Exceptional racing, a unique atmosphere and a track without equal are all on offer as the World Series by Renault makes its now annual trip to Monaco to act as curtain-raiser for the Formula One grand prix.
While each of the 26 drivers in a field showing one change from the last round at Spa-Francorchamps dreams of making a name for himself on the streets of the Principality, P1 Motorsport's Giedo van der Garde will start as favourite, having made his mark with three wins in four races so far this season.
The Dutch driver holds a commanding points advantage over rivals so far beset by a mix of misfortunes, but van der Garde knows how hard Monaco can bite, and will be looking to consolidate rather than dominate if that is the option in Monaco. Draco's Bertrand Baguette is the only driver to have so far kept van der Garde off the top of the podium, winning on home turf at Spa, and the Belgian could not have hoped for a better way of getting his season back on track after a tough opening at Monza. However, unlike his Dutch rival, Baguette will be relying on the streets of Monaco to bring him continued success.
More reliable and consistent, Carlin's Mikhail Aleshin currently holds second position in the overall standings and, with his breadth of experience in the category, the Russian's knowledge of Monaco and the traps it holds, may be an ace up his sleeve.
Last season, Carlin cheered Sebastian Vettel home to a hard-fought second place, which strengthened the team's lead in both championships, and hopes that Aleshin can build on the eighth place he took in the same race.
“Monaco is one of the best events of the year and, of course, as a driver, it's one of the circuits you most want to race and win on," the Russian commented, "But it is
extremely challenging and, with such little track time, it can be difficult to find the perfect set-up. We tested a high downforce set up at Pembrey last week which went
very well, so I'm hoping we'll be on the pace from first practice.”
The series' usual race format changes for this exceptional weekend, with a 45-minute test session preceding the usual split qualifying sessions. The fastest driver overall will start from pole position for the weekend's only race, run, without the obligatory pit-stop, over 25 laps on Sunday morning.
Having missed out at his home track, Italian Marco Bonanomi put his house in order at Spa but, in order to keep his title hopes alive, the Red Devil Comtec driver admits that he must now steal points in every race in order to prevent van der Garde from getting too far away.