Monaco Grand Prix preview: Was Ferrari's Spanish struggle a one-off?

Ricciardo's exhibition caravan crash (0:42)

F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo destroyed a caravan in a Red Bull promotional stunt in the Netherlands. (0:42)

A dominant victory last time out in Barcelona has given Lewis Hamilton back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018. Can Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel respond at the most famous racetrack of all?

Focus on: Early pressure on Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari

The return to Europe has seen normality restored in Formula One as Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes proved far too quick for Ferrari and Red Bull in Spain.

It was the first race of the season in which the lead was never disputed. Hamilton waltzed away at the front of the field to notch up his 64th career victory, leaving Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari almost 30 seconds behind him in fourth place.

Despite his consecutive race wins, Hamilton would be the first to admit he hasn't had the greatest start to the season yet he still finds himself with a handy 17-point buffer over Vettel at the top of the drivers' championship standings.

This weekend's Monaco Grand Prix is a fresh and unique test for everyone, but you feel there's already some serious pressure being applied to Ferrari and Vettel, who must keep tabs on Hamilton. The German has been one of the star performers in 2018, but some poor luck and unusual strategy has cost him a significant haul of points. In fact, Vettel's 78 championship points is 26 less than he had after five races in 2017 and we all know how that turned out.

In the past three seasons, Hamilton has excelled at the European rounds, and Vettel cannot risk the 33-year-old extending his gap at the front once again. He must capitalise where he can and Monaco -- with its favouring of one-lap pace -- looms as an ideal opportunity.

Vettel led home a Ferrari one-two last year in Monte Carlo and you feel something similar will be required in 2018.

In need of a win: Ferrari

On the surface, two wins from five races may not sound horrific, but Ferrari will be disappointed to head to Monaco having not scored more victories.

Up until Spain, the Scuderia had been the clear front-runners but failed on a number of occasions to capatilise on their pace. After Mercedes' one-two finish in Barcelona saw them retake the lead in the constructors' championship, it's clear Ferrari need to respond.

We've discussed Vettel at length but we shouldn't rule out his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, who has shown glimpses in 2018 that he's ready to end his win drought, which dates back to the 2013 Australian Grand Prix. The Finn has finished on the podium in all three races his Ferrari has made the chequered flag and has also been a consistent threat to Vettel during qualifying.

Don't forget, it was Raikkonen who was on pole position last year in Monaco.

In need of points: Romain Grosjean

This isn't the first time we've highlighted Grosjean as someone who is in desparate need of points but this time it's even more critical.

For the first time in his career, the Frenchman has failed to finish inside the top 10 in all five races to open a season while teammate Kevin Magnussen has picked up 19 points to sit ninth in the drivers' standings.

In Spain, Grosjean caused a first-lap collision when he spun at Turn 3, taking out Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly in the process. It followed his retirement a fortnight earlier in Baku after he spun into the barriers during a late safety car period.

There's plenty of potential in Haas' VF-18, so scoring points shouldn't be too much of a tall order. However, Grosjean's job will be made a little tougher in Monaco after he was slapped with a three-place grid penalty for his Barcelona accident.

Tyre talk

Available compounds: Super-soft, Ultra-soft, Hyper-soft

Pirelli's pointers:

  • Being the shortest and slowest lap of the year, Monaco is all about generating as much grip from tyres and downforce settings as possible.

  • As a street circuit that's open to normal traffic outside the sessions, there is frequently a "green" and slippery surface, with a variable pattern of track evolution.

  • Monaco has nearly always been a one-stopper under normal circumstances: It remains to be seen whether or not the use of the new hyper-soft will alter this trend in any way.

  • The Monte Carlo circuit is one of the hardest to overtake on which makes qualifying all-important. However, there's a reasonably high chance of a safety car to appear in the race.

Minimum starting pressures: Front 17.5psi, rear 17.5psi

Weather forecast

Consistent weather is predicted throughout the Monaco Grand Prix weekend.

As usual, Thursday is when track action gets underway in Monte Carlo on what is expected to be an overcast day with a high of 21C. Conditions are likely to stay the same for qualifying and the race.

Rain is expected to fall on Monday and Tuesday but history shows it can come earlier in Monaco, which would add some spice to what is already an intriguing race.


For the first time in 2018 Hamilton will not go into a race weekend as the bookmakers' favourite. Instead, Vettel is considered the driver to beat at odds of 13-8 slightly ahead of his Mercedes rival at 2-1.

Daniel Ricciardo, who has finished on the podium in three of the last four races in Monte Carlo, represents some value at 9-2 to win the race and 10-11 for another podium.

If you fancy something a little different you can get paid out a whopping 400-1 for a Hamilton win, Ricciardo podium, Sergio Perez top six finish, Fernando Alonso points finish and Max Verstappen to not be classified.

ESPN's prediction

The pressure is on Ferrari, the spotlight is on Red Bull as all of a sudden Mercedes appear to be the team to beat. The Monaco Grand Prix is another lottery in 2018.

Winner: Sebastian Vettel

Bonus prediction: Both Red Bulls to finish in the top five

Monaco Grand Prix (all times Eastern)
Practice 1: Thursday, 4.55 a.m. -- ESPN2
Practice 2: Thursday, 8.55 a.m. -- ESPNEWS

Practice 3: Saturday, 5.55 a.m. -- ESPN2
Qualifying: Saturday, 8.55 a.m. -- ESPN2

'On the Grid': Sunday, 8.30 a.m. -- ESPN
Race: Sunday, 9.05 a.m. -- ESPN

Encore: Sunday, 3.30 p.m. -- ABC
Encore: Sunday, 8.00 p.m. -- ESPNEWS
Encore: Monday, 2018, 3.30 a.m. -- ESPN2
Encore: Monday, 2018, 8.00 p.m. -- ESP2