The streets of Monte Carlo will host round six of the 2014 Formula 1 season this weekend.
The glamorous race is one of the most challenging on the calendar, with the demanding circuit punishing even the smallest of mistakes.
This year’s event will be the 61st Monaco Grand Prix. It joined the F1 calendar in the world championship’s inaugural season and became a permanent fixture from 1955 onwards.
The circuit requires complete concentration, commitment, precision and concentration. One slip of focus and a driver will be in the barriers. Despite safety standards improving significantly, the layout has remained largely unchanged.
A lap of the 2.075 mile track starts on the start/finish straight, which isn’t straight at all and actually gently curves to the right. This is where the only DRS zone will be positioned. Ste Devote is the notoriously tricky first corner.
It is a tricky right-hander that is nearly 90 degrees. A good exit is crucial here for the run uphill to Massenet. Overtaking is possible into the opening turn on the circuit but if a mistake is made, a driver must react quickly to avoid the unforgiving barrier and take to the limited run-off area.
A short flat-out burst through the second corner (a barely-there kink) leads on to Massenet, which is a long left-hander. It is swiftly followed by the medium-speed right of Casino Square. The Avenue des Beaux Arts provides a brief rest, with drivers moving to the right mid-way down the straight to avoid a large bump, before the tight Mirabeau corner.
The famous Fairmont Hairpin (often known by its former name the Loews Hairpin) is next up. It is the slowest corner on the F1 calendar and requires full steering lock, which means it is very difficult to run side-by-side with another car through here (although drivers can – just about – overtake).
The double right-hander of Portier is next up and is followed by the iconic tunnel (one of just three in the history of the sport). As well as the changes to visibility due to the lack of light, a car can lose up to 30% of its downforce at this part of the track due to the unique aerodynamic properties of the tunnel.
After the fast right-hander of turn nine and the exit of the tunnel is the heavy braking zone for the Nouvelle Chicane, which is the best overtaking place on the circuit. This corner used to be a fast left-right complex but it was modified to its current layout, although kerbing and barrier changes have taken place, in 1986.
The two-part corner starts with a left-right chicane, which is then followed by a right-left section that leads the cars on to the short burst to Tabac. This tight left-hander is tricky to master and is followed by the high-speed Piscine complex.
This is made up of a fast left-right chicane and a slower, tighter right-left section. The 17th corner on the track is La Rascasse, which is where Michael Schumacher famously parked his Ferrari during qualifying for the 2006 race.
It is another full-lock right that leads on to the Anthony Noghes corner – named after the organiser of the first Monaco Grand Prix. It is another tight right-hand turn that completes the lap. The pit entry is just prior to this corner and sometimes catches drivers out when they in the middle of a battle.
Ayrton Senna is known as the master of Monaco and won the prestigious event six times. Graham Hill was nicknamed “Mr Monaco” and won the race five times, as did Michael Schumacher. Of the current grid, Fernando Alonso is the only multiple winner. Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg each have one victory each.
There is no doubt that the Mercedes duo will be fighting at the front once again, but the gap to those behind could decrease. Red Bull Racing had the second fastest car in Spain, so expect Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo to be challenging for podiums once again.
Further back, the midfield battle looks set to be close once again. McLaren slipped back at the last race but the Monaco track could favour the team. Meanwhile Lotus will be hoping that the positive momentum continues after finally scoring a top 10 result at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.