5 talking points ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix

The Formula One paddock parks up on the French Riviera this week for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton holds a seven-point lead over Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in the world championship, while their Mercedes team is 96 points ahead of Ferrari in the constructors’ standings.

Here, Press Association looks at the key talking points ahead of the sixth round of the season.

Lauda remembered

Niki Lauda will be remembered in Monaco following his death on Monday. (David Davies/PA)
Niki Lauda will be remembered in Monaco following his death on Monday. (David Davies/PA)

The race on Monte Carlo’s famous streets will be played out against the backdrop of Niki Lauda’s death. The three-time Formula One world champion and non-executive Mercedes’ chairman died in Vienna, aged 70, on Monday. Mercedes are set to pay tribute to Lauda with a re-branded livery this weekend, while a moment of silence is expected before Sunday’s race. Lauda, who won titles at Ferrari and McLaren, underwent a lung transplant last summer and was absent from the grand prix paddock for almost a year until his passing.

Will Mercedes’ perfect start end?

In Lauda’s absence, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes wrapped up the drivers’ and constructors’ honours last season. This year, they have recorded five one-two finishes in as many races – unprecedented for the start of a season in the sport’s history. Yet the Silver Arrows will face the fiercest challenge to their perfect start at the unique Monte-Carlo street circuit. The slow-speed track is the least engine-dependant venue on the calendar, and Hamilton has won just once here (2016) for Mercedes.

Could Verstappen be Mercedes’ biggest threat?

Red Bull’s strong chassis has put them in the driving seat to win in two of the last three years. A pit-stop blunder ruined Daniel Ricciardo’s chances in 2016 before the Australian held off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to win last season. Max Verstappen was the favourite to take the victory before he put his Red Bull in the barriers in final practice, meaning he was forced to miss qualifying, starting the race from last. The Dutchman, third in the standings after an impressive start to the year, will be desperate to make amends this week.

McLaren in the dock

Fernando Alonso was left grim-faced after failing to qualify for the Indy 500. (Michael Conroy/AP)
Fernando Alonso was left grim-faced after failing to qualify for the Indy 500. (Michael Conroy/AP)

An embarrassed McLaren will be keen to brush their miserable Indy 500 outing under the carpet after Fernando Alonso was too slow and failed to qualify for Sunday’s showpiece race. McLaren’s American chief executive Zak Brown will be in the firing line this week following their disastrous return to arguably the world’s biggest motor race. Brown has poured huge McLaren resources and investment into the Indy 500 but following Alonso’s horror show, admitted his team were under-prepared. He will have some explaining to do when thrust in front of the world’s media on Thursday.

Pressure on Monaco to deliver

The Monaco Grand Prix is one of the biggest sports events on the planet – the rich and famous descending on the principality for the blue-riband race. But the track is not conducive to a good spectacle. Indeed, last year, Hamilton described the race as boring. Rain is on the radar this weekend which could be the obvious saviour to spicing up Sunday’s show.

- Press Association

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