Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Will Red Bull be the team to beat? Five Monaco GP talking points

2018 Monaco Grand Prix

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Monaco could be the best track yet for Red Bull’s RB14: Can they get back into the championship fight with Mercedes and Ferrari this weekend?

Here are five talking points for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Can Red Bull get back in the fight?

Out of the five races so far Red Bull have a pair of no-scores. Yet their performances in the other three rounds were good enough to put them on a par with Mercedes and Ferrari. Monaco should present a change to reclaim some of their lost ground.

The team eyed the final sector times at the Circuit de Catalunya closely – a useful predictor of likely Monaco pace – and are encouraged by what they saw. The slow confines of Monaco will render their usual straight-line speed disadvantage almost irrelevant, and the drivers say their latest batch of upgrades have improved what was already an aerodynamically strong car.

Daniel Ricciardo has been very quick at Monaco in the past – he took pole position and should have won the race but for a shambolic pit stop in 2016. He should have a chance to avenge that lost win this weekend, though as ever the threat from team mate Max Verstappen is not to be underestimated.

McLaren’s best chance for a podium?

For much the same reasons as Red Bull, McLaren can expect to have a competitive car this weekend. And unlike last year they will also have Fernando Alonso to drive it instead of a slightly race-rusty Jenson Button.

While Alonso can usually be relied upon to wring every last hundredth out of the car, team mate Stoffel Vandoorne is a driver in need of a result. Last year he pranged the McLaren in qualifying: this time he needs to be right on Alonso’s pace in order to maximise what could be the team’s best points-scoring opportunity for a while.

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Hyper hype

Hyper-soft tyres, 2017
Will the pink hyper-softs make a difference?
The new softest compound in Pirelli’s tyre range will be used for the first time this weekend. This is a truly new compound – not a re-labelled 2017 tyre as in the case of many of the others – and drivers have been very positive about its performance and durability.

But Monaco is not expected to be the best showcase of its potential, as the track does not place huge demands on the tyres. Expect to see drivers running long stints on the hyper-softs on Sunday.

Grosjean, again

The slump Romain Grosjean has fallen into this year is starting to look like a threat to his career prospects. After five races he remains yet to score: his team mate has accounted for all of Haas’s 19 points.

His first-lap crash in Spain looked like the kind of mistake 2012-spec Grosjean would have made: a careless initial error exacerbated by a baffling reaction. Because of it, he carries a three-place grid drop into this round, which is only going to make his task of scoring points harder.

Grid girls and guys

Formula One Management’s new owners Liberty Media caused an off-season storm by announcing it would no longer employ grid girls to hold drivers’ signs before the start of races. This was reported by some as a ‘ban on grid girls’, a curious interpretation which implied ‘grid guys’ must also have been ‘banned’ at some earlier stage.

Nonetheless, unofficial ‘grid girls’ and ‘grid guys’ will be present in Monaco at the behest of a sponsor. Glamorising both genders equally is surely as fair a solution as not glamorising either? But perhaps the real question is whether this change will draw any more attention than when the same thing was done in Monaco three years ago and few seemed to notice.

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RaceFans’s readers’ verdict on 2018 so far

Are you going to the Monaco Grand Prix?

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2018 Monaco Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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24 comments on “Will Red Bull be the team to beat? Five Monaco GP talking points”

  1. Qualy battle between Danny and Max will be phenomenal!

    1. johntodiffer
      23rd May 2018, 18:18

      My money’s on a trip to the panel beaters

    2. They’ll finish 3rd and 4th. I have low hopes of Danny or Max getting pole

  2. 3 things will happen. Hamilton will question the gods as to how impossibly slow the Merc is. Vettel will have a new questionable haircut. Red Bull will unquestionably question why they missed out on the top podium step.

    1. Hamilton got braids and went to the top of the table. Vettel should follow suit.

    2. And we all gonna question why Kimi didn’t questioned Ferrari questionable strategy.

  3. There’s a lot of speculation surrounding Red Bull’s performance. It is more of an expectation.
    But taking 2017 into account, i believe the fight is going to be a fight between Merc & Ferrari on Saturday and Ferrari and RBR on Sunday.
    Yes, RBR will be fast but pole is going to be absolutely crucial here in a dry race and i dont see them fighting for it.
    Red Bull are winning this only with a strategic gamble with the tyres.

