Hi folks...

We are in for a treat this weekend as Monte Carlo is definitely the jewel in the Formula 1 crown. It has a lot of glamour and glitz and is of course a sensational circuit to have a F1 car propelled around on.

It is one of the events that everyone looks forward too - and the close proximity of the crowd and the nature of the circuit, makes it really unique. It is nice to do go down to that part of the world. You tend to get a lot of stars there and you can just 'smell' all the money.

Monaco is of course a street circuit and next year it looks like we will have two new street races, with Valencia and Singapore joining the fold, both confirmed in the build up to the last event at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Spain is a very strong market now, thanks to the 'Fernando Alonso' effect and if that dictates that it needs two races then that is healthy. It is nice also that the two Spanish races will be different - with one at a purpose-built track and another a road race.

It is great that we are going to a new market with Singapore too and the fact it should be a 'night' race will really add to the occasion.

When people say night race though, they don't mean it will be run in the dark as the circuit will have to be heavily illuminated from a safety point of view to make sure visibility is as good as you can get.

It will have a good novelty value however. They have been doing night racing in America for a few years now and it seems to work well. The upside for the European audience, with the time difference there, means too that it will take place at a more 'normal' time and that is one of the reasons for it. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Street circuits, like most things, however do have pluses and minuses. It is good as they promote the sport within a city environment and generally speaking access is good. They also have a great sense of atmosphere.

But they are not always the most ideal circuits to drive on from a racing point of view and there is a heightened safety risk.

It is always interesting though to see a Formula 1 car going around the streets of any city.

Returning to this season though and in Spain we saw Felipe Massa take his second win in a row. He is doing a great job and has really got to grips with the Ferrari F2007. He understands it and is definitely extracting the most out of it when he it comes to qualifying.

Even with a few problems in Spain, the little incident with Alonso at the start and the flash fire in the pits, it didn't interfere with the end result for him. The way things are going for him we now expect more of the same. He was - and is definitely on fire!

Of course the crucial moment in Barcelona came at the start when Felipe and Fernando had their little 'incident'. That shows just how important pole position is and in Monte Carlo that will be even more critical.

The race is won or lost in many ways in qualifying at the Principality. If you do not qualify well there you are going to have a tough day at the office because it is virtually impossible to overtake.

Ferrari and McLaren will be strong for qualifying as always, but Monaco does tend to spring some surprises. Cars that are not quite as good on a purpose built circuit due to aerodynamic issues and pitch sensitivity problems may be better, as those sorts of issues get ironed out around the street circuits because you have to run the cars higher. Then all of a sudden there is not so much sensitivity and you could get a couple of people qualifying higher than they would normally do.

Possibly someone like Honda might be better. Jenson Button with his very smooth driving style and with a car that is not as ill-affected around a street circuit may make a surprise appearance further up the grid. I hope so because he is having a tough time.

Of course qualifying well doesn't count for much if you can't get to the finish and Kimi Raikkonen was unable to get to the end last time out after an electrical problem forced him to retire.

Whether that will be an issue for Ferrari again remains to be seen, but you would hope not. I am sure Kimi will be frustrated by not being able to finish and score points. But Ferrari will have looked into it and will have an understanding of why the problem occurred. Overall you would say they are normally a pretty reliable team.

Kimi still needs to get himself on top of the car though and get a bit more understanding of it. Once that happens though, he will be very difficult to catch. That combination when it completely gels together will be strong - mark my words.

One person that already looks very strong, especially given this is his first year, is Lewis Hamilton. The fact he leads the championship really is quite amazing.

At the start of the season I definitely wouldn't have put money on Lewis being title leader at this point in the season. That is something everyone is a bit shocked about. But the case is: there is a rookie at the top of the standings.

He is sitting in a grand prix winning car of course and so he does have the best of machinery. But he is doing a fantastic job and long may it continue. It is going to be tougher and tougher as the season goes on however and more pressure builds on his shoulders.

Alonso his team-mate is a two-time world champion and he knows what it is like to grind through a whole season and how deep you have to dig to pull a world championship out of the bag.

That experience may tell a little bit further down the line. As we sit here today though we haven't seen any chinks in Lewis' armour.

After the two top teams, BMW have been doing great, even if Spain was a bit mixed after Nick Heidfeld retired. I am sure they will be a bit concerned that they had some reliability issues and it would be good for them to have both of those cars scoring points.

They have shown though that they are next in line in terms of performance. Whether they are going to be able to step up and compete on an even platform with McLaren and Ferrari I think will be very difficult.

But they are a thorn in the side in certain places and they can get in the way and that's something that will always be in the back of the mind for Ferrari and McLaren. Maybe we will see some big progress, but I think it is unlikely.

A team that definitely seemed to make progress and step up a gear two weeks ago was Red Bull Racing - at least with David Coulthard. DC really delivered for them and he now seems to have a car under him too that has some legs.

On paper at the beginning of the season we said everything should be strong there because of all the ingredients they have got and now it looks like it is all coming together. They have made a huge step. There is no way you would have said there wouldn't be any progress - but it is a little later in the day than expected.

I think they thought the car would be better straight out of the box. They have got on top of it though and you would hope there is a little bit more to come as well. I expect the Red Bull cars to be in the mix for strong top eight or top six positions from this point onwards.

As for Williams, Renault and Super Aguri, they all scored last time, finishing sixth, seventh and eighth respectively.

Renault looked like they have made a bit of an improvement and it looks like there is a bit more competitiveness between their two drivers - Heikki Kovalainen and Giancarlo Fisichella, in terms of pace. They will be looking to pull something out of Monaco.

Williams are still doing a great job too, especially when you consider they are a Toyota-powered outfit, but not the factory one. They are still showing Toyota up and are doing a sterling job. I think that will continue and they will be looking to score points on a reasonable basis.

As for Super Aguri what can you say? That was a great result for those guys and Takuma Sato. They have only just really come onto the radar of F1 in the last 18 months and are small outfit and now they have scored their first world championship point.

Sato also beat the two works Honda cars and that must be very satisfying for all concerned. It is not easy to score one point and it is not going to be easy for them to score any more this season either.

It will be interesting to see now what they do and if they make any more progress.

So, how will things go this weekend?

I am going to have to opt for Lewis to win from pole. He has a 100 per cent finishing record so far and a win for him would definitely be nice.

Then maybe Massa and Alonso in second and third followed by Raikkonen, Button and Kovalainen to round off the top six.

Enjoy the race...

MB

 

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