainly worth a punt given that the Monte Carlo layout is one not reliant on engine power. The Red Bulls also looked superior in the slow-speed final section of Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, while their only pole position of the post-2013 hybrid era was secured by Ricciardo at Monaco back two years ago. The Australian should have gone on to win before Red Bull messed up his pit stop. Vettel may have led Kimi Raikkonen home in a Ferrari one-two last year, but do not be surprised if the Red Bulls are the team to beat at the principality this weekend.

A fresh face at McLaren

Following a series of recent changes to the management structure at McLaren, it was revealed on Monday that Canadian businessman Michael Latifi has parted with an estimated £203.8million to become a 10 per cent shareholder in the under-performing British group. Latifi is the first new shareholder at McLaren since long-standing Ron Dennis parted company at the end of 2016. Latifi's son Nicholas races in F1's feeder series Formula Two, and is also a reserve driver at Force India, but it is understood the deal will not pave the way for him to race for the Woking constructor.

Hamilton continues to play waiting game

Hamilton's future beyond this season continues to simmer away in the background with the 33-year-old British driver yet to commit to a new contract. Both parties had suggested the deal would be concluded before the season opener in Australia, but two months later, and we still await news. Publicly, Hamilton and Mercedes insist there are no problems, while it seems improbable that the Brit will be racing anywhere else in 2019, so why the delay? Image rights, money and length of the contract are all potential sticking points, but the longer the wait goes on, the bigger a distraction it will become for both Hamilton and his team.

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