F1 Preview: 2016 Monaco Grand Prix

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Nelson Piquet once described racing around the streets of Monaco as being like riding a bicycle around your living room.

It’s an odd analogy, but it works. With the imposing walls just millimetres away, the ability to tame a Formula 1 car in the principality is deemed by most to separate the men from the boys.

And yet it is the driver closest to being considered a ‘boy’ that arrives in Monaco as the man to beat.

18-year-old Max Verstappen became the youngest winner in F1 history last time out in Spain on his Red Bull debut, fulfilling the prophecy he arrived in the sport with at the beginning of 2015.

Realistically, the Dutchman will know that without another turn of events such as those we saw in Barcelona, a repeat result is not on the cards. Mercedes remains the team to beat, meaning we’re geared up for another tete-a-tete between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

Here are the key talking points ahead of the biggest weekend of the F1 season.

2016 Monaco Grand Prix – Talking Points

Whatever Mercedes says, it’s a big deal

Mercedes did a very good job of downplaying the clash between Rosberg and Hamilton in Spain. The team and the FIA both deemed it to be a racing incident, while both drivers were left disappointed and upset over the points lost for both their own title tilts and that of the team.

But it was clear from the post-race interviews that both Rosberg and Hamilton did that this wasn’t a small thing. It is a big deal, acting as the latest flashpoint in the frosty relationship between them.

It is perhaps fitting that we now head to Monaco, the site of Rosberg’s alleged cheat move in qualifying two years ago and where Mercedes blew the race for Hamilton in 2015.

Rosberg is chasing a fourth consecutive victory around the streets where he grew up, and Hamilton is looking to end his poor run in Monaco (just one F1 win in 2008). It’s set things up nicely for the battle between them.

Verstappen, Red Bull on a high

Max Verstappen’s victory in Spain was the stuff of F1 legend. Think Schumacher, Spain ’96. Think Hamilton, Canada ’07. Think Vettel, Italy ’08. It was the true arrival of one of the biggest talents in recent times.

A repeat result will be difficult given the advantage that Mercedes still has. Furthermore, Red Bull has opted to give its one updated power unit to the more experienced Daniel Ricciardo, making him the in-team favorite for the weekend.

For Red Bull, the target in Monaco will be to beat Ferrari once again. Spain was a shock as the Italian marque’s hopes of being ‘best of the rest’ in 2015 were dealt a serious blow. Quite whether Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen can strike back and end Ferrari’s barren Monaco run – no victory since 2001 – remains to be seen.

Rain on Sunday?

Just as Verstappen’s drive in Spain marked his arrival, conditions in Monaco this weekend look set to present an opportunity for the rest of the field – or maybe even Verstappen again – to etch their name into F1 folklore.

A wet race is on the cards according to F1’s official weather forecaster UBIMET: “Sunday will see more clouds than the days before along with an enhanced risk of showers during the afternoon. Moderate onshore winds and a maximum temperature around 20 degrees celsius are expected.”

The challenge of Monaco becomes all the greater in the rain. It could create a thrilling race.

Haas arrives on the big stage

This weekend’s race is a big one for Gene Haas. Not only will he see the NASCAR team he co-owns race in the Coca-Cola 600, but his new F1 team will make its very first appearance in Monaco.

Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez both struggled with the VF-16 car over the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, with the teething troubles typical of any new team beginning to bubble to the surface.

Just how Haas fares in its first Monaco weekend will be of keen interest to Haas, particularly from a marketing perspective. There’s nothing quite like Monaco – and if it’s a wet race, points could be on the cards once again.

Ultra-soft tire debuts

Pirelli’s new ultra-soft tire will make its long-awaited debut in Monaco this weekend after being tested over the winter and last week in Spain.

The purple-ringed compound is the newly-added softest tire that is made for street circuits such as Monaco, offering more grip and – under dry conditions – preventing the race from being a mundane one-stopper.

Naturally, rain will throw that out of the window, but it will nevertheless be of interest to the paddock how the new compound fares.

2016 Monaco Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Corners: 19
Lap Record: Daniel Ricciardo 1:18.063 (2015)
Tire Compounds: Soft/Super-Soft/Ultra-Soft
2015 Winner: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2015 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:15.098
2015 Fastest Lap: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:18.063
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T19 to T1)

2016 Monaco Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports Live Extra 4am ET 5/26
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 8am ET 5/26
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports Live Extra 5am ET 5/28
Qualifying: NBCSN 8am ET 5/28
Race: NBC 7:30am ET 5/29 (F1 Countdown on NBCSN 7am-7:30am)

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III