Some respected pundits have highlighted why they believe Red Bull could be topped this weekend in Monaco.
Red Bull have won every race in 2023 so far, with 1-2 finishes in all but one of the Grands Prix held this season.
It’s led to the team establishing a comfortable lead in the Constructors’ Championship, while Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez are untouchable at the top of the Drivers’ Championship as the pair look set to battle for the title between them.
But this weekend’s race in Monte Carlo represents the most likely event at which Red Bull’s dominant start might come to an end, due to its idiosyncratic characteristics and the likelihood of incidents and accidents.
The very low average speed and painfully slow corners mean that Red Bull’s greatest strength, high-speed flicks, is negated somewhat – and plays to the strengths of the likes of Ferrari and Aston Martin.
Appearing on the F1 Nation podcast, host Tom Clarkson posited Charles Leclerc as his winning driver this weekend, with the home hero righting the wrongs of Ferrari’s panicky strategy calls last year that doomed him to fourth place from a pole position start.
“There’s obviously the Red Bulls – devastatingly effective all season long, very quick in a straight line, and good through quick corners,” Clarkson said.
“But when you look at the GPS, and you look at the speed of the cars through slow corners, the Ferrari is faster than the Red Bull through slow corners and has been so far this year. And the Aston Martin is equal to it.
“So when you look at Charles Leclerc’s record on street tracks – two pole positions in Baku with a car that is brilliant through slow corners, I think Charles is my money for pole position this time around. And surely lightning is not going to strike twice and Ferrari are gonna get the job done on the Sunday. I don’t think there’s a faster driver on street tracks over one lap than Leclerc.
“So if everything I’ve just said plays out, and that the Ferrari is quicker than the Red Bull and the Aston Martin through slow corners – and there are no fast corners at Monaco – he’s my money for pole.
“Ferrari were gonna bring some updates to the Imola Grand Prix last weekend. They have now decided to delay them and they’re going to bring a bigger update to the Spanish Grand Prix next weekend. So they’re using a car that he’s familiar with, it’s going to be the same spec that he raced in Miami with, and… go Charles! That’s my thoughts anyway.”
Can Fernando Alonso break his 10-year duck?
Co-host Natalie Pinkham suggested that the veteran Spaniard Fernando Alonso might return to winning ways this weekend, having taken four podiums in the first five races of the season. The Aston Martin AMR23 is known to be good through slow corners, and Pinkham believes Alonso’s hints at strength this weekend are not to be ignored.
“Fernando Alonso teased us earlier in the season and said ‘Just you wait till Monaco’. It feels as if they feel there’ll be in the groove by next weekend,” she said.
“I’m really intrigued though by how much of an impact removing Imola will have on the team.
“So if you look at someone like Mercedes, so much hype around them bringing updates to Imola, they’re gonna feel very different about those updates around the streets of Monaco, particularly as it’s a very unforgiving track and you can lose parts – expensive parts – you can’t really get a read on those upgrades until probably Barcelona. So I mean, will Mercedes be in the fight?
“We just don’t know. They were significant upgrades coming to Imola – side pods, floor, and front suspension. How much progress will they make in Monaco? Or will they indeed have to wait till Spain to see their full effect?”
Clarkson agreed with the suggestion of Alonso, backing the two-time World Champion to be a key contender to claim his first win since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix.
“Which drivers would you bet your house on, in wet conditions around Monaco not to make a mistake?” he said.
“Fernando Alonso is that man. If he’s got a car that is as competitive as a Red Bull and a Ferrari, throw in those conditions, throw in the fact that he’s been there for 20 years, he’s won twice before in 2006 and 2007.
“It is all slightly pointing in the direction of Fernando Alonso and number 33, win number 33 for him. And it’s not only Fernando who’s been talking in the press about Monaco, team boss Mike Krack has been pinpointing this race as well, as has Dan Fallows [technical director].
“So watch out for Aston Martin, watch out for Fernando Alonso, and watch out for Charles Leclerc and Ferrari.”