George Russell ahead of the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, Bahrain
BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - DECEMBER 06: George Russell of Great Britain and Mercedes GP looks on before the F1 Grand Prix of Sakhir at Bahrain International Circuit on December 06, 2020 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Formula 1 | F1 2022 | Monaco Grand Prix preview | Mercedes throw down gauntlet in Monte Carlo

By Neil Leverett

  • Formula 1 moves on to Monte Carlo this weekend for the Monaco Grand Prix
  • Max Verstappen leads World Driver Championship over Charles Leclerc by six points
  • Dutchman seeking fourth win on bounce as Mercedes tease challenge in principality
MONTE CARLO – Charles Leclerc will finally look to end his hoodoo this weekend but can Mercedes make an impression in the Monaco Grand Prix?


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Jewel in F1 crown

After the heat of Barcelona last weekend, Formula 1 moves north to the Mediterranean coast and the glitz and glamour of Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix. Playground of the rich and famous, as the Cannes Film Festival goes into full swing, Hollywood will share the limelight for one weekend as the F1 roadshow rolls into town.

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A race that for many still retains its favourites tag over its pretenders to the throne on the calendar, this season’s Monaco GP carries greater intrigue perhaps than over before. As Ferrari and Red Bull lock horns once more, it could however, be the return of old faithful Mercedes to the battle at the top that adds the most spice to the pot.

With a fortnight’s break to come ahead of trips to Baku and another hop across the Atlantic to Canada following swiftly after, the stakes continue to build in the principality this weekend. But who might roll snake eyes?


Leclerc’s home hoodoo

When Charles Leclerc‘s car limped back to the Ferrari garage last Sunday in Catalonia after power failure, the Monegasque driver would have felt the cold hand of deja-vu on his shoulder.

After the dawning of a new era for Scuderia, Leclerc is now three races without a win. Having seen his sizeable advantage in the World Drivers’ Championship over Max Verstappen now dissipate, a new power issue with his car would rub salt into the wounds, not least with with a trip home this weekend.

Leclerc’s record around the streets of Monte Carlo leaves little to be desired. Even to call it a record would be a stretch such are his tribulations on home tarmac.

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Coming second-to-last in his first home GP for Sauber in 2018, Leclerc was forced to retire the year later with Red Bull. After the pandemic saw a two-year gap between visits, Leclerc’s woe looked set to finally come to an end with pole 12 months ago.

However, after sustaining a crash during his fastest lap in Q3, a left-driveshaft issue materialised as he rolled out onto the grid for race day with mechanics unable to fix the issue, leaving Leclerc stranded as an observer with a broken car and once again cursing his lack of home fortune.

Could this year finally see a different story? Seeing his car fail last time out will not help his state of mind but in any case, Leclerc first has to quell the growing orange tide of momentum from his rival, with a chance at a fourth win on the bounce on Sunday for Verstappen.


Mercedes gearing up

The Leclerc-Verstappen narrative is likely to once more dominate proceedings, however, Mercedes are suggesting that they might now finally be able to return to the battle at the top.

After six races into the new season boss Toto Wolff has gotten to grips with their new place in the F1 pecking order but that may be about to change.

With George Russell the nearest challenger to Verstappen – a full 36 points off the pace – the Silver Arrows are 75 points behind Red Bull in the Constructors Championship, the same rival they have become so accustomed to dominating. But all is not as murky as it might look.

Despite struggling to control the ongoing porpoising issues that dog Lewis Hamilton in particular, the seven-time champion recorded P6 in Miami and P5 last weekend, whilst his compatriot from Kings Lynn has two podiums to his name and is yet to finish lower than P5 all term.

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As performances seem on an upwards curve for Mercedes, Monaco may now be the chance to strike and Wolff will be keen for Hamilton to enter the fray.

The quickest driver over the distance in Barcelona, Hamilton is now showing signs of life, and Russell himself has noted that with the Monte Carlo track having less high speed sectors, the W12 should suffer less from bouncing issues and in turn give the car a more balanced performance.

That has left the many whiling away the hours in Brackley with a small skip in their step for this weekend. It appears that it could be a three-way scrap for pole in Monaco.


Could rain deliver classic?

Mercedes’ hopes may also be aided by the prospect of rain which Monaco could this year deliver.

Fears remains that Round 7 could be a procession, but the spectre of weather lingers across race weekend.

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On the fairly rare occasion that a GP weekend sees rain here, some of the most memorable races in the sport’s history have played out, none more so than with Olivier Panis‘ stunning 1996 victory in the wet for Ligier.

That is not to say a monsoon is forecast on Sunday, far from it, but even if the elements fall only during qualifying, a track notoriously notorious difficult to overtake on will see the scrap in Q3 hotter than ever.

It seems the Monaco GP might just be the first truly significant race of the year so far.


The Formula 1 Grand Prix de Monaco 2022 takes place in Monte Carlo this weekend.


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