Will Leclerc’s home curse continue at the Monaco Grand Prix?

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Formula 1’s annual trip to the principality of Monaco arrives this weekend, with Max Verstappen and Red Bull in control of the championship.

Spain provided an unusually thrilling Grand Prix in the first half of the 66 lap race, ultimately resulting in yet another win for Verstappen in 2022 following an engine issue for Charles Leclerc.

With Red Bull taking their first 1-2 of the season, the Milton Keynes-based operation now finds themselves in the lead of the world championship, leapfrogging title rivals Ferrari last weekend.

However, with Ferrari seemingly holding the advantage in cornering, Red Bull’s previous glory in Monte Carlo could mean nothing after showing a deficit in pace to Ferrari in Barcelona.

The race will take place around the iconic streets of the Monaco Grand Prix, with drivers contesting 78 laps around the 3.337km track, all while hoping not to hit the tight and twisty barriers.

Last year, it was Verstappen who dominated the race following a DNS for the Ferrari of Leclerc, snatching the lead of the world championship while Lewis Hamilton failed to pass Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly.

Can Leclerc end his Monaco rut?

All eyes will be on the young Monegasque as he heads home in Formula 1 for the fourth time, but will surely be feeling the pressure given his previous form around Monaco.

In the previous five races Leclerc has driven at home, he is yet to reach the chequered flag. This began in 2o17, where a suspension issue forced him out of the Formula 2 feature race.

The next day, a crash at Rascasse with Arden’s Norman Nato saw his race end in the barriers. In 2018, a brake failure on his Alfa Romeo Sauber saw him fly into the back of Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley.

His first time in Monaco with Ferrari saw him fare no better, being knocked out in Q1 and subsequently colliding with Nico Hulkenberg as he looked to charge through the field.

His most recent Grand Prix in 2021 saw him crash on his way to his first home pole position, with an issue before the race then preventing him from starting with his 19 competitors.

Although not an official Grand Prix, another issue just weeks ago left Leclerc in the barriers at home in a 1974 Ferrari, driven by Niki Lauda.

With what will hopefully be his best car to challenge in yet, both Leclerc and Ferrari will need to remove this curse if they hope to overturn Verstappen’s six point lead in the driver’s championship.

The honey badger under pressure?

Daniel Ricciardo has not had the best start to his 2022 campaign and, like last season, has been thoroughly outperformed by teammate Lando Norris.

Although his MCL36 was not performing at the start of the season and the Australian suffered an unlucky DNF in Saudi Arabia, his performances have not been up to the par of his fellow McLaren driver.

The two were extremely close in Australia, but a clash with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz on the opening lap in Imola left Ricciardo last while Norris flew to an unlikely podium.

In Miami, he finished 13th but this was likely due to the pace of the car as teammate Norris also faced a slow race before colliding with Pierre Gasly.

But in Spain, Ricciardo’s deficit to Norris was on show. Despite Norris suffering from tonsillitis, being clearly affected by his illness, the Brit still managed to outperform Ricciardo to score points.

So, heading into a track which Ricciardo once claimed to own the streets of, fans have been left wondering whether or not he will face the same fate as he did last year, where he was lapped by his teammate who went on to claim third.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown spoke about the difference in performance between his drivers, telling Sky Sports:

“Lando definitely has an edge, we obviously would like to see Daniel much closer to Lando and have a good inter-team battle. Daniel’s just not yet comfortable yet with the car.

“We’re trying everything we can. Again, it was a disappointing weekend. Short of Monza and a few races, it’s generally not met his or our expectations as far as what we were expecting.

“I think all you can do is keep working hard as a team, keep communications going, keep pushing and hope that whatever’s not clicking at the moment, clicks here shortly.

“I think it also points to how good Lando is, when you look at the gap between Charles [Leclerc] and Carlos [Sainz], the gap between Max [Verstappen] and Sergio [Perez]. There are gaps between teammates and I think Lando is one of the best drivers in the world at the moment.”

Although the eight-time Grand Prix winner can feel safe with the fact he has another year left on his contract, there are surely performance clauses both sides can use if they do not feel satisfied with the other.

Rain set to cause an upset

Monaco has traditionally been a circuit that can be chaotic in dry conditions, with the tight and twisty corners difficult to navigate without colliding with the walls that surround them.

But, in races such as the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix, the intervention of rain has caused difficulties throughout the pack.

In 1996, poor conditions mixed with a good strategy call allowed Olivier Panis to take his one and only win with Ligier, with just three drivers reaching the chequered flag.

So drivers may not be too pleased to hear that there is a strong chance of rain in the principality forecasted for this Sunday, with eyes set to be directed to the skies at 2pm BST.

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