2021 F1 preview: Monaco Grand Prix

For the first time in two years, Formula 1 returns to possibly its most famous track on the calendar, the Circuit de Monaco at Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix. Last year, the race was removed from the schedule after the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back the season and forced the FIA to overhaul the race calendar.

Monaco native Charles Leclerc took pole position in a dramatic qualifying session that saw him crash at the end of Q3, bringing out the red flag and ending the session with under a minute left. This is the first pole for both Leclerc and Ferrari since the 2019 Mexican Grand Prix. Leclerc is fifth in the driver’s championship standings, one point behind Lando Norris. Leclerc crashed out of both career F1 races at Monaco in 2018 and 2019.

Ferrari found more success during qualifying as Leclerc’s teammate, Carlos Sainz, qualified fourth, his highest start since the 2020 Italian Grand Prix, a race that saw him finish second behind Pierre Gasly. Sainz is eighth in the driver’s championship with 20 points.

Max Verstappen comes into this race with a chance to close his 14-point deficit in the championship race on Lewis Hamilton with a start on the front row beside Leclerc. Verstappen has started in the top three in every race this season along with a top-two finish in the first four races of the season.

Hamilton will start seventh, the lowest he has qualified since the 2018 German Grand Prix where he started 14th. Hamilton ended up winning that race and has won three times in his career at Monte Carlo, including the last race at the Circuit de Monaco in 2019. Hamilton has won the last two races this season (Portugal and Spain) and looks to widen his gap to Verstappen for his eighth F1 world championship.

Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, will start in a familiar spot, third place. In all three races Bottas finished this season, he placed third. He sits third in the driver’s championship with 47 points, picking up two fastest laps of the race along the way.

McLaren, who are racing with their throwback orange and white liveries, found mixed results on Saturday. Lando Norris finished fifth in qualifying, the highest start he has had so far in 2021 while Daniel Ricciardo, who won the 2018 Monaco GP for Red Bull Racing, missed Q3 for the second time this season.

Pierre Gasly will start sixth for AlphaTauri, the fourth time in five races this season he made it to Q3. He has not finished higher than seventh in 2021 despite having three top-10 finishes. He outqualified Sergio Perez, Red Bull’s second driver, for the second time in 2021 (Bahrain GP the other time). Perez, who has three top-five finishes in 2021, will start ninth.

Sebastian Vettel, who has not finished in the top 10 since his podium at the 2020 Turkish GP, will start eighth, his highest start since the 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix. He has won twice at Monte Carlo, in 2011 with Red Bull and 2017 with Ferrari.

Antonio Giovinazzi will start 10th, the first time he has started in the top 10 since the 2020 Turkish GP. He has not finished in the top 10 since the 2020 race at Imola.

If you are watching in the United States, coverage for the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix will begin at 9:00 a.m. EST. You can catch the race on the ESPN.

Starting grid:

Track layout:

Monaco Grand Prix - F1 Race - Circuit de Monaco - Monte Carlo | Formula 1®

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