One of the world’s most iconic sporting spectacles returns. There’s always a real buzz as the fastest racing cars in the world hammer round the tight streets of Monaco and is always one the driver’s and team’s look forward to.

As we all know, the key to success in Monaco is, was and always will be track position with passing on track notoriously difficult. This makes the Saturday qualifying one of the most important qualifying sessions of the season, with the slightest mistake capable of causing significant damage on race day.

Max v Lewis – Act five

It was seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton who once again prevailed in the bi-weekly battle between himself and young rival Max Verstappen in Barcelona. Mercedes pulled the trigger at the perfect time on their second pit stop, forcing the Red Bull’s between a rock and a hard place. Whilst they opted to keep track position and not pit Max, they simply did not have the speed to keep Hamilton behind on an old set of medium tyres.

Whilst Spain was Hamilton’s third triumph in the first four races, the close battle we were all promised at the beginning of the season is still to play out. The data from Spain will give Red Bull hope in Monaco, though. The circuit de Catalunya’s slow and twisty final sector is most similar to Monaco’s street circuit, and Red Bull were considerably faster than their rivals on this part of the track. Add to this the fact that Red Bull have won here four times, most recently in 2018 with Daniel Ricciardo and the fact that Pierre Gasly had the fastest race lap in the last race in 2019 and they should go into this one confident they can strike back.

Hamilton is no stranger to winning on the streets of Monte Carlo. The Brit started the 2019 race from pole and won for a third time in Monaco, ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. After qualifying P3, Verstappen had finished in second place, only to be given a five-second time penalty for an unsafe pit release which dropped him to fourth.

If Vertsappen does have the advantage in the tight, slow corners as we expect he may, he really needs to strike back against Hamilton this weekend. What could be key to him is how much support he receives from teammate Sergio Perez. If Perez is able to qualify ahead of one or both of the Mercedes, it will significantly increase the strategic options available to Red Bull.

Verstappen is 5/4 to grab pole position and 11/8 to win the race on Sunday, with title rival Hamilton evens to qualify first and evens to stand on the top step of the podium.

Ferrari Firing Back in Battle with McLaren

Although it would have been hard to Ferrari to fall short of expectations this season following last year’s disastrous campaign, few had anticipated just how fast the Scuderia’s progress would be. Charles Leclerc, in particular, has seemed very comfortable in the car so far this season, with two impressive fourth places finishes to match two sixth places.

The battle with McLaren looks set to be another one that twists and turns as the season goes on, with just a single point separating Leclerc and Lando Norris and just four separating teammate Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo. With both teams welcoming new drivers this season, the battle between them may well be separated by which of their new additions settles into their groove the earliest.

Ricciardo finished one place above Sainz in Barcelona and has always been fast around Monaco – winning in 2018 with Red Bull. Ferrari will no doubt be keen to see how their chassis improvements measure up to the McLaren’s in a handling heavy course such as this one. Leclerc is 33/1 to qualify fastest and 28/1 to land an unlikely home victory, with teammate Carlos Sainz 100/1 to qualify on pole and 50/1 to win the race.

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