The most famous Formula 1 race of the season – the Monaco Grand Prix – takes place in Monte Carlo this weekend and it could prove to be another epic encounter after the excitement of round five in Spain.
The season came alive in Barcelona where Lewis Hamilton closed the gap on main championship rival Sebastian Vettel to just six points after his Mercedes team served up a tactical masterclass.
The pair pulled over a minute clear of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in third, with the remainder of the field lapped or retired.
It’s notoriously difficult to overtake on the Spanish circuit
Yet Vettel jumped Hamilton on the approach to turn one and held the lead until for much of the race.
However, an early switch to medium tyres ensured that Hamilton was on the softer compound towards the end of the race and able to attack Vettel, something he did successfully on lap 44.
The tense battle had clearly taken a physical toll on the Mercedes number one, who was out of breath on the team radio.
It was the dramatic race finish that had been hoped for after the introduction of wider and faster cars this season and there could be more to come in Monaco, despite the circuit being another on which it can be incredibly difficult to pass.
If Hamilton claims pole position for the 65th time in his career he’ll match Ayrton Senna’s record and will be providing his Mercedes team with a fifth straight win in this event.
Only one of those wins was achieved by Hamilton
He took the chequered flag last year on the back of three wins for Nico Rosberg – but he also won here in 2008 and didn’t always enjoy the best of fortune in between, with the decision to pit him while the safety car was out arguably costing him victory in 2015.
Drivers’ Championship leader Sebastian Vettel has just the one Monaco Grand Prix victory to his name – for Red Bull in 2011 – and his chance might rely on him out-qualifying Hamilton, something he has failed to do in four of the five previous rounds this season.
Previously, the most exciting Monaco Grand Prix have tended to take place in the rain, including last year when the race start was taken behind the safety car with all drivers starting on wet-weather tyres.
Back in 1996 the race was run in atrocious conditions
Resulting in a shock winner in the shape of Olivier Panis, who had qualified in 14th place. Only three cars finished that day but, with no rain forecast this weekend, we can expect the big players to dominate this year.
Lewis Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was forced to retire in Barcelona after a problem with his turbo but is confident that he can close the gap on the championship leaders.
However, team orders could come into play and Bottas may again find himself being asked to hold up Vettel in order to give teammate Hamilton an advantage.
Ricciardo turned in a fine performance to finish on the podium in Spain and he likes this circuit, having recorded the first pole of his career here in 2015. He was just over seven seconds behind Hamilton when runner-up last year and could be the surprise package.
Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Evens)
Podium finish: Daniel Ricciardo
For more racing odds, take a look at Grosvenor Sport’s Grand Prix betting.