The intense battle for the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship resumes this weekend on the streets of Monte Carlo, home of the Monaco Grand Prix.
Although it may not be the most exciting event on the F1 calendar due to its relative low speeds and lack of overtaking opportunities, it's a race that's steeped in tradition and the one every F1 driver wants to win.
The Monaco Grand Prix was on 1950’s inaugural F1 calendar and has been a regular fixture since 1955. The layout of the 2.1-mile Circuit de Monaco has remained largely unchanged over the years, the biggest updates taking place in 2004 when a new pit complex was built.
Its tight layout and close walls mean that there is no margin for error and every mistake is punished. Braking as little as seven feet too late can ruin the entire weekend. If a driver's lucky, they'll end up on an escape road. If not, the car is wrecked.
Ferrari during Thursday practice at the 2018 Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix
Grip levels are also low since the circuit consists fully of public roads that open to normal traffic each evening of the race weekend, so there isn’t much rubber left on the surface by the time of Sunday’s race.
This year, Pirelli has nominated its new hypersoft tires (with pink stripe), along with the ultrasoft and supersoft tires. Monaco has nearly always been a one-stop race under normal circumstances; it remains to be seen whether the new hypersoft tires will alter this trend for teams using them.
To be successful in Monaco, a driver needs to find a perfect rhythm. Another, equally important aspect is concentration. Monaco sees around 80 significant changes of steering direction and 50 gear changes per lap. When you add the constant throttle and brake paddle inputs, you can see just how hard the drivers are working on every one of the race’s 78 laps.
Going into Saturday's qualifying session and Sunday's race, Mercedes-AMG's Lewis Hamilton leads the 2018 Drivers' Championship with 95 points. Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel is second with 78 points and Mercedes' other driver Valtteri Bottas is third with 58 points. In the Constructors' Championship, Mercedes leads with 153 points versus the 126 of Ferrari and 80 of Red Bull Racing. Last year's winner in Monaco was Vettel driving for Ferrari.