Madrid, May 19 (EFE).- Seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton heads to Monaco with a 14-point gap over Max Verstappen at the top of the leaderboard and his sights firmly set on a record-breaking eighth title.
The Monaco Grand Prix kicks off with the free practice sessions on Thursday, rather than Friday, which is earmarked to be a rest day for the F1 circus as drivers soak up the glamorous surroundings of Montecarlo.
Qualifying, so crucial at Monaco, will take place on Saturday. Grid placement is key on the notoriously tight and winding historic urban circuit that makes overtaking almost impossible.
Races like Monaco are traditionally an excellent opportunity for Red Bull and Ferrari to match Mercedes, whose pace on straights has less of an impact on such tight street circuits.
But despite the more level playing field the principality provides, Hamilton will still begin as the favorite to extend his championship lead coming fresh off the back of his third win of the year at the Spanish GP two weeks ago.
Red Bull’s Verstappen, winner at the Emilia Romagna GP in April, provided the filling for a Mercedes sandwich in Spain — also for the third time this year having done so in Portugal and Bahrain.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas sits in 3rd place in the driver standings with 47 points compared to the Brit’s 94.
For Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Monaco provides another shot at becoming the first local driver to win at Montecarlo, something that has eluded him so far in his career, while his teammate Carlos Sainz will be looking to improve on the P5 finish he bagged at Imola, his highest since he joined the Scuderia from McLaren at the end of last season.
Ahead of their trip to Monaco, the Ferrari drivers were visited by Portugal captain and football star Cristiano Ronaldo.
A lot of attention will be heaped on Verstappen’s new teammate Sergio “Checo” Perez, to see whether he can improve what has been an underwhelming start to the season, his first in a Red Bull.