Monaco Grand Prix: Red Bull to rule the streets
Formula One's blue-riband event takes place on Sunday but the Monaco Grand Prix could prove to be a tough weekend for Lewis Hamilton.
The defending champion is bidding to consolidate his 17-point lead over rival Sebastian Vettel after Hamilton and Mercedes returned to their dominant best at the last round in Barcelona, but they fear this could be a case of damage limitation.
The slow-speed nature of the Monte Carlo street track does not suit their car, and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff reckons his team will be playing catch-up to both Ferrari and Red Bull.
"We don't head into the weekend as favourites," said Wolff. "They are Red Bull and Ferrari. Red Bull are strong in the slow-speed corners and where straight-line speed is less important, while Ferrari dominated last year.
"We're not thinking about Spain as a turning point as the track layout, surface and conditions all suited our car and played into our hands. We are staying cautious with our predictions as we head to Monaco.
"Last year, it became a weekend of damage-limitation. It was a painful lesson and we are determined to show that we have learned from it this year."
2008 my second year of F1 and first Monaco GP win. What a race it was, one that continues to remind me to never give up after a second lap touch of the barrier damaged my rear tyre and forced to stop. But with great team work and not pushing all the way We made it. #F1 @f1 pic.twitter.com/44Xe8fqWYL-- Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) May 22, 2018
Wolff's gloomy prediction is deliberate in the sense that it lowers expectations and makes any result higher than fifth appear a reasonable weekend.
But after two wins on the bounce, both Hamilton and Mercedes will not want to give up the momentum which could prove pivotal in this year's championship race.
Sebastian Vettel has been installed as favourite in the Monaco Grand Prix odds to end his three-race winning drought (the German has not featured on the podium since he won in Bahrain at the start of April), but the smart money could be on Red Bull.
Both of their drivers look worth a punt given that the Monte Carlo layout is one not reliant on engine power and we favour Daniel Ricciardo as race winner at 10/3 as the first of our Monaco Grand Prix betting tips.
The Red Bulls also looked superior in the slow-speed final section of Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, while their only pole position of the post-2013 hybrid era was secured by Ricciardo at Monaco two years ago.
The Australian should have gone on to win before his team messed up his pit stop and Red Bull are worthy favourites at 7/5 in the winning team market.
This race is traditionally the closest on the F1 calendar though, with an average winning margin of just 4.1 seconds in the last 10 races. With that in mind, let's take 10/11 for a winning margin of under five seconds as the last of our Monaco Grand Prix predictions.