Formula 1

The iconic harbour setting makes Monte Carlo unmistakable .

Preview: Why 2018 is an important year for the Monaco GP

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Few events in all of sports can match the iconic status of Formula 1's Monaco Grand Prix, raced around the streets of Monte Carlo.

Known as the 'jewel in the crown', it is the cornerstone of F1, its most famous event at its most iconic setting and very few would dare consider the sport without it.

This year, however, there's something a little bit different in the air ahead of the annual pilgrimage to the Principality in the South of France.

With owners Liberty Media keen to shake up pretty much everything, there is a new level of scrutiny over every aspect of the F1 experience and Monaco won't be exempt from that just because of its history.

There have been questions in recent years as to whether the sport has outgrown Monaco as the 2017 cars made the unique challenge of its streets easier and the inability to overtake means 99% of the work is done on a Saturday.

Then there are new races looking to match the prestige with Singapore and Baku producing more exciting action while offering an experience for fans that really doesn't fall too far short of the glitz that Monaco provides.

What Monte Carlo has become is the old-fashioned reminder of times past, where the rich and famous play and the race is just something that happens on a Sunday.

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco - Previews

Of course, there's no question of Monaco being dropped from the calendar because Liberty, despite regularly stating their desire to improve the racing, see the value of the race from a marketing perspective and yes, every now and then the streets do have the ability to produce the unexpected.

But for the fan who watches to see 20 cars go racing, the only real excitement comes from watching the best drivers in the world squeeze their magnificent machines between the barriers.

Hamilton & Mercedes set to struggle

What the narrow streets are likely to do, however, is alter the competitive order considerably from last time out in Spain.

Whether you blame the tyres or believe Mercedes now have the best car, there was no doubting it was a dominant performance from Lewis Hamilton to claim his second win in a row.

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco

But the tight and twisty layout in Monte Carlo negates all of the German manufacturer's strengths and exaggerates their weakness on the softer Pirelli compounds, with the Hypersoft set to debut, as well as when using a high-downforce set-up.

Last year, the Brackley-based outfit was the third fastest on the grid and that is set to be repeated with Ferrari and Red Bull battling for the win.

The latter are notoriously good on less power-sensitive circuits and Daniel Ricciardo is a Monaco specialist as he showed in 2016 before a botched pit-stop cost him a near-certain win.

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco

The difference could well come in qualifying and whether Red Bull's chassis is enough to overcome the one or two-tenths Ferrari will gain thanks to their superior engine performance.

If the Scuderia is able to jump ahead though, it is very hard to see how the Anglo-Austrian team could get ahead in the race.

McLaren & Alonso to spoil the party?

Monaco is always seen as the race McLaren look to, to potentially spring a surprise result with their belief that they have a chassis capable of fighting at the front.

Though the credibility of that claim is up for debate, in Spain they did make a good step forward and Fernando Alonso, making his first appearance since 2016 having competed at the Indianapolis 500 12 months ago, is almost certain to lead the midfield.

Spanish F1 Grand Prix - Practice

The other leading teams cannot be ruled out though, with the similarities between the Haas and Ferrari potentially a good omen for the American team, although they do need Romain Grosjean to start performing after crashes at the last two races.

Renault has proven that they have a good all-around car and Toro Rosso was one of the surprise performers on the streets 12 months ago making them a team to watch.

A new local favourite

Plenty of attention will be on Sauber driver Charles Leclerc as he becomes the first Monegasque to race in Monaco since 1994 and the 20-year-old is on a good run of form with two points finishes in his last two races.

The unknown quantity is Force India, who typically rely on good top speed to achieve lap time and have been struggling with their chassis this season.

Improvements have been made though, so it will be interesting to see if Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez can battle for points or not.

The one team relying on external factors for a good result though remain Williams as their attempts to solve their flaws in their FW41 are still in the early stages.

Typically street circuits have been a weakness too and with two young drivers behind the wheel, a conservative weekend avoiding trouble is probably the most likely approach.

Fantasy picks

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco

That is your look ahead to the Monaco Grand Prix. Don't forget throughout 2018 GiveMeSport has joined up to the new F1 fantasy game with our own public league for you to test your wits against us!

Our top picks for the five-driver line-up include Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, the two drivers most likely to fight for the win.

From the midfield, Fernando Alonso, Kevin Magnussen and Charles Leclerc make up the quintet with Red Bull as our team.

Click here to sign up and simply search 'GiveMeSport F1 League' in the public leagues to join in the fun.

Charles Leclerc
Sebastian Vettel
Max Verstappen
Daniel Ricciardo
Fernando Alonso
Lewis Hamilton
Red Bull
Formula 1

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