What to watch for: Monaco Grand Prix (NBC, Live Extra from 7:30am ET, NBCSN from 7am)

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Given he has been one of Formula 1’s most outstanding talents in the past couple of years, it seemed odd that Daniel Ricciardo’s pole in Monaco on Saturday was in fact the first of his grand prix racing career.

The Australian’s stunning lap at the end of Q3 had been foreshadowed during practice when he led the way for Red Bull, yet to see the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton soundly beaten still came as a surprise.

At a track where qualifying is arguably more important than anywhere else, the result was a welcome one for Ricciardo, particularly after his bitter defeat to teammate Max Verstappen in Spain two weeks ago.

Ricciardo was asked after the session what his pole position was down to: “The engine update, the chassis itself or the big Australian balls?”

If you know anything about Daniel Ricciardo, you’ll know what his answer was.

With a surprise qualifying in the bag, might we get an equally as surprising race? Here are a few things to watch for in today’s Monaco Grand Prix (live on NBC from 7:30am ET, F1 Countdown on NBCSN from 7am).

2016 Monaco Grand Prix – What to watch for

Strategy options aplenty for Ricciardo

Not only was Ricciardo’s charge to pole position a surprise, but the fact he will start the race on the super-soft tire is all the more impressive. Red Bull sent him out for a run on the middle-compound tire in Monaco at the end of Q2, and he duly posted his fastest time of the session, making it his starting rubber.

With the rest of the field on the ultra-softs, Ricciardo has the chance to go deep into the race before making his first pit stop. Although he will be at a pace disadvantage early on, with overtaking around Monaco being so difficult, relying he can hold onto the lead off the line, it may be his race to lose.

That said, the longer Ricciardo goes before stopping, the more time there is for a safety car or incident to scupper his plans – and that’s before we even factor in the weather.

Rain at Monaco – what dreams are made of?

Earlier this week, F1’s official weather forecasters UBIMET put out its regular pre-race update confirming that a wet race was on the cards in Monaco. Throughout the weekend, the percentages have not subsided, and with rain falling during the morning in the lead-up to the race, we look set for a damp affair today.

It will be fascinating to see how the top teams cut it in the wet, particularly given the lack of rain-hit grands prix in recent years. Red Bull will fancy its chances given the aerodynamic strength of the RB12, yet Mercedes cannot be written off as a threat.

Legends have been made in the rain at Monaco. Could another come to the fore today?

Hamilton looks to get his title race back on track

With his record reading 0-4 against Mercedes teammate Rosberg so far this season, Hamilton enters Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix with a point to prove. He trails by 43 points in the drivers’ championship, and is fortunate to be starting even third after another engine scare in qualifying.

Hamilton’s record in Monaco won’t instill him with confidence either. His only victory came in 2008 and only thanks to a fortuitous safety car after he hit the barrier – but with rain on the cards today, he could come into his own once again.

Lewis needs to kick-start his season today. If the gap to Rosberg grows to over 50 points today, will there be any way back for him?

Mad Max set for a fight from the back

Max Verstappen suffered a big come down on Saturday. 13 days since becoming F1’s youngest ever winner at the Spanish Grand Prix, the Dutchman made a rookie error by crashing out at the Swimming Pool chicane, resigning himself to a pit lane start.

Verstappen has done a lot of good in his short time on the grid, but today might just be his biggest challenge yet. He does have a penchant for street circuits, and with arguably the quickest car this weekend, he could fight his way back up the order.

Keep an eye on Max today. It might be a race to remember for him.

Banking on a race of attrition

“If you line up between 10th and 16th, anything can happen, and providing we don’t get involved in any incidents, anything is possible,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said on Saturday after seeing his drivers qualify 12th and 15th.

It may seem a bit optimistic and upbeat, but he’s not wrong. Overtaking comes at a premium, but when mistakes are punished as brutally as they are at Monaco, it creates opportunities. The weather will only further them.

So keep an eye on the likes of Haas, Sauber, Renault and – why not – even Manor today. This will likely be their best chance of the season to spring a surprise.

Pirelli strategy prediction

A two-stopper is actually theoretically fastest in Monaco, but this doesn’t take into account the problems of traffic and overtaking: two of the biggest challenges in the principality.

So in actual fact, a one-stopper could be more likely for the race. The ideal one-stopper is: start on ultrasoft, change to soft on lap 18. The fastest two-stopper is: start on ultrasoft, change to ultrasoft again on lap 14, then soft on lap 28.

2016 Monaco Grand Prix – Starting Grid

1. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
4. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
5. Nico Hulkenberg Force India
6. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso
7. Sergio Perez Force India
8. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
9. Fernando Alonso McLaren
10. Valtteri Bottas Williams
11. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
12. Esteban Gutierrez Haas
13. Jenson Button McLaren
14. Felipe Massa Williams
15. Romain Grosjean Haas
16. Kevin Magnussen Renault
17. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
18. Jolyon Palmer Renault
19. Rio Haryanto Manor
20. Pascal Wehrlein Manor
PL. Max Verstappen Red Bull
PL. Felipe Nasr Sauber

The Monaco Grand Prix is live on NBC from 7:30am ET on Sunday, with F1 Countdown beginning on NBCSN at 7am.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.