This weekend, the sixth round of the 2023 Formula 1 season takes place as the sport descends on the famous streets of Monaco.
After a short unscheduled break on account of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix cancellation, drivers will be keen to get back behind the wheel and get into competitive sessions once again.
But the challenge of the Monaco circuit creates a high-intensity, unpredictable weekend – so what are the key focus points for the upcoming round?
Will Alonso finally end his win drought?
Fernando Alonso has enjoyed a dream start to the 2023 campaign, scoring a podium at four out of the five rounds to date. After a series of third-place finishes, the desire to go even better and reach the top step of the podium burns as deeply as ever.
His last victory came at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix – over 10 years ago.
But Monaco has been highlighted as a track where the Aston Martin package is expected to form particularly well at. Should the 41-year-old find himself in a strong position at the end of qualifying, Sunday could mark a momentous day for the two-time World Champion.
Can Perez continue his hot streak at street tracks?
Since joining Red Bull in 2021, Perez has won four grand prix – each of them at a street track. Perhaps his most memorable victory came at last year’s race at Monaco, where strategy got him to the head of the field.
As it stands, Perez appears to be the only competitor that can challenge Max Verstappen for the 2023 F1 title. Another victory in Monaco for Perez, or even besting Verstappen around the Monaco streets, would eat into the deficit and keep the pressure on the Dutchman as the sport enters the European leg of the campaign.
Will Leclerc’s home curse finally end?
Charles Leclerc’s home record at Monaco is so poor, it’s almost hard to believe that he has endured such a long stint of woe at a race that means so much to him.
At his debut in 2018, he hit Brendon Hartley following a brake issue and was forced to retire, before a qualifying tyre blunder in 2019 forced him to line-up at the back of the field. In his hurry to recover and move up the order, he damaged his car and retired.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought about the cancellation of the 2020 edition, while in 2021, he secured pole position despite crashing out in qualifying, before his car suffered a failure en route to the grid which ruled him out of the race. Last year, he was on pole once again but a strategy error from Ferrari demoted him to fourth at the chequered flag.
Leclerc will likely have had the upcoming race in his mind for some time now as he aims to break the curse and perhaps take a step on the podium come Sunday.
How will Mercedes’ upgrades perform?
Mercedes was expected to arrive at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with sizeable upgrades, the first step in a new development path for the Brackley-based squad.
After the race was called off, Mercedes clarified that it would bring the new parts to Monaco – despite the dangers of damaging parts around the narrow circuit as well as question marks existing over how much valuable data it can gather around such a unique layout as Monaco.
Nevertheless, Mercedes’ determination to run the new parts reflects its haste to pull itself out of the slump it has endured over the last year and a half.
How will the rookies perform at Monaco F1 debuts?
Monaco is always one of the most challenging venues for rookie drivers, and this year’s crop of debutants will likely realise that across the weekend.
However, the trio of Oscar Piastri, Logan Sargeant and Nyck de Vries are no strangers to the street circuit – all have competed at the venue during their junior careers.
In fact, de Vries, who is the driver under the most scrutiny at the moment due to his challenging start to the campaign, is a race winner at the track, having prevailed at the Formula 2 Feature Race during his championship-winning 2019 season.
But it is easy to get it wrong in Monaco – and as they are still coming to grips with the speed and handling of F1 cars, they will all have a job to keep their challengers out of the barriers during the weekend.