There is one crucial question on the minds of the drivers and teams heading into this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix. The answer to it could be key to getting the strategy right for Sunday’s race – and making the right call when it comes to placing a bet.
Historically the Monaco Grand Prix has always been about qualifying. The driver who won pole position held all the cards because overtaking is nigh on impossible around the narrow circuit.
But that may no longer be the case. The talk of 2013 so far has been about how aggressive this year’s tyres are, forcing drivers to make multiple pit stops. And that could change the strategic complexion of the Monaco Grand Prix.
The last race in Barcelona saw most drivers make anywhere up to four pit stops. A repeat of that at Monaco, where the track surface is much less punishing on the tyres, is extremely unlikely.
But F1’s tyre supplier Pirelli believe drivers will have to make more than the usual single stop to make it through this year’s race. “In Monaco we’d expect an average of two pit stops per car,” said motorsport director Paul Hembery.
That means whoever leads the field off for their first of 78 gruelling laps could face a greater challenge to stay there. So who is likely to occupy that enviable position?
Straight after winning his home race in Spain, Fernando Alonso tipped Mercedes to be the team to beat in Monaco. And with good reason: Mercedes have had the quickest car over a single lap for the last four races in a row, making them the top tip for pole position.
The 2008 Monaco Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton is equal favourite with Sebastian Vettel to take pole, offering odds of 3.5. Hamilton’s Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, who was on pole at the last two races and was on the front row here last year, is priced at 4.5.
The only other driver worth considering for pole is Mark Webber. He offers odds of 9.0. Although you wouldn’t usually pick Webber ahead of Vettel, he has excellent form at Monaco, winning from pole position last year and in 2010.
Since 2004 the Monaco Grand Prix pole sitter has only failed to win the race once. That was in the rain-hit 2008 race, when Felipe Massa went off having led at the start. If you think the pole sitter is still a sure thing to win this weekend, then get looking at the race bets right away.
Here we find the Mercedes pair on the more rewarding odds of 7.0 for Hamilton and 8.0 for Rosberg. And if you think Webber can score a third Monaco win in four years, his odds are an excellent 12.0.
Alonso has had fine form at Monaco in the past, winning in 2006 and 2007. But as his Ferrari is lacking somewhat in qualifying pace and he offers the shortest odds on race victory – 3.25 – he’s not worth backing this weekend.
But what if you believe the string of ‘wins from pole’ in Monaco will be broken? In that case, don’t worry about the race odds now. Instead, take a look at how they change on Saturday evening when the grid has been decided.
Expect to see low win prices for those on the front row. But if one of the cars which is kinder to its tyres is near the sharp end – Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus, for example – that’s the time to take a serious look at their odds on success.
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic