It’s the most important race of the Formula 1 season, on the most important day of the year for worldwide motorsport: the 76th annual Monaco Grand Prix, held on the iconic and challenging Circuit de Monaco. Because of how many F1 drivers relocate to Monaco, it’s a home event for many of the drivers; many live so close to the circuit that they can return home in minutes after a DNF, as Ayrton Senna famously did in 1988 after crashing from the lead.
Championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastien Vettel, separated by only 17 points coming into this weekend, will only be separated by one spot on the grid; in this case, Vettel starts second and Hamilton third. But the field will be following Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to the first corner for the second time in three years. With that in mind, here are the three things we’ll be watching for on Sunday morning:
Will this be the year that Daniel Ricciardo finally wins Monaco for the first time?
The late, great Ayrton Senna won this race six times. Graham Hill and Michael Schumacher took five apiece. Alain Prost has four, and a dozen others have won at least two, including three drivers on Sunday’s grid. Ricciardo has finished on the podium here in three of the last four seasons, but couldn’t pull it off from the pole in 2016 after a catastrophic pit stop cost him the lead. This will be his best opportunity since then—will everything finally go his way to win the sport’s biggest race?
How will Pirelli’s new hypersoft compound affect this race?
Ricciardo’s pole lap on Saturday was over a full second faster than Kimi Raikkonen’s top speed from last year, and it’s all thanks to a brand new Pirelli compound. Many teams have elected to use most of their allotments on the new tires, owing to Monaco’s status as a less punishing track on rubber and many drivers’ rave reviews after a test in Barcelona. Red Bull, Renault, and Williams each went for the maximum 11 sets out of 13, while Mercedes’ nine sets were actually tied for fewest in the field.
Will Fernando Alonso’s points streak to start 2018 continue in Monaco?
After a number of wilderness years, McLaren seems to have returned to reasonably competitive status in 2018 with the move to a Renault engine, and Alonso has put in some absolutely miraculous drives along the way. While he only ranks seventh in the championship, he joins only Hamilton and Vettel as the three drivers to score points in all five races so far. After skipping this race to do the Indianapolis 500 last year, he may not be in position to take his third career Monaco win, but points should be on the table.