Distance: 3.337 kilometres
The saying is that if you were to walk into FIA headquarters and propose the Circuit de Monaco as a grand prix venue, you’d be laughed out of the building.
It’s too narrow. The walls are too close. There’s not enough run-off. The average lap time is too slow. There’s no room for a paddock attached to pit lane.
Monaco is a circuit from a different time. But therein lies its magic.
For generations the best drivers in the world have sought to test their greatness with a high-speed slalom through these hallowed streets, where success and failure are delineated by millimetres.
It’s a track where a driver can transcend their machinery if they can get hooked up in the cockpit come qualifying.
It’s a track where race day is loaded with jeopardy, even if overtaking is extremely difficult.
And it’s a track every driver wants to win.
There’s no place quite like it.
Winner: Sergio Pérez (Red Bull Racing)
Sergio Pérez was the principal beneficiary of a Ferrari strategy collapse in wet conditions on race day to take his first Monaco win.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz had locked out the front row, but Ferrari misjudged the timing of Leclerc’s switch from wets to intermediates, promoting Pérez to second.
Carlos Sainz stayed out to transfer directly from wets to slicks, but tyre warm-up was too slow, gifting Pérez the lead.
A red flag near the end of the race closed the gaps among the podium finishers, but the Mexican was millimetre perfect in defence to take the flag.
Red Bull Racing has won every race so far this season, while only Charles Leclerc’s dual poles in Azerbaijan has broken the team’s qualifying supremacy. The team has won the last two races in Monte Carlo.
Max Verstappen is the championship leader over Sergio Pérez after the Dutchman’s statement victory over his teammate in Miami, rising from ninth on the grid to easily take the lead from the pole-getter.
RBR’s closest challenger, at least in race conditions, is Aston Martin, with Fernando Alonso finishing third in all but one race so far this year, though Ferrari is form qualifying team behind the Bulls — and Leclerc, the home favourite, has taken the last two poles at this track.
If there’s going to be one circuit on the calendar at which the RB19 doesn’t hold a comfortable advantage over the field — and that’s a big if — it could be this one.
That’s because qualifying is all important here.
Not only is one-lap pace Red Bull Racing’s only weak(ish) suit, but the particular characteristics of this track could exacerbate things.
The trade-off for the car’s prodigious race pace is very gentle tyre warm up, and that’s because clever suspension means the tyres aren’t as heavily loaded up on brakes or under acceleration.
But because the Circuit de Monaco is so slow, there’s less energy than usual going into the rubber, which means tyre warm-up is much harder than at other tracks.
That could hand Ferrari the initiative thanks to its more aggressive rubber usage.
But Aston Martin is also eyeing a big result. The car has lots of downforce that’s often made it the quickest machine through slow-speed corners, and the lack of straight-line speed will be much less important given the straights are so short.
Mercedes presents as a bit of a wildcard. It was preparing a concept-shifting upgrade for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix but still intends to run it for the first time in Monaco, so convinced is it of the immediate gains on offer. If it fixes the team’s patchy qualifying pace, it could be enough to put Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in the podium mix.
Finally, while the Monaco Grand Prix is often regarded as a bit of a procession, it’s not always straightforward for the pole-getter. Only 30 times from 68 championship races has a driver converted from first on the grid — around 44.1 per cent.
However, not since 1996 has a driver won from further back than third, which speaks to the increasing difficulty of racing at this circuit as the cars have got larger and faster.