Formula One heads to the iconic Monaco Grand Prix after an eventful race in Spain.
The Spanish race saw the championship lead in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ standings change hands, and it remains to be seen whether it was a turning point in the title fight this season.
Ferrari will be looking to come back strongly in the Principality, while Red Bull will look to consolidate their lead at the top.
Could Leclerc break his Monaco curse, or will Verstappen score his fourth win on the trot? It promises to be another exciting race week ahead with various narratives in play.
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Mercedes have arrived
Multiple teams arrived in Spain last week with various upgrades for their cars, but no team would have left Spain happier with their upgrades than defending Constructors’ champions Mercedes. The Brackley-based team have had a horrid start to the season, facing numerous issues due to the new regulations and porpoising being a major concern. These issues have hampered the eight-time World Champions, and it has cost them the ability to fight for wins or even podiums in the opening couple of rounds. Heading into Spain, the team were optimistic of the upgrades they brought.
And it didn’t disappoint. Mercedes were straight on the pace from Friday, being within a few tenths short of the leaders Ferrari and Red Bull. The Spain upgrades for the team not only addressed the porpoising issues but also saw updates to the floor that helped them with downforce. The upgrades saw Lewis Hamilton qualify sixth, while his new teammate George Russell started fourth. Russell showed good race pace on Sunday, which allowed him to fight with the Red Bull drivers and manage to take his second podium with Mercedes, while Hamilton drove a stunning comeback race, right from the back of the field, following a first-lap collision with Kevin Magnussen, to finish a stunning fifth.
The upgrades seem to have worked for now and the team have taken the steps in the right direction. If they manage to resolve a few more of their issues, they will be well in the title fight with Ferrari and Red Bull. A strong qualifying in Monaco should allow Mercedes to be a strong podium contender.
Podium predictions: Red Bull / Ferrari / Mercedes
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McLaren and Alpine swapping places?
No other team had as good a resurgence like McLaren did in the 2019-2021 season. After a shocking couple of seasons in between 2015 and 2018, which saw the team drop down the grid, McLaren became one of the top midfield teams in 2019 and even started to fight for podiums regularly in 2020 and 2021, with Daniel Ricciardo handing the British team their first win since 2012 at the Italian Grand Prix in 2021.
McLaren seemed to be on an upward trajectory, but the new regulations don’t seem to have done them a whole lot of good. A team that were ready to fight for titles at the end of 2021 have horribly fallen off the pace. They are currently fourth in the Constructors’ standings, a good 70 points off Mercedes in third, and could well lose that fourth spot to Alfa Romeo. They suffered another off-pace weekend in Spain, with Lando Norris failing to make it to Q3, while Ricciardo could only start ninth. The Australian veteran had a shocking Sunday, which saw him drop like a stone down the field, and while he finished twelfth, only Norris could manage a couple of points in eighth. What would be more worrying for McLaren is that Ricciardo was running an upgraded McLaren car and yet had no pace whatsoever.
Compare McLaren’s current situation to Alpine and we have two completely opposite stories. Iconic racing team Renault, who were branded as Alpine last year, have made giant strides. From being an average midfield team, the French team have now become one of the top contenders in the midfield. Last season saw Esteban Ocon take his first-ever Formula One victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix, while the ever-consistent veteran Fernando Alonso, who returned to the sport after a two-year gap, also scored a podium in Qatar.
Alpine have shown strong pace throughout the season and have been unfortunate not to have scored more points. Be it technical issues or unfair penalties, the French team have probably been the most unlucky team on the grid. But they finally showed some solid race pace in Spain and secured their second double points finish of the season. While Ocon managed a solid seventh, which was his fifth points finish of the year, Alonso finished an incredible ninth after starting right at the back of the grid.
Alpine will hope to build on this form, and with the pace they have, they certainly can push for a solid double points haul during the race weekends. Expect them to come good in Monaco once again.
Red Bull in the driver’s seat
Max Verstappen’s win in Spain was not only his third win in a row, but with that the reigning World Champion has now taken the lead in the Drivers’ standings, while a double podium for Red Bull meant that the Austrian team have also taken the lead in the Constructors’ standings.
It was all Ferrari up until Imola, with Red Bull struggling with reliability woes here and there, but since the Italian race, there has been no stopping Verstappen. What has played into the Dutchman’s and his team’s hands is the fact that Ferrari have bottled it on multiple occasions as well. Leclerc, who was the championship leader going into Spain, had four poles to his name this season, but the Ferrari driver has only converted two of those poles into a win. Even though Ferrari have had the stronger car, they haven’t capitalised on that, and the fact that Carlos Sainz has been having a torrid time doesn’t make things any better for the Scudera. Red Bull have attacked Leclerc with both Verstappen and Sergio Pérez and have managed to easily counter the Ferrari strategies, with Sainz nowhere in the picture to help out his teammate.
Ferrari had the better car in Spain, too, but reliability issues saw Leclerc retire from the lead of the race and Sainz made a costly error that saw him finish outside the podium places. Even though Red Bull don’t have as fast a car as the Scuderia they have made it work, and if Ferrari want to stay in the title hunt, they will need both their drivers on the top of their game and neither of them can they afford any more retirements; some points are better than none at all. Ferrari have a faster car and they need to make use of it.
As we head into the Monaco race, it’s advantage Red Bull with Ferrari playing catch-up. Another aspect in Red Bull’s favour is that Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has never ever finished a race in his hometown of Monaco. He has suffered multiple retirements and recently crashed during an exhibition event. Obviously that all is in the past, but in a title battle, these kinds of things will certainly play in the young Monégasque’s mind. Leclerc not only needs to win on track but needs to win mentally too.
Pole Predictions: Max Verstappen / Charles Leclerc
Race Win Predictions: Red Bull / Ferrari
Race details: when and where to watch
Circuit: Circuit de Monaco
Venue: Monte Carlo, Monaco
Practice Session 1 Time: 17:30 (IST), 27 May 2022
Practice Session 2 Time:: 20:30 (IST), 27 May 2022
Practice Session 3 Time: 16:30 (IST), 28, May 2022
Qualifying Time: 19:30 (IST), 28 May 2022
Main Race Time: 18:30 (IST), 29 May 2022
Where to watch: Star Sports Network | Disney+ Hotstar