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Monaco GP: Is this the weekend Mercedes are defeated?

Following five consecutive one-twos, Mercedes have taken domination to a whole new level thus far in 2019.

After three wins for Lewis Hamilton and two for Valtteri Bottas, just seven points separate both in the championship with what now seems to be a title race between the team-mates, as a certain Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari are nowhere in sight.

A contrast of what was witnessed from Bottas during 2018.

Evident last time out in Barcelona, the Silver Arrows have just been a cut above all else making it hard to predict where this winning streak will end, but maybe Monaco is the place for that to happen.

Without a win in two years around the narrow streets of Monte Carlo, their form which witnessed four consecutive victories in Monaco seems to have tailored off. If anybody can halt their dominance this weekend, then a certain Max Verstappen can.

One of Red Bull’s most favoured tracks on the calendar, they were untouchable around Monte Carlo in 2018 as Daniel Ricciardo dominated practice and qualifying followed by a tremendous race win, despite problems with his power.

However, Verstappen will have been kicking himself that it was his team-mate taking the glory, after his heavy crash during FP3 meant the car was too damaged to compete in qualifying.

But, fast forward a year and those costly mistakes seem to be removed from the Dutchman, whom is now a much more mature and complete driver that is in the form of his life.

Constantly gaining every last inch out of his car, two podiums in 2019 whilst occupying third in the championship have many in the belief that he is the best driver on the grid in current form.

Therefore, if Red Bull can repeat dominance from 2018, then there is a very high chance that Max Verstappen will take the victory and halt this tremendous form that Mercedes find themselves on.

Although, that is still a daunting task considering Mercedes arrive as the favourites with Ferrari perhaps just aiming for a podium finish in Monaco.

This decade, the Grand Prix has very much been a Mercedes and Red Bull contest with four wins each, but Ferrari have one of their own through Vettel in 2017.

However, that victory was only their second around Monte Carlo in the 21st century and following their form in 2019, it is hard to see Ferrari being the team to end Mercedes’ winning streak, with maybe only a podium the best they can hope for.

But that, too, will be difficult considering how impressive Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen have been. However, don’t completely write off the Prancing Horse as Charles Leclerc bids to become the first ever Monegasque to win his home Grand Prix.

The importance of qualifying

There is a common assumption about the Monaco Grand Prix that qualifying is what wins the race, considering how difficult overtaking is around the circuit.

2018 very much backed up such theory.

With only six of eight gears functioning, Ricciardo spent the remaining 50 laps attempting to fend off Vettel in his fully effective Ferrari, as he hunted down the Australian.

However, due to the track’s narrowness, Vettel was unable to overtake which resulted in Ricciardo taking his first Monaco victory.

Yet if that was perhaps any other track, then the Red Bull would have been prey for the Ferrari with Vettel passing through ease but because Ricciardo took pole on the Saturday, then that is what largely caused him victory. Although don’t expect the Australian to be fighting for pole this time around, following his move to Renault.

Of the past ten races in Monaco, seven have been won by the pole sitter.

Qualifying holds that much of an importance that it is the Saturday which largely decides the race result, with overtaking truly limited around the circuit.

Therefore, keep a close eye on qualifying because that could likely be the deciding factor over if Mercedes’ winning streak ends this weekend.

Niki Lauda tributes

Despite Monaco being the Crown Jewels of Formula One with so much anticipation around it each year, this time the race weekend could not have started in a more upsetting way.

On Monday, Niki Lauda passed away. A great of Formula One was lost. It was a devastating start to race week.

It would be easy to think that Niki Lauda was most remembered for being a triple World Champion. But he wasn’t. That is testimony to his tremendous character off-track and his bravery which followed the accident.

The 1976 German Grand Prix witnessed Lauda spin off track, in which his car suddenly set alight. Lauda was close to dying.

However, suffering extensive burns didn’t stop his miraculous return to racing only two Grand Prix’s later. Many would retire from such accident, but the Austrian wasn’t like any other driver.

Lauda remained a figure head after he retired in 1985 becoming the non-executive chairman of Mercedes in 2012. He played a key role in the recruitment of Lewis Hamilton from McLaren.

They don’t make them like Lauda anymore.

Therefore, the Monaco race weekend started with many tributes towards the Austrian and drivers reminiscing their favourite stories about him.

Hamilton referred to Lauda as “a bright in my life”, Verstappen called him a “true legend”, whilst Vettel and George Russell will wear special helmets in Monaco to honour the former champion.

So, expect many more tributes towards Lauda this weekend in what was an unexpected start to the Monaco Grand Prix. He will be solely missed.

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