2014 Monaco Grand Prix Preview

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After five rounds of the 2014 Formula 1 season, we finally arrive at the biggest race of all: Monaco. Since 1929, the brave and the brilliant have pushed themselves to the very limit around the tight streets of the principality, and it has cemented its place as the jewel in the sport’s glittering crown.

As we head to the principality on the French riviera this time around, though, it is quite clear that it will be another two horse race for the win on Saturday. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are set to go toe-to-toe once again as they both battle for a second win in Monaco, but after emerging victorious in 2013, it is unlikely that Rosberg will be letting his crown go without a fight.

Due to the odd weekend structure at Monaco that sees practice take place on Thursday, proceedings are drawn out a little more. It’s the social event of the year for everyone in the sport, and for those at home – regardless if you’re an F1 fan or not – it’s a must watch race.

2014 Monaco Grand Prix Talking Points

Hamilton looks for a high five

After winning the last four races, Lewis Hamilton is looking to make it five-in-a-row for the very first time in his Formula 1 career. The Briton certainly appears to have had the upper hand over teammate Nico Rosberg of late, but he has not reached the podium in Monaco since his win here back in 2008. However, should he win, he would have history on his side; no driver has won five grands prix in a row and not won the world championship.

Red Bull tries to strike back

Red Bull’s response to a disastrous pre-season period has been nothing short of emphatic. The team is now easily second quickest, and in Monaco, it is looking to cut the gap to Mercedes at the front of the field. In FP1 on Thursday morning, Daniel Ricciardo finished within three-tenths of a second of Lewis Hamilton, and both he and Sebastian Vettel seem to be more comfortable around the streets this weekend.

More problems to surface at Ferrari?

In Bahrain, Ferrari languished down in P9 and P10 as Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen struggled with the car coming out of corners, claiming that there was a lack of traction. Now, in Monaco, this is pretty much everything. Alonso is fighting hard to keep the Ferrari towards the front end of the field, but a poor qualifying result could put paid to any hopes of a prancing horse on the podium at Monaco.

Qualifying is king, giving Force India and Williams an advantage?

Overtaking at Monaco is by no means impossible, but it is very, very hard. Ordinarily, qualifying is everything, and whoever puts it on the front row on Saturday typically wins on Sunday. Although the front row might be out of the question for Force India and Williams, their good qualifying form so far this year could allow them to perhaps sneak a top five finish.

The unforgiving barriers, safety cars and attrition

Rule number one in Formula 1: “To finish first, first you have to finish.” In Monaco, this could not be more true. It’s crucial to keep the car out of the barriers, but that could be all the more difficult with the new cars. The last four races have seen a safety car period, so this surely must be accounted for when planning a strategy, and the for likes of Sauber, Toro Rosso and perhaps even Caterham and Marussia, a low number of finishers could give them a huge chance in Monaco.

Monaco – Facts and Figures

Track: Circuit de Monaco
Laps: 
78
Corners: 19
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:14.439 (2004)
Tyre Compounds: Super-Soft (Option); Soft (Prime)
2013 Winner: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2013 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:13.876
2013 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:16.577
DRS Zone: Main straight (T19 to T1)

Click here for full details on NBC Sports’ broadcasting of the Monaco Grand Prix this weekend. Please note that the race is live on NBC on Sunday.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).