    1. SparkyAMG (@)
      23rd May 2018, 12:50

      To be fair, Red Bull only really closed the gap to Ferrari and Mercedes towards the end of last season and in Monaco they were definitely still lacking in terms of chassis performance.

      They’re much, much closer this year. Whether they’re comfortably ahead, or even ahead at all remains to be seen, but I really doubt it’ll be a red & silver two horse race.

    2. Is there room for a strategic gamble with the tyres (considering a dry race), though? Other than being second, very close to the leader and stopping at the exact perfect moment (i.e. perfect in lap, perfect out lap and some traffic for the leader) or the lottery of a safety car. Pirelli is already reporting that the ultrasoft are capable of completing the full 77 laps, so I actually expect that the cars will finish in the same positions they are after the first lap.

      I really hope RBR are actually able to compete for the win without any need for strategic gambles or luck.

  4. ”Can Red Bull get back in the fight?” – Yes.
    ”McLaren’s best chance for a podium?” – Possibly.

  5. If Red Bull are going to be in the mix, I’d wager that it will be the number 3 car rather than the 33 that will be leading the way. Ricciardo is pretty handy round Monaco and Max has yet to really shine there.

    1. SparkyAMG (@)
      23rd May 2018, 12:52

      @geemac agreed… Certainly in their first two seasons together Danny Ric seemed to have the edge over Max on street circuits, and although Max has improved the most since then I still fancy Dan this weekend.

    2. @geemac I suggest you check last years qualifying result. Verstappen two tenths faster in Q1 than Ricciardo, four tenths in Q2 and a whopping 0.5 second in Q3 and lead Ricciardo for much of the race (only to lose out in pitstop tactics).

      I don’t expect this big gap between the two Red Bull drivers this year though (I expect them to be very close), but to say that Ricciardo outshone Verstappen is not according to reality.

      1. Yeah Max had a really ragged 2016 Monaco, and DR was very strong, and last year he outqualified DR but DR pipped Max the same way SV pipped KR…by staying out longer. DR is very strong here, but Max is also very strong in general. Gonna be fascinating to see.

  6. pastaman (@)
    23rd May 2018, 13:11

    Not sure how Grosjean’s crash in Spain was a “careless initial error”. Unless you are talking about Magnussen who got loose in front of him and took away Grosjean’s aero while he had to swerve to avoid him. Ok, I will give you the reaction afterward was not ideal.

  7. though as ever the threat from team mate Max Verstappen is not to be underestimated.

    Is that the threat of him beating RIC, or the threat of him crashing into his team mate again? LOL

    Has Verstappen Crashed Today

    1. @drmouse – are you not counting Stroll in Spain, or is it only retirements that count?

  8. @juan-fanger

    It’s not only retirements, but I considered that to be a bit of a scuff rather than a crash. I also don’t think he held a reasonable portion of the blame. It was just a racing incident, to me, and a fairly minor one at that.

    1. @drmouse
      What you say about the Stroll incident is true, but Crashtor wasn’t given the same leeway as Crashstappen is being given. Incidents where no damage was done did count on the “has-maldonado-crashed-today” crashometer.

      Lack of consistency is what is killing modern F1 has-driverX-crashed-today websites. To combat this, F1 should appoint a full-time steward to adjudicate all incidents in a uniform manner. I recommend Garry Connelly.

      1. Ahah, everyone but garry connelly, he’s biased against verstappen!

  9. Kudos to RaceFans’s readers’ verdict section!

  10. You said “shambolic”. Nice!

    Would be even nicer to see Dan win this one.

    Hoping for not too much Armco scraping this year. Somebody always manages to get a bit too close though.

    Would love to see Alonso do something to get a podium, but hard to imagine the McLaren qualifying well enough for that.

  11. Btw, I disagree with what you said about mclaren, their chassis is just not good enough, so monaco shouldn’t be a better track than others, what has to happen for them to get a podium? 4 between red bull, ferrari and mercedes need to retire out of 6, plus alonso needs to beat magnussen, hulkenberg and sainz who are also fast and have competitive cars with mclaren, it’s so unrealistic.

